SUBTERRANEAN MASQUERADE – Suspended Animation Dreams

SUBTERRANEAN MASQUERADE - Suspended Animation Dreams


Release date: October 10, 2005

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In a proper Japanese sushi restaurant outside Japan, you might come across some dishes on the menu listed with an asterisk at the end of the name. This legend often indicates that this is a “challenging” dish and not for the novice or fainthearted.

There is no such legend attached to the name of the first full-length album from Subterranean Masquerade, Suspended Animation Dreams, but maybe there should be?

The Music

Reviewers often turn to common genre terms to describe music. It’s easier that way, and everyone knows what the other is talking about … with Subterranean Masquerade, it’s different. Sure, one could list all the various genre ingredients added to make up their music, but it would make little or no sense and most of all serve no justice to their expression.

Suspended Animation Dreams is kept in a darker shade of blue, pouring out feelings of loss, sadness and despair. Contributing to these feelings is the frequent use of a hellish, guttural vocal approach. In fact, the defining mood more often comes from the bass and drum section! They establish the framework, and the guitar and piano segments spin their counterbalanced themes to the (dominantly) monotonous vocals.

The exception from this darkness is “Kind Of A Blur,” a nearly instrumental ballad with more uplifting, romantic themes that peak as the wordless choir brings on the finale. Exceptions are also found in “The Rock’n’Roll Preacher” and “Awake,” which both have more familiar verse/chorus structures than the other songs on board.

But even the exceptions have a highly diversified expression! The core lies in the aforementioned drums/bass and piano/guitar relationships, ornamented by anything from solo vocals, via vocal trios, choirs, horns, strings, and a handful of more or less obscure solo performances. Just as you think a mood has come to stay, a new one emerges and disturbs your comfort, but at the same time keeps you from ignoring their art. Definite highlights are the introducing “Suspended Animation Dreams” and the concluding “X,” closely followed by “Six Strings To Cover Fear,” “No Place Like Home,” and “Awake.” The remaining three songs also have a lot to offer, but are perhaps a bit too diversified to peak?

The Band

Subterranean Masquerade is basically a quintet, made up of singer Paul Khur (Novembers Doom), bassist Jake Dopolitte, drummer Steve Lyman, keyboardist Ben Warren, and guitarist Willis Claw. Together they form the core of the expression found within this album, an expression that is completed by a soulful female singer (Susan Naud), an expressive violinist (Brownwean Beecher), a church choir, a strings section, a horns section, and a few other less ordinary instruments. Needless to say, this bargains for a rather unorthodox mix!

Individual contributions are substantial to the music, even if guitarist Willis Claw is less convincing (nearly halfhearted) in some of his solos. Singer Paul Khur proves versatile and expressive, still the dominant guttural voice becomes tedious at times.

On the collective level, the band and their guests manage to produce simply stunning creations. Except for a couple of less fortunate transitions, they manage to move elegantly from one side of their expression to the other.

The Verdict

It’s hard to recommend this album, due to the schizophrenic diversity in styles, moods and movements, which could be perceived as having a lack of direction. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore such a bold move. So, if you cannot find anything that fits your tastes perfectly in the musical jungle, this might just be something for you. Suspended Animation Dreams offers something for all of fans, but only everything for a few. It’s hard to tell exactly for whom, without spending some time in Subterranean Masquerade’s obscure universe. It’s certainly a challenge … are you up for it?


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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