Sunday, 11 May 2014

Anubis Gate's 'Horizons' - Album Review

Anubis Gate were one of those bands that I had heard of and read about, but had never really given them a proper listen. I think I had heard a couple of their songs on Youtube in the past, but for whatever reason I had never bothered to buy any of their albums. I read a couple of reviews praising the band's most recent album Horizons and decided it was time to finally give these guys a proper listen. The only things that I knew about the band going in was that they play progressive metal and they come from Denmark. After listening to Horizons a few times, I knew that I liked their style. I have not yet had a chance to go back and listen to their back catalogue, so this review will be based purely on my experiences listening to this album. Usually, the albums are review are from bands that I am already very familiar with, but this time I am going in blind. Anubis Gate's brand of progressive metal seems to be quite dense, but also quite melodic. Some bits of it remind me of Haken, and others remind me of Circus Maximus - it is quite an odd mix of styles. Henrik Fevre has an unusual voice, and one that is as diverse as the material as the material he is singing over. Sometimes it is full-bodied and more akin to your average AOR frontman, and other times it is distant and takes on a pseudo Thom Yorke vibe. He also contributes bass guitar, and along with other long-term member Kim Olesen makes up the backbone of the band. Horizons also sees the debut of two new members of the band. Guitarist Michael Bodin (Third Eye) and drummer Morten Gade Sørensen (Pyramaze; Wuthering Heights) both put in good shifts here and fit in well with the rest of the band. Former frontman Jacob Hansen once again co-produced the album along with Olesen and the album sounds good. Sometimes though the sound becomes a little claustrophobic, particularly when the keyboards start to dominate the sound. I would have prefered a bit more space in the mix, so then I could focus more on the individual performances from time to time. That being said however, this album does not seem to be about individual performances. The cliché progressive metal extended solos are not as common here as on other albums in the genre - so maybe this production decision was deliberate. Still, a little more clarity in places would not have gone amiss.

The album gets off to a very strong start with Destined to Remember which is probably the most instantly memorable song on the album. Lush keyboards and chunky guitars make up the introduction, but the verses are much more paired back with Fevre's vocals taking centre stage. The chorus is very melodic piece of work, with plenty of nice vocal harmonies and soaring lines to enjoy. After the second chorus, the instrumentation seems to go off on a bit of a tangent. A simple guitar solo followed by a rather metalcore-esque breakdown are musically quite different to the melodic and traditional song structure that preceded them. It is not long though before the song returns to the epic chorus and shows us that progressive music does not have to be complex to be enjoyable. Never Like This (A Dream) follows with a nice, meaty riff before everything fades out to let Fevre do an excellent Matt Bellamy impression over some tight synthesisers. Things pick up as we get into the chorus. Fevre's lower register works well here and some heady guitar work backs him up as Sørensen's traditional metal beats help things along. Towards the end of the song, keyboards start to dominate the mix with a short, spacy solo - but a final repeat of the slightly strange chorus brings things to and end. Hear My Call! is a heavier piece with a really groovy verse that has some excellently paced guitar riffing and fluid bass. The song's chorus is right out of the top draw and Fevre reaches some excellent, sustained high notes. Things clam down in the middle, with an Eastern-influenced acoustic guitar workout while Sørensen plays some interesting drum rhythms behind it. A 'proper' guitar solo follows not long after and the song steams along to a heavy end. The next highlight is Revolution Come Undone. It has a slightly thrashy verse with lots of double bass pedal drumming from Sørensen and some emotional vocals from Fevre. This a real headbanging track with powerful drums and tight, interlocking rhythm guitar riffing. The light and shade is still ever-present however, with plenty of airy keyboards to help balance out the sound. Slightly more techy riffs join the fray about half way through the song, and they mix with cleverly programmed synths to emphasise the band's progressive tendencies. The heavier elements stay throughout the song though, and this is a song that will appeal to any open-minded metalhead.

Breach of Faith is a much more laid back number that makes excellent use of the piano. Even though big, distorted guitars are present throughout most of the song, it is the melodic piano lines that cut through the heaviness that really drive the song. The chorus returns to the soaring, melodic feasts that the first couple of songs on this album were and is likely to be stuck in your head quite a lot after hearing it. After a short, shredding solo we are treated to some delicate piano before a really beautiful, slow guitar solo reminiscent of the classic 1970s progressive rock bands takes the song to a whole new level. As I said earlier, this album is not really about individual performances, but every so often a solo like that comes along a blows you away. The album's title track is the next highlight. It is a much shorter song than most of the others here, but it still has plenty going on. Fevre's vocal melodies are very catchy here, and some rather traditional breaks of lead guitar (which are mostly absent in this album) are welcome. It might not be as complex as many of the other songs on this album, but it is a nice song that still contains all the band's hallmarks. Plus, it is a nice break before the epic 14 minute song that follows. A Dream Within a Dream is a bona fide progressive metal epic. Made up of lots of sections, the song is musically complex and engrossing. It starts off quite low-key though, with Fevre's Matt Bellamy/Thom Yorke vocals being backed up with some rather simple music. My favourite section comes a few minutes in. Some rather spacey keyboards and a rumbling bass line herald a really rhythmic piece where Fevre's vocals follow his own bass guitar in a strange, but brilliant harmony. The song takes quite a few plays to really get to grips with, as there is so much going on but it is worth persevering with as it is very enjoyable once you are more familiar with it. All good progressive metal albums have a big, long, epic song on it; and this is Horizons'. The album comes to an end with the strange and distant Erasure. It is an acoustically-led short song that is very different to everything that has come before. It sounds more like something that you would hear on the album of the latest trendy singer-songwriter, at least until the drums and swathes of keyboards join in. This only lasts for a short while though, as the song returns to it's acoustic roots to close out the album. Overall, this is an album that I have enjoyed listening to over the past few weeks. It is not a classic, but it has introduced me to a new band that I will be checking out in greater detail over the coming years.

The album was released on 15th April 2014 via Nightmare Records. Below is the band's promotional lyric video for Never Like This (A Dream).

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