Nice to Know You... Subterranean Masquerade
Tomer Pink: Guitars
Omer Fishbain: Guitars
Or Shalev: Guitars
Shay Yalin: Keyboard
Golan Farchi: Bass
Yalon Schoru: Drums
Vidi Dolev: Vocals
(Photo: Sabine Bischof)
A One-Man Project
In 1997 Tomer Pink, a young musician from Golan Heights, founded a musical project. He knew exactly what he wanted and how his music would sound. At first, he worked and created alone, but after a short time, he was joined by Yishai Schwartz (Raven Music) and Dori Bar-Or (Eternal Gray). The three continued to write and create materials together, but due to a new job opportunity, Tomer had to take his project and try to form it on another continent. In 2002 Tomer moved to the USA and revived the project with several local musicians. The project began to take shape and in 2004 Tomer even managed to release his first EP: "Temporary Psychotic State". The EP was released under the label "The End Record" and quickly received great praise from the critics as well as from the audience. The very elastic combination of different styles, from soft psychedelic rock to progressive metal, created a galaxy of colors and sounds, which immediately bought the band a status of honor in the prog world.
Riding the wave of laudatory reviews, Tomer entered "Counterpoint" studios in Utah that same year and began to sow the seeds for “SubMasq” debut album. He connected with talented musicians and players, including vocalist Paul Kuhr, guitarist Jake Depolitte and drummer Steve Lyman, and incorporated a choir, strings, and other instruments into the recordings that enriched the band's unique sound. In 2004 Tomer released their debut album: "Suspended Animation Dreams". An album with eight songs that took "SubMasq" one step further and continued to stretch the boundaries of music with jazz, folk, and classical music elements which were all led by the prog metal style. By the way, this album was mastered by Neil Kernon (Grammy award winner) and is the second part of a trilogy that began with the first mini-album: "Temporary Psychotic State.
Even though this album also received praise and rave reviews, Tomer decided to end the project and go on hiatus... We're coming back!!
After 7 years of hiatus, during which Tomer went through significant processes in his personal life and along the way returned to Israel, the longing for music overwhelmed him and he decided to bring "SubMasq" back to life. In 2012, Tomer gathered several local musicians, including drummer Matan Shmueli ("Orphaned Land") and guitarist Or Shali, and started collaborating with them on the next album. Some of the people who took part in the project were from different parts of the world, such as vocalist Paul Kuhr from Chicago. In 2013, the band's second EP called "Home" was released, which marked the band's return home.
The revolving door continued to work, musicians came and went and Tomer started working on the second album. Keyboardist Shay Yalin and Norwegian vocalist Kjetil Nordhus joined the project. Despite the distance, Tomer managed to connect and merge all the musicians and create "SubMasq" second album "The Great Bazaar". Although this album was a significant musical change compared to the band's earlier material, it received very warm and strong feedback from the fans. Tomer said that it gave them a really good feeling that they were in the right direction, especially in light of the fact that they had so much fun creating this album.
Shay said that one of his most memorable moments was during the work on the album. He and Tomer collaborated by remotely, but they never met. At the same time, Shay wrote parts for strings, violins, and cello. They met for the first time in a small recording studio on Zion boulevard in Tel Aviv, where Oren Tzur, their violinist, joined. In the same studio, they recorded the string parts for the album. Shay has recorded such roles in the past, this was not his first time, but it was the first time he recorded with Oren Tzur and he describes it as a completely different experience. Oren's level of talent, attitude, and grace are phenomenal, and he never heard or even imagined that the things he wrote would sound like this. Oren took what Shay wrote and amplified it dozens of times. He performed each take in a different way and it sounded as if a different violinist was playing there each time.
A Band In The Making
In 2016, the band went on its first tour in Europe. The idea for the tour came as a result of an invitation the band received from a guy in the Netherlands who produced a festival called "Progpower Euro". The band's manager at the time decided it would be a good idea to build the entire tour around the festival, with the highlight being the festival show that would end the tour.
The guys packed their tools and went on tour in Europe with two other bands, on the Nightliner bus. One of the bands was from Poland and the other from Australia. Just by writing the word Nightliner, we started drooling...
This was the band's first time abroad. They appeared in nine different places in Denmark, Germany, France, England, and the Netherlands. Let us write the word Nightliner again. So, this way: despite all the aura around Nightliner, Shay said that the tour was not organized well in many ways. But hey, at least they performed abroad. But not only that. Tomer said that this tour was a very important initiation for the band. They learned a lot about the industry in Europe, about how to go on tour abroad, about logistics, about dealing with the various parties, about schedules, about marketing and more. The most important thing about this short tour was that it opened doors for them. It exposed the band to a wider audience, to various industry parties, and to collaborations that in the future created amazing opportunities for them. This was a very important and significant tour in the band's career.
(Photo: Yalon Schori)
One of the shows on the tour was in a town on the Danish-German border called Fleschberg. A small town, an intimate show, even anonymous, but one that Tomer said he will never forget. The band members were sitting backstage, waiting for the doors to open and for the crowd to start pouring in, but...no one came. Six people were present in the show, including the security guard and the bartender. The club was empty. They took the stage and put on a show of a lifetime for all four people who paid money and came to see them. Tomer said that during the show they went down to the floor and started dancing and going wild with the audience, making them happy and having fun together with them. In retrospect, it turns out that of the four who came to the show, there were two Dutchmen who owned a small progressive rock magazine called "Progspace", which grew over time. They remembered "SubMasq" favorably. They remembered a band that, despite performing in front of six people, gave their heart and soul until the end and this is something that taught the band a great lesson for the rest of the way. At every show, whether it's in front of six people or 10,000 people, there will always be someone who will experience great joy from the show and it will affect not only his world but the band’s world as well.
As we mentioned, they finished the tour at the "Progpower Europe" festival that took place in a small village in the Netherlands, but for them, it was an unforgettable experience. Hundreds of people came to the festival to see "SubMasq", among them a very large group of fans who waited for 7 years for the long overdue album and the band's performance.
After all the drooling over the Nightliner, during a tour in Europe, there are also less "sexy" things, all relative of course. Shay defined the tour throughout Europe as 23 hours of "waiting"...
It takes a few days to get into the mindset, but a European tour is 23 hours of waiting and 1 hour of the show. It's a hard work and you have to love it. You build the stage, you sell merch and you are also a performer and each of these things takes an equal part and time consumption. Therefore, you have to come to this thing out of a great love for music, a strong and lasting love, because there is a lot of work around a 60-minute show. It is admittedly less "sexy", but it is undoubtedly needed and even essential in the process of development and growth of a band!!
The band members, yes you can already call them the band members, and in a little, while you will understand why, said that Tomer always has the next album in mind. When they finished "The Great Bazaar" they already had sketches for the next album...
In 2017, the band's third album, "Vagabond", was released under the "ViciSolum" label. Also, on this album, the vocalist was Kjetil Nordhus, but this time he was joined by Eliran Weitzman who handled the death metal roars. They officially celebrated the launch of the album with a special show at the old "Gagarin" club together with Nordhus, when their warm-up band was "Tomorrow's Rain".
After the show, the band was supposed to go on another European tour with Nordhus, but since the Norwegian vocalist informed the band that he would not be able to take part in the tour, the band had to look for another vocalist...
The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle
Vidi Dolev lived and worked in Scandinavia, where he studied music and also worked in the
profession. He was a member of several bands, collaborated with various musicians, and even recorded several albums. From Vidi's stories, we felt that he too, like Tomer, was looking for a certain musical style and when he couldn't find it in Israel he left for another continent, to find and create what he likes. After 4 years in which he was on the Denmark-Israel line, Vidi returned to Israel. Tomer picked up the phone and invited him to perform with them in one show with an option to continue with the band, all if he would be suitable of course. Vidi, who knew the band very well, did not hesitate and immediately said yes. He did not doubt at all that he was taking this opportunity with both hands. This is exactly what he was looking for musically and what a cosmic connection!
(Photo: Kyle Finlan)
In December 2017, the forming band completed the last part of the puzzle and went on stage as an opening act for the band "Orphaned Land". Needless to say, already at this show the sparks on the stage and the electricity that went through Vidi to the rest of the band members were crazy!!! The band went on to tour Europe with "Orphaned Land", with this tour proving to be "another world" compared to what the band had previously experienced. The tour had a manager who dictated the pace and managed everything with a high hand. There was a schedule, there was organization, there was professionalism, and all of this became a much better experience than before.
But for Vidi, this tour was like a boot camp. Not that touring is a foreign thing to him, but this was his first tour with the band. Four weeks where they appeared almost every night. Four weeks in which he had to find his place, understand the dynamics, and understand what his part is in the composition of the cohesive team. Each time he tried something different, tried to feel what worked and what didn't. Sometimes with the band members, sometimes with the audience, a real "trial and error" of self-learning on stage and off it. Beyond these challenges, Vidi said that this tour was amazing for him. He went from touring in private cars and trains to touring in...are you ready??? Nightliner!! He said that it was a different league, a much better experience than he had experienced before.
(Photo: Adrian Coleasa)
During the tour, reviews began to appear very favorable and very focused specifically on the performances of "SubMasq" in Europe. One of the most prominent of them was a review in "Metal Hammer" magazine, about a show the band held in Berlin. This made all the members of the band, but especially the new "rookie" Vidi, understand that it's not just him who feels that amazing feeling which happens on stage, because now it already has external validity and the stamp of a well-known and respected magazine. The audience and critics responded to the "Electricity" and the incredible dynamics that took place on stage. This review was the first of many reviews that came out and never stopped marveling at this thing called "SubMasq". Vidi, who started as a second vocalist together with Eliran, continued after a short time as a solo vocalist and if you haven't had the chance to listen to him until now, then let us make a comparison here, without fear: he undoubtedly reminds us of the "chameleon" Mike Patton. Of course, at the end of the tour, it was already clear to everyone that Vidi is an integral and permanent part of the lineup.
"A pirate ship that is also soup"
In the two years that followed, the band, which had already turned from a one-man project into a cohesive and unified ensemble, plowed through Europe with concerts in every possible club and/or venue. They performed non-stop for weeks when they occasionally came to Israel for rest breaks. Vidi said that there was one very special performance for him that was a kind of "enlightenment". In 2018, after several shows in the northern part of Europe where the cold prevails, they came to a show in hot Barcelona. During the show, there was a moment when he leaned on one of the poles. After a few minutes, he realized he could climb the pole, just like Eddie Vedder in his heyday. He plucked up courage and started climbing. At the same time, he saw Tomer start to climb onto the counter of the bar. Not a few minutes passed and the entire audience, in absolute madness, started climbing on everything possible, as if the band and the audience together challenged gravity. Then it was revealed to his eyes: "SubMasq" shows defy gravity!!
(Photo: Kyle Finlan)
During the tour, they started working on the next album. If in the previous albums, Tomer would write all the materials and divide the roles among the members of the band, including the lyrics, this time it was different. Since each of the members had already formed his place in the band, the creative process also received the same dynamic and they began to work as one harmonious unit that writes and creates together.
Tomer wrote a sketch, guitars/drums/general melody and then separately or together, everyone wrote their parts for the song. After the first stage, the song went to Vidi who usually claimed that the song was overloaded, and it is impossible to write lyrics for. It came back to the rest of the band members who had to delete half of the music and send it back to him and from there they continued to work on the song together in a rehearsal room. It's like a soup that you have to feel its different flavors. You have to find the balance between the texture, the taste, the level of freshness, and the crispness of each of the ingredients. Tomer is Captain Hook. He's piloting this pirate ship and its crew who are now making steaming soup. He connects and synchronizes everyone to bring this pot of soup to safety.
A New Era
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the band experienced one of the most significant events in its career. It signed with the famous label "Sensory" - "The Laser's Edge" which is one of the largest labels in the USA for prog music. Not only was the signing with such a large label significant but also the timing. The label signed the band from Israel at a time when the uncertainty in the music industry was at its peak. No one knew how the coronavirus would affect the industry and what would happen in the future when in the background we experienced closures and bans on gatherings everywhere in the world. This fact alone made them realize that the label believed in them and signed them despite the harsh reality.
A new album is ready – check! a big label for distribution – check! an audience - no!!!
In light of the uncertainty, closures, and the inability to perform, the band decided not to release the album. To maintain the musical connection with the audience, but also to maintain the musical connection between themselves, they decided to record songs from the previous albums in special "isolation" performances, and the album "The Pros & Cons of Social Isolation" was released on October 2020.
Two months before the significant lifting of the restrictions, in May 2021, the band released its fourth album: "Mountain Fever". The members of the band said that they felt that with the release of the closures, the music industry in Israel received a huge hug from the audience and especially "SubMasq", which felt that the audience in Israel received them with more warmth and love. The industry suddenly experienced crazy growth, partly because for a long time artists from abroad did not come and people were thirsty for performances. This caused many local bands to take advantage of the opportunity and take things in a much more professional way. They sharpened their shows to give the audience a top-notch experience.
The band's first performance after the COVID was as a warm-up show for “Fortischaroff” at the Golan Land Festival on June 2021. During the performance they tried out all their new songs and practiced the structure of the setlist, all this in front of an audience that was eating pizza and waiting for the main show. A similar experience is also remembered by the band during the warm-up show for the rock n’ roll giants "Deep Purple". There, the audience entry time was not synchronized with the performance time and "SubMasq" found itself on the big stage in front of huge clearings of seats. Nevertheless, for them, these two shows were very important because, despite the challenging experience, they were allowed to perform the new songs and check the feeling on stage and to experience performing on a big stage, in such a big stadium.
At the beginning of 2022, "SubMasq" decided to explore the audience and post-COVID new gathering in Israel by holding an "Unplugged" concert tour. At in parallel to the preparations for the crazy show, they planned for Purim at the Gagarin club, they also started working on a more intimate, calmer show with low volume and energy compared to the madness that usually happens on stage. To give some guidance to the band, Tomer brought the reference to the legendary “Nirvana MTV Unplugged” show. According to Shay, the band took that thing and made it "purple and smoky," sort of a cigar-and-whiskey vibe. They took their songs, stripped them down completely, took them apart, and reassembled them in a more accessible, yet still powerful way. They worked on these arrangements for weeks in a rehearsal room in Kibbutz Yagur, sharpening and refining the new arrangements more and more, so that they would not lose their power and emotion, despite the absence of strings, keyboards, and other sounds. They held several shows in this special tour in which guest artists such as Noa Gorman from the band "Scardust" and the metal choir "Hellscore" also took part. If you didn't get to see the show, you can get a taste of the "Metal Unplugged" project initiated by Omri Yagan of the yellow submarine.
The year 2022 continues to be a special year for "SubMasq" and that summer the band was addressed by a start-up company that owns the "Heavys" brand and develops on-ear headphones that are specially built for listening to metal music. The company is partnered by quite a few Israeli entrepreneurs who know "SubMasq", know their music, and their shows and know the band very well for years. Since the company was looking for Israeli representation, they turned to "SubMasq" which joined an impressive representation of bands such as "Symphony X", "Star One", "Klone" and more.
This is it, with great sadness, we say goodbye to the Nightliner, because after COVID the whole music industry changed, the tours changed, and the band itself also changed and therefore they started working in a method of forays. Instead of going on a tour for several weeks, they would fly to two or three shows and return. One of their most memorable outings is the participation in the "Saarang World Fest" festival in India on Jan 2023. This is a festival that takes place every year to unite people from all over the world, where different bands from all kinds of places in the world come to perform each time. "SubMasq" held two shows during the same visit. One was completely spontaneous, following an invitation they received on the day they landed in India and the other was at the booked festival. The band members said that it was amazing to see how the Indians respond to their music like enthusiastic fans, to the same music that Tomer wrote somewhere years ago while in India.
"SubMasq" is now working on the next album. They feel that it will not be easy to surpass "Mountain Fever", but in parallel, they are working feverishly and exceptionally on the festive and very special show that will take place on April 1st, 2023. The band members say that this is a show that they have never done before, in terms of the setting, lighting, props, and setlist. This will be a one-time show that will not be repeated, so you must not miss it!!
On a personal note,
After they went through quite a few years of beautiful moments, successes, crazy experiences,
constant growth, and thousands of people expressing their love for the band and its music around the world.
The band members feel that the band is in the best place they have ever been, and the band is receiving significant recognition from all directions, in Israel and abroad. They work together harmoniously on and off stage, and the writing and creation are abundant with a new album on the way. More plans and many surprises are on the way starting with the special and one-time performance on April 1st at the Gagarin Club.
There is no way you are missing the show on April 1st in Gagarin Club
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