Israel’s Subterranean Masquerade have had a string of very good albums over the years. Their consistency made me question why band leader Tomer Pink would dump world class vocalists Kjetil Nordhus and Paul Kuhr. Partially it was that each have priorities in other bands. Still, shake ups like this can have dire consequences.
While I think new vocalist Davidavi Dolev can sing fine, I don’t necessarily like many of the things he does with his voice. This includes the quieter parts in the opener “Snake Charmer” where it exposes some weaknesses in his voice and the death vocal on “Diaspora, My Love” which just doesn’t sound half as good as his his predecessor Kuhr. The upside is the music is very good and has all of the usual Middle Eastern elements mixed with prog metal.
The horn section on the title track is a nice addition. Dolev sounds better in his mid-range (most people do). I am not keen on the backing vocals however so even this track isn’t quite right. That seems to be my overall impression. There are many really good moments on these songs that unfortunately lose something along the way. “Inwards” has some great riffs all through it…but they try to mix in softer breaks and death vocals, and the song loses it’s momentum.
“Ascend” is the first single and I wasn’t into the main riff. The driving part of the track does get things going. The vocals are overly dramatic and annoying. The song itself is good but it’s not overly memorable. The long track “For The Leader, With Strings Music” goes full on death metal to start with which sounded really forced. It also sounds really out of place. After a while, the song decides to go a completely different direction aaaaaaand it’s suddenly an acoustic number. While I like songs with different parts, the parts need to make sense when pieced together. But they sound glued together and not meant to be in one track.
I think a lot of prog metal fans will still enjoy “Mountain Fever” because it has all the elements most look for plus a great mix. Unfortunately, it sounds like Subterranean Masquerade are trying to prove they belong versus just being themselves. But with a newer lineup, they might not know that yet. Their consistency has waned as has my interest. I might revisit “Mountain Fever” at some point but I doubt it.
Label: Sensory Records
Release Date: May 14th 2021