Album Review: Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar

coverFirst review of the year and I’m already in love, talk about getting 2015 off to a good start. Subterranean Masquerade release their new album, The Great Bazaar, on the 13th and I’ll tell you now, it’s one of the best slabs of prog we’ve received to review here at Sound the Charge.

I was surprised to learn from the promotional materials that they have been around since 1997, even with a small back catalogue I’m not sure how they flew under my radar. With their style listed as “Symphonic Prog metal” while boasting a combination of doom metal, 70s psychedelic rock and prog rock as influences, they certainly had their work cut out to provide all of this, and by god did they deliver.

There are a lot of bands that struggle to mix 70s prog with modern prog metal. Sometimes you get a mishmash of styles that doesn’t sit comfortably in the listeners ear, other times you get a 70s segment, then a heavy segment, then back to 70s. Subterranean Masquerade manage to combine both at the same time in a more than pleasing way. Moments where death metal vocals are combined with upbeat proggy riffs and licks, such as in Reliving the Feeling, are good examples of this.

Modern metal is so rooted in western scales and chords that bands inevitably start to blend together, with some songs being entirely interchangeable between artists. Subterranean Masquerade’s Eastern influence in tracks like Early Morning Mantra and Nigen goes a long way to separate the band from the herd.

The orchestration also adds a lot of power to the music making songs like the 5 minute or so long Blanket of Longing feel much grander in scale. The death metal/clean vocals combination over this really aids the feeling of size.

An important point to mention here is the vocals. This is something I bring up in a lot of my reviews, but the contrast between death metal vocals and clean vocals can make or break an album for me. The switch between singing styles flows well, without a jarring cut between. Both styles are also strong instead of strong guttural vocals and weak cleans, as we so often see in a lot of metal these days.

The vocals are also mixed low so they become part of the music instead of being in the forefront, but aren’t so quiet that they feel muted. This is another area that sets the band out as something more unique than most. You almost get the feeling you’re listening to a soundtrack rather than regular songs at times, but for a soundtrack you usually need a story..

Luckily, as with all good prog albums, a story woven into the music is almost mandatory. The Great Bazaar therefore provides a “concept story about a man leaving home to find what’s important in life and a dialog between so-called “Good” and “Evil.””

If I had to pick, I would give the Song of the Album award to Father and Son (featuring Kobi Farhi of Oprhaned Land). The middle instrumental section is really what put it above the rest, but the whole thing is pretty much what I want from a band that call themselves symphonic prog metal.

The Great Bazaar is easily one of the best prog albums we’ve heard in a long time. Subterranean Masquerade have laid down the gauntlet for 2015 with this early January release and with the bar set high, I’m optimistic for 2015.

progfive
Five out of Five

 The Great Bazaar is out on the 13th of January 2015 via Taklit Music. Visit facebook.com/submasq for more information

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