Subterranean Masquerade - Suspended Animation Dreams - 2005 - The End Records
1. SAD 2. Wolf Among Sheep 3. No Place Like Home 4. Kind of a Blur 5. The Rock and Roll Preacher 6. Six Strings to Cover Fear 7. Awake 8. X/font>
Subterranean Masquerade is a relatively new American band who has set out to re-define the boundaries of music as we know it. After my experience with Suspended Animation Dreams, their first full length album, I think they may have come close to succeeding. But before I begin to analyze this highly complex release, maybe it would probably be fitting to give a little background info on the band. Vocal duties are handled by none other than Paul Kuhr, of November’s Doom fame. The only other “permanent” members of the band are guitarists Jake DePolittle and Tomer Pink, who handle most of the songwriting. Every other instrument (other than the bass, which one of the guitar players took care of) featured on this album (and trust me, there are a ton) is played by some sort of guest. Most of these fellows are relatively unknown – but one notable guest is Kobi Farhi of Orphaned Land, who lends his voice to Sub Masq (as I like to call them for short) in the form of some exquisite Middle Eastern chants, which make an appearance or two.
Speaking of interesting appearances… there are too many to count. The Sub Masq guys, as I mentioned before, are attempting to push the limits of modern music. Notice how I didn’t say “modern metal music” – because to call Subterranean Masquerade a metal band would not even begin to encompass the great spectrum within which they play. There are elements of jazz, classical, progressive rock, ambient, alternative, and probably several other genres which I can’t even begin to pinpoint. To pull off this musical mosaic, some extra instruments would logically be required. This album features violins, keyboards, pianos, saxophones, and a number of other things that aren’t necessarily standard in metal music.
Now, onto the songs. As I’ve said before when it comes to progressive metal (or music in general) I often find that there’s a lot of “empty space” in some songs that makes them a bit boring. At first, I thought this album had plenty of that. In some songs, like “No Place Like Home” and “Awake,” have extended periods that feature maybe only one or two instruments, doing something relatively simple. At first I misinterpreted these passages as boring and unnecessary – but after further listens I concluded differently. Rather than being pointless, these sections are instrumental in establishing the weird, avant-garde mood that Sub Masq are going for. So when it comes down to it, these areas are in fact quite notable as they manage to keep the listener fixed on the song (after one gets used to it) without doing anything especially remarkable. Another noteworthy thing about these eight songs are the transitions. Most of them feature fast, slow, heavy, and light sections all twisted into one song. This is most evident in “The Rock and Roll Preacher,” which starts off very slow and somber, but transitions into a bluesy yet extremely heavy song with some harsh death vocals from Paul.
Suspended Animation Dreams is not an album you’ll like or understand on the first five or so listens unless you’re seriously into progressive and avant-garde music. You’ll probably find yourself in a situation somewhat like mine when you hear this at first – half confused, half bored. However, after nine or ten listens, something will click. Melodies will become more memorable, parts will tie into each other in ways that previously seemed impossible. This is an album that needs time spent with it for it to be truly understood – if you put in some serious effort and doesn’t lose hope; this album should become an instant favorite. It’s got appeal to a wide range of fans – but all of these people should be forewarned that at least half of the album will be something new. Fans of doom metal like November’s Doom (obviously) and maybe the contemporary works of the Big Three (Paradise Lost, Anathemea, My Dying Bride) will find something for themselves here. In addition, fans of heavier prog-ish metal such as Opeth and Wolverine will also enjoy Subterranean Masquerade. And lastly, (although I have no idea why they would be at this site reading this review) fans of jazz, alternative, and soft rock will also like good portions of Sub Masq songs; they will just have to be (as I said earlier) prepared for something new on the side
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