“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s a phrase that comes to mind when it comes to the new album by Subterranean Masquerade called “Vagabond.” Also I would say it’s “more of the same” from them which in this case is most definitely a complement. The band’s last album, 2015’s “The Great Bazaar” was a stellar release and for me it was a sound defining moment for the band.
Up til that album, the band hadn’t released an album for 10 years. There were EPs but “The Great Bazaar” was a chance for the band to full meld all of their influences into a focused statement. Much like their last album, the new album “Vagabond” mixes prog rock with prog metal with jazz with culturally based sounds. Rather than having these moments sound more separate from each other, the band have now stirred up this mixture into a sound that is THEIR sound.
“Vagabond” marks a change for the band with harsh vocalist Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom being replaced by Eliran Weitzman. Kuhr has a very distinctive growl so it might take a bit to get used to Weitzman but he does a fine job. Green Carnation’s Kjetil Nordhus returns on clean vocals and his voice really fits the overall sound of the band. “Vagabond” has a very positive vibe to it (even more than the last album) with the lead track, “Place for Fairytales” being a bit of a slice of prog pop. Excellent choice for an opener.
Band leader Tomer Pink can still write a great hook and melody; that has not changed on “Vagabond.” Both “Nomad” and “Ways” are both catchy and rock out. I love the way each track kicks in. Subterranean Masquerade also use “unusual” instrumentation so well and “Vagabond” continues that. Whether it’s a trumpet doing the main riff of a song, the return of a clarinet (like on “The Great Bazaar”), the traditional vocals and percussion used, it’s such a great balance between instruments and sounds you expect and ones that you might not.
“Hymn of the Vagabond” is probably my favorite track because it combines everything the band is about into a powerful mini-epic. The album closes with a cover of the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity” which is almost doom like in it’s pace. It’s slower and more methodical sounding but I really like that. It winds up really capturing the sober tone of the lyrics and is a great arrangement for a song we have all heard many times. It’s a bold decision that pays off, proving that Subterranean Masquerade may have defined their sound on “Vagabond” but they are willing to push to new and unexplored places.
1. Place for Fairytales
6. Daled Bavos
7. As You Are
8. Hymn of the Vagabond
9. Space Oddity