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Anubis - Hitchhiking To Byzantium CD (album) cover





3.96 | 213 ratings

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5 stars Expectation was high for H2B as Tower of Silence has been on repeat a lot since I got it. I heard it was coming through an online EPK which seemed to bode well, it all sounded damn fine. However, following a classic is never easy and the pressure was alluded to by even the musicians themselves.

They needn't have worried though. H2B is a wonderful record from beginning to end.

The biggest differences here is that it IS slightly more daring, and will polarise fans a little, I dare suggest. It isn't at all Tower of Silence pt.2, which may for some be a reason alone to turn away. However, that said, the musical DNA is still liberally sprinkled throughout the CD, and some of it is more reminiscent of the raw and edgy approach to their first album, but some of it is also extremely accessible. There may well be cries of 'sell out' when people hear the choruses of say 'Dead Trees' which are very well crafted popular music, but the quirky 7/4 verses and the solo have the same effect as Archway of Tears from ATOS which juxtaposes the accessible chorus.

The intro track, 'Fadeout' is pastoral and sweet, not unlike the first part of All that Is, and A King with no Crown bursts in like an unwelcome intruder with it's sharp angular groove and 'Collapse' like chorus. The aforementioned Dead Trees passes into the title track which is signature Anubis, with all the characteristics (save a sax solo to die for) that made The Holy Innocent such a memorable cut. The girl vocals from All that is are seemingly better integrated into the band this time and the whole song exudes majesty and quality.

So far, so Anubis then. However, nothing prepared me for what happened next.

Blood is Thicker than Common Sense is, in the nicest way, a nasty piece of work. It's unexpectedly violent and twists and turns around in the same way as 'Cygnus Vismund Cygnus' by the Mars Volta or 'Sound Chaser' by Yes does. Coming in at this point, it's definitely tremendously effective, and here its the drumming of Steven Eaton and the bass playing of 'late arrival' Anthony Stewart which delight and shock in equal measure. Robert James Moulding's vocals alternate between shouting and soothing and it's schizophrenic middle section almost sounds like two different voices duetting. It's very effective. The whole thing winds down before ramping back up into a B3 solo par excellence and a massive last section that features sax man Martin Cook on all manner of wind instruments. It's worth the album for this track alone.

The next track is again, by contrast exceptionally effective, being predominantly folky and there's an almost Radiohead like quality to the vocals which is echoed in the sublime bass work. The coda of the track could have come straight from 'Clutching at Straws' or 'Seasons End' and is one of the strongest moments that Anubis have yet committed to tape (or whatever they use these days).

Partitionists is a somewhat nostalgic romp that manages to capture the best of Anubis past with some more excellent drumming and vocal harmonies. This segues by way of church bells into the sublime 'Crimson Stained Romance' which starts off sounding like IQ does Floyd and ends up with church organs and full choirs in full gothic mode, with a soaring guitar solo and a vocal denoument to match.

However, the piece that surprised like no other is the penultimate 'A Room with A View' which seems to be about suicide. The piece begins with eerie piano and keybaord textures before a climax that reminds me of the start of 'Octavarium' by Dream Theatre. This then skips off into a brisk Steve Hackett-playing-Yes sort of solo which is underpinned by an almost Tubular Bells like piano figure. Talk about blending your influences! This gives way to a sparse acoustic like sections chocked full of harmonies (almost CSN and Y at points) before going full circle back to neo-prog. Packed full of gorgeous vocals and exquisite lyrics. Lovely. The middle of the track has an unexpected dance with the ghost of Jethro Tull (did Martin Cook play this on one leg?) and a reprise of the opening gambit before a collosal climax and coda with incredible vocals. Wow. I need a cigarette.

However, no time. As the ending 'Silent Wandering Ghosts', kisses you off to sleep with some of the most tender vocals on the album and a guitar solo that David Gilmour would proudly call his own.

So, this is definitely Anubis' best yet. Where to from here? No idea, but on the strength of this, there'll only be more to come.

Is it as good as 'The Road of Bones'? Hmmm... not sure yet. Too much study of both to do, but it's damn close. Definitely a grower and definitely a record with many, many, many listens ahead of it.

RedKnot | 5/5 |


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