In real terms, albums like Subterranean Masquerade‘s Mountain Fever are impossible to describe within the accepted format of an ‘album review’; the music to be found here is too genre-defying, to all-encompassingly breathtaking, to encapsulate within one person’s opinion of what it sounds like. There are seven musicians, plus attendant guests, working at the top of their respective games to produce this music. How can one amateur writer begin to explain what’s going on here? (have a go – Ed).
In a musical environment where ‘prog’ basically means anyone with a beard, topknot and more strings on their guitar than is generally acceptable, Subterranean Masquerade make genuinely progressive music. Where progression is the guts, dare I say it chutzpah, to see through an original musical vision to it’s glorious end, whether the listening public want to go along with you or not. Luckily, these blokes make such an alluring noise that increasing numbers of that public are turning out to nod their heads appreciatively, and Mountain Fever may just be the greatest reward for their loyalty yet from this splendid band.
From the sparse openings of opener Snake Charmer to the majestic yet restrained closing notes of Mångata, guitarist/founder Tomer Pink and his band of minstrels bring all human experience to bear on their casually opulent music, in the process invoking the spirits, living and dead, of just about every artist worth a spit over the last half century. Quite literally, it’s all here, quotes from the sixties rock of The Beatles butting head with Blackwater Park-era Opeth, fellow Israeli metalheads Orphaned Land duking it out with The Pink Floyd in their prime, Devin Townsend doing a pas de deux with the Alan Parsons Project… you get the picture.
Yet, amidst all this lexiconic showboatery, you never lose sight of the fact that it’s actually Subterranean Masquerade that you are listening to. They may quote – but they never ape. And at the heart of this supreme individuality is the voice of Davidavi Dolev, a vocal master if ever there was one. His sumptuous work on the superb Diaspora, My Love, backed by guitar playing that’ll have you weeping in incomprehension if you’ve ever tried to spank a plank yourself, is one of the highlights of this writer’s musical year so far.
Wherever you choose to drop the needle something delightful is only ever seconds away – the fabulous title track, for example, has a mid section that’ll have you out of your seat every time you hear it – and no matter how densely filled with music each song is, there is always a searing melodic hook to keep you rooted in this maelstrom of virtuosity. You’ll never feel you’re being swamped by ‘for the sake of it’ showing off…
Did I mention guitars? have a listen to the jaw dropping playing at the start of Inwards, wherein Or Shalev and Omer Fishbein join Pink to attain heights I can only fairly describe as ‘Hackettesque’ – they really are that good. And when Shai Yallin‘s seventies-inspired keys come in, mid song, bolstered by some jazzy stickwork from Jonathan Amar and slinky bass rumbling from Golan Farhi, well… OMG, as I believe the young people say.
Like I say, Mountain Fever is impossible to encapsulate with mere words… suffice to say it’s a fever I hope to suffer from for a long time to come.
Mountain Fever releases on May 14th.