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Anubis - Hitchhiking To Byzantium CD (album) cover

HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM

Anubis

 

Neo-Prog

3.95 | 188 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The Australian neo-prog band ANUBIS (a quick search will yield about 13 bands of the same name) continued their trend of taking three years in between albums which is exactly what they did on their third album HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM (2014) after their critically acclaimed "A Tower Of Silence" (2011) and debut "230503" (2009). Despite occupying a small niche within the neo-prog sub- genre within the world progressive rock, this lesser known band from Down Under has made quite a name for themselves in select small circles if not yet reaching the worldwide household name status of bands such as Marillion, IQ or Arena.

Once again the same cast members which includes the five main musicians and a few guest vocalists and a wind player find a way to weave a conceptual theme into a single album clocking in well over an hour's length playing time. While the first two albums took the same approach with an overarching concept carrying the lyrics and music along for the ride, HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM treads new ground in many ways without sacrificing the same catchy grooves augmented by acoustic dreamy passages, synth-heavy atmospheres and passionately delivered vocal narrations.

Abandoning the storyline concept, HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM (an ancient Greek colony that later became Constantinople and even later Istanbul) takes the approach where each band member contributed lyrics based on personal concepts of their life's journey and conjures up all the emotional maelstroms and occasional successes that cover the entire human experience spectrum, thus the dominate role of lead vocalist Robert James Moulding and keyboardist David Eaton contributing as the main creators of content has been replaced by a more democratic show-and-tell session in musical format.

Like most albums tucked away in the sub-genre, ANUBIS relies heavily on the lyrical content which dictates the musical direction which takes on various styles ranging from Pink Floyd inspired space rock to heavy King Crimson-esque amplified rock guitar as well as the by now well tested neo-prog stomping grounds that include thick layers of synthesized atmospheric backdrops that allow the musical edifices to shapeshift from one emotional phase to another. While not as all encompassing as the first two concept albums, neither does the lack of unity detract substantially from an overall musical feel across the album's running time which includes several lengthy pieces with the longest emerging with the near sixteen minute "A Room With A View."

While upon first listen, it may seem that ANUBIS has fallen into the business-as-usual rut that many bands do with the expected neo-prog attributes following suit, but a more attentive listen will yield more surprises than just a quickie one-off listening session. Guitarist Douglas Skene admits to forcing himself to explore new musical arenas and therefore songs are written in a variety of different keys and playing styles in order to bring out new dimensions in Moulding's vocals which when compared to first two albums does ring true with tracks like "Tightening The Screws" sounding nothing like the band's previous efforts. In fact Moulding's fragile vocal approach sounds somewhat like the Norwegian band Leprous in their most tender and subdued moments.

With the stunning achievement of the first two album's ANUBIS clearly ran the risk of running away from their established band sound too far, too fast but while i'm the first to admit that HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM does not usurp the one / two punch of the duo masterpiece set that preceded or even live up to them, neither does it find the band teetering off into irrelevancy. HITCHHIKING achieves exactly what any good neo-prog album of the 21st century should, namely long well thought out composition that connect lyrical content with catchy pop oriented hooks stretched out into progressive complexities

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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