Subterranean Masquerade - Suspended Animation Dreams
The End Records
Challenging Post-Rock Orchestral Jazz Music
8 songs (54'53")
Release year: 2005
Subterranean Masquerade, The End Records
Reviewed by Alex

In my early days as a reviewer I have exchanged a few e-mails with Tomer Pink, who used to work at The End Records, talking mostly about the brilliance of many acts signed to this label. Little did I know at the time that Tomer clearly had an ambition of his own to become one of those brilliant acts. Before, then or later Subterranean Masquerade was created, to explore a multitude of musical directions and influences pent up in Tomer’s mind. I had a pleasure to review the first EP of the band Temporary Psychotic State some time ago. Progressive rock with dark edge and psychotic, fittingly, undertones, the EP was only a sign of things to come. Only slightly over a year later Suspended Animation Dreams, the most demanding album of 2005 so far is here (what would another Ulver bring?).

Tomer’s crew changed a bit. Gone are Tino LoSicco (drum) and John William Walton (bass). Steve Lyman is playing drums and guitarist Jake Depolitte (Anima Nera) got to split his guitar duties with Tomer himself and virtuoso Willis Crow but added bass in return. What is not changed, however, is the desire to borrow freely from every music genre, not just metal, the desire to break stereotypes and come up with original notes and words every step of the way. Just about everybody these days uses non-traditional string instruments, horn sections, choirs and female vocals. It is only the few, however, who can put the complex, seemingly unfitting, rebus together, confound the listener and make sense in the end. Tomer’s creation is one of those few.

If there was a wrong album to do a track by track review, this one is it. Didn’t I mention it was one the most challenging albums to listen to so far in 2005? And it is not because of dizzying progressive ever-shifting time signatures. It is, rather, because just in the span of two opening tracks of the album (title and Wolf Among Sheep) we get to experience a little Pink Floyd, a little Marillion, urban jazz with saxophone, some folk flute melody, bright violin points and dark gloomy growly vocal counterpoints by Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom). This music is relaxing and mysterious at the same time. You never know what is coming around every corner. X has a crazy twisted guitar solo. No Place Like Home all of a sudden closes with a clear mid-Eastern Israeli melody. The Rock’n’Roll Preacher is so soft and orchestral, in the end it reminds me of a radio production of some of the Soviet 70s bands when “extreme” and “harsh” could not even be thought of. On the other hand Six Strings to Cover Fear has progressive rock written all over it with Paul Kuhr sounding very Opethian and violin coming as if it was born in the biggest country saloon. 14 min epic Awake treads on every possible territory further exploring some prog themes or sounding like an orchestral pit during warm-up or a jamming jazz band. In this song harsh voices and guitar riffs are impinging on the fabric of serenity with violins ranging from soothing to the dramatic.

Some albums are pompous and pretend to break the boundaries and move the rock-metal genre forward. Suspended Animation Dreams does not pretend to be anything. It does not pretend to be metal, and it does not pretend to be forward-thinking. I, personally, like a lot harder edge to my music (thus it could be the reason for me giving the album a little lower quote than it might deserve), but even I found myself mesmerized with this 21st century version of Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons Project and ELO combined all in one. A very ho-hum, matter-of-factly production adds to the atmosphere of something put together among and by a circle of friends. Something deeply personal, to be kept inside and something that got shared with the world only by an accident. Yet, as carefully and delicate as orchestration is being executed, you can’t help but think of the musicians’ deliberate intentions. I am not even going to try to make sense of all the lyrics. The booklet says “to be continued”, in a very small font on the last page. You want to guess what happens with Subterranean Masquerade next?

Killing Songs :
Suspended Animation Dreams, Wolf Among Sheep
Alex quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Subterranean Masquerade that we have reviewed:
Subterranean Masquerade - The Great Bazaar reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Subterranean Masquerade - Temporary Psychotic State reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
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