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Subterranean Masquerade - "The Great Bazaar" (CD)

Subterranean Masquerade - "The Great Bazaar" CD cover image

"The Great Bazaar" track listing:

1. Early morning Mantra
2. Reliving the feeling
3. Tour diary
4. Nigen
5. Waiting
6. Specter
7. Father and Son

Reviewed by on January 20, 2015

"I haven't been this sucked into a prog metal release since Leprous' 'Bilateral' or Suspyre's 'When Time Fades...' and can't wait to hit play again to start the whole disc over for the twentieth time."

Despite being born back in the late '90s, Subterranean Masquerade is somehow only on its second full-length album with “The Great Bazaar,” and considering the talent on display here, hopefully a third will follow in less than a decade. With a little bit of everything, from keyboards to death metal to jazz, “The Great Bazaar” is a prog metal fan's dream come true, and will almost certainly be in the running for the top albums released this year – even though its only January!

For those not familiar with this cult outfit, there are some interesting names involved with Subterranean Masquerade these days, from Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation) to Matan Shmuely (Orphaned Land). Paul Kuhr from Novembers Doom also offers intermittent harsh vocals, so that part of the sound will be recognizable to melodic death metal fans, offering a brutal port in the swirling prog storm.

The album morphs and merges across a ridiculous number of styles, both between songs but more importantly during songs. Everything on the disc is a constantly evolving journey. The 1:20 mark of opening track “Early Morning Mantra” is a totally different style than 3:20, which is further a different style than found at 5:15. Unlike the more outlandish bands in the avant-garde scene, there does tend to be recurring themes on each track, however, even when the instruments and sub-genres are on a roller coaster ride, so the end result is less “schizophrenic” and more “highly varied.” Its quite a feat to make your saxy lounge jazz part fit with your ethnic wind instrument solo and then also with your growling death metal section, but Subterranean Masquerade manages all that and more.

With jazz flutes, '70s prog keyboards, and melodic death metal, large swathes of this sophomore outing sound like everything Opeth should be doing but it isn't anymore. Parts of “Father and Son” in particular really bring to mind the retro-meets-metal aspects of “Watershed,” and there are little Opethian acoustic guitar flourishes found throughout the album. On a similar note, those bombastic, organ-style keyboards that exude the '70s prog feel suffuse the release from start to finish.

Keeping the sound well-rounded, there's ethnic Arabian tunes to be found on “Specter” (check this one out if you dig Myrath or Arkan), while the keyboards behind the saxophones on “Nigen” very much gives a StarOfAsh feel. The ending track ”Father and Sun” also features a guest spot by Kobi Farhi from Orphaned Land. While the death metal parts are appropriately brutal, on the whole the album is more upbeat and fun than the typical metal offering, and it practically demands multiple listens. I haven't been this sucked into a prog metal release since Leprous' “Bilateral” or Suspyre's “When Time Fades...” and can't wait to hit play again to start the whole disc over for the twentieth time.

Highs: Just about every style of music is masterfully displayed here, and all worked together without skipping a beat.

Lows: The second half of the album is less on the heavy side, so some fans may end up wanting more of the melodic death metal elements.

Bottom line: Subterranean Masquerade hits it out of the park with this prog metal masterpiece.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)