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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Subterranean Masquerade

Suspended Animation Dreams

Review by Gary Hill

While Subterranean Masquerade are not the only progressive rock band incorporating death metal vocals these days, Suspended Animation Dreams may be the most unusual disc by any of these outfits. When you consider the fact that they merge the sounds of such early prog stalwarts as Genesis and Pink Floyd to these more extreme sounds, you can see what I mean. Add to that fact the presence of horns and strings and you can see how this mix is a unique one. While I would not consider it to be one of my favorite albums, it definitely has a lot of character, and is a worthwhile adventure for prog fans.

Track by Track Review
Suspended Animation Dreams
Acoustic guitar, feeling a bit like early Bowie, starts this and carries forward in a very understated fashion as some chaos ensues in the background. This carries through for a time, then a sedate jazzy sort of prog ballad style takes the cut. The band works through this for a time, 'til a spoken segment ends it.
Wolf Among Sheep
This one also comes in mellow and sedate. It feels a bit like a cross between early Pink Floyd and Genesis. After this works through a spoken verse, it turns to major metal with death vocals that are actually discernable. It moves on this way, then launches into a more energized reworking of the first verse. This gets quite powerful, then revolves out to the more metallic, but doesn't go all the way towards the death metal section. It drops back to just a pretty and intricate acoustic segment to continue. Then this is reworked to another melodic prog excursion. It resolves eventually into a lushly arranged section that feels like Floyd, Genesis and Alan Parsons. This gives way to a more dramatic, fast paced DT like jam.
No Place Like Home
This mellow proggy cut is theatric and intriguing and rather ballad like. It kicks up to metallic fury later, including the death vocals, then drops back to the mellower modes that this harder segment replaced. The eventually turns into an understated, but powerful instrumental segment that takes on some crunch as it carries forward. This is a very dynamic and creative piece.
Kind of A Blur
This instrumental starts with just piano. Eventually the other instruments join in and begin a pretty and very melodic mellow prog journey. This one reworks itself several times, carrying forward the melody lines and beauty as it does. It turns a bit dark later as the horns enter, but still the main melody remains. Then non-lyrical vocals join to expand and enhance the arrangement. This is a fairly short one, but one of the highlights of the disc.
The Rock N Roll Preacher
In sharp contrast to the last cut, this one stomps in metallic and potent. The chorus drops back to more mellow fashion, but a death metalish spoken vocal enters. Then a false stop brings back the metallic, this time with a few more prog elements intersperse. The cut carries on alternating between these segments until it drops way back to an almost atmospheric acoustic guitar driven section. Then it moves into a new sedate prog ballad like jam that has a killer texture and spoken vocals. Female vocals come over top of this for one line, and the band weave intriguing waves of sound overtop. They then drop it way back to near atmosphere that again feels both like Pink Floyd and early Genesis. This carries on for quite some time until a new triumphant sounding progression with horns takes over. While the music here is all jazzy prog the vocals are death metal. A jazzy guitar solo, then a staccato jazz break ala early Chicago takes the track out. This one is rather odd, but oh so cool.

Six Strings to Cover Fear
This is a rather powerful prog rock excursion with some death vocals. It shifts gears toward more pure metal, first running through some awesome prog metal changes then it becomes something that feels like King Diamond and includes death growls. The instrumental segment that follows brings in some incredible changes and world music sounds. Then death vocal section returns. It resolves from there to a pretty acoustic driven balladic instrumental section with Gilmour like guitar sounds. This then gives way to the earlier mellow prog modes to move it on. After this they crunch it out in a very tasty guitar solo section. The arrangement gets quite lush as it carries forward. The death vocals come over this prog section as it moves on. It ends abruptly.

Awake
A bouncy quirky prog jam that calls to mind modern Crimson starts this, punctuated and ended by a crunch guitar section. Then a new prog ballad movement takes over and a beautiful female vocal line (feeling a bit like Lana Lane) enters. They turn this heavy, dark and dramatic for a moment or two, then drop it to very pretty ballad modes, but a death vocal overtop contrasts with this. Then a new cruncher segment comes in with a powerfully dramatic flavor. The death vocals return, seeming more at home over this backdrop. An awesome prog pounding takes it for a few measures, then it drops back to the earlier ballad with death growls mode. As this carries into instrumental territory, violin parts beautiful sounds over top. The string arrangement gets very lush and powerful. Then it drops back to a textural acoustic instrument driven section that carries it for quite some time. This gives way to a very satisfying jazzy prog segment. This features a tasty fusionish guitar solo and choraleish vocals. Then an R & B like vocal, similar to the ones on Pink Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky" comes in as it moves forward. Next the violin gets a solo. This arrangement is simply incredible and oh so powerful. Then a metallic guitar heralds in a new smoking jam. The death vocals eventually come over top. Then near chaos like on the opening track comes over top at times.
X
A major contrast to the fury, that ended the last track, sedate keys start this, then they eventually remake this into a bouncy, soulful ballad with killer female vocals. It drops back to the mellower to carry forward, then a new prog ballad based instrumental segment with occasional short bursts of power takes the cut. A bluesy crunchy guitar comes over it, after a shouted chorus, like a group of people partying comes in. This ends abruptly.
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