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The Anabasis - Back From Being Gone CD (album) cover


The Anabasis

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Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars World Wide Web makes it possible - THE ANABASIS are a fruitful collaboration of musicians from Europe and the United States. The complete lineup features way more than 10 members with a different stylistical background. Multi-instrumentalist Barry Thompson and George Andrade, being responsible for concept and lyrics, seem to be the masterminds who have initiated this project. I already was aware of Lee Abraham (bass) who could impress me once while enjoying Galahad in concert, guitarero Stefan Artwin of Geman prog metal band Relocator ... and Spock's Beard's Ryo Okumoto of course. This otherwise means that I came across a bunch of skilled composers/musicians here which I've never heard of before - what a pleasure! Drummer Gerald Mulligan courtesy of the Lee Abraham Band for example, who makes a really great job. Or vocalists Per Fredrik Åsly and Gordon Tittsworth which both worked with diverse prog metal bands.

Anyway, whatever the circumstances are to form just this collection of participants exactly - the result is definitely well-balanced, for what it's worth. 'Back From Being Gone' is released on US label 10T Records, offers more than seventy highly melodic minutes. A concept album which picks up rise (and fall) of empires analogous to the band name. As for the lyrical aspect the songs lead us through three episodes of the European and neighbouring North-East African history, each represented by an epic at least. Hence one can say this is even musically retrospective in some way concerning the song structure, on the other hand certainly modern sounding. In summary - not really surprising when considering the collaborator's musical background - some kind of heavy prog music provided with a symphonic and even metal edge.

The historical voyage starts with Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire - the song immediately shows the approach to embed high quality vocals - Per Fredrik Åsly is an excellent singer ... and story-teller at once. As it is suitable for an epic, uptempo rocking parts and charming balladesque moments are alternating. A rounded composition, very melodic and catchy, well placed backing vocals, you're forced to sing along after some rounds. Ryo Okumoto cares for the symphonic ambience due to a complete keyboard range featuring mellotron, organ, piano and synthesizer. Touché! Followed by damn rocking shorter tracks with a bunch of slicing guitar riffs they lead over to the next epic Vikings provided with much more dramaturgy, savage foreigners disembark on the isle of Lindisfarne and radiate fear, samples present some typical dialogues - a thrilling issue set to music.

While moving along the Nile on Egypt Caesar and Cleopatra are not far away of course, the band close the circle, pick up some motifs already placed on the opening song - the metallic guitar takes a backseat here, so this comes more in a neo prog outfit in the vein of Galahad, Enchant and similar - however a bit stretched as for my impression. This does not diminish the overall feeling though, 'Back From Being Gone' enriches my best-of list for 2011 and proves that prog music is not dead nowadays. Well I should avoid to point out any special contributor, but Okumoto's keyboard fireworks are worth trying alone. This album should be part of every well-assorted prog music collection, definitely.

Report this review (#568991)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I first read the sumptuous booklet that accompanied the digital download for this album, my initial thoughts were that I had stumbled upon a modern day Spinal Tap meets Meatloaf. This was actually reinforced by the first couple of listens as well. For Back From Being Gone, the debut from this American heavy prog outfit, The Anabasis, is nothing if not grandiose and epic in scope.

It is a concept album, of course, giving us a dissertation on events and people in the ancient world. What I am glad to report, however, is that patient listening and growing accustomed to the album rewards itself, and the praise that is being heaped upon it across the prog world is, by and large, very much deserved.

The historical epic opens with Rome, and the Prologue sets the scene slowly before the track bursts into life with Back To The Future Part I, featuring soaring Hammond Organ and heavy riffs. The lyrics are somewhat stereotypical in parts ("sex and debauchery up on the hill", indeed), but these are redeemed by the very interesting poetry behind the scene from the mother's eye. The band's symphonic and melodic sensibilities come to full flow in Part IV, The final Word, with a guitar solo rather reminiscent of some of neo's finest moments set against a tuneful piano and soulful lyrics, before the heavy riffs kick back in with a choral keys backdrop which reminds me a lot of Arena's work. All in all, this is a nice mix of the grandiose and melodic, and the latter is how it ends with a very nice orchestral violin.

Fly takes us to the story of Icarus, and I really like the bitter nature of the lyrics, which could easily be transposed to the ills of modern society. Musically, this is a good, heavy, track which has, at its heart, some very nice keyboard work and guitar solos, whilst Per Fredrick Asly's vocals are quite excellent.

Carpe Diem can be translated as "seize the day", and is based upon a poem by Horace. Musically, this is a triumph and a very nice track which reveals further the band's symphonic orchestration blended with some melodic, almost AOR, boundaries, creating a satisfying wall of sound. This is a clear highlight of the album, and gets better with each listen.

With Vikings, we are transported a few centuries forward to the blood and thunder of the Norsemen. It commences with a monastic choir (I said it was epic in scope) before we have a history lesson by a narrator set against a riff which has, at its heart, a superb bass line. At seventeen and a half minutes long, this is a massive track. Part I sets the scene very well, with a suitably doom laden set of riffs accompanying the invasion of England. Part II is even more menacing, and it takes the listener very cleverly to the direct fears of the victims of the piece, as a family discuss the impending disaster, before the vocals describe the victory itself, with a fine riff to push the issue home. The lovely piano returns and calms the track down in Part III, and it is wonderfully executed as you live the warriors returning home to the fjords. Wonderfully melodic, it is this that, more than any other sequence, proves that there is far more to this band than meets the eye, and the guitar solo is a real treat. The track ends on Part IV as a heavy piece which asserts the pacification of the invaders in their adopted home.

Epiphany can only be described, lyrically at any rate, as a deeply personal rant, with the swear words to match the feeling. Against whom, I know not, this track was written by Barry Thompson (George Andrade wrote the remainder of the lyrics), and he is clearly not very happy. As a musical piece it creates an interesting sense of theatre, although I personally could have done without the metal growl/rap.

The album proper closes with Egypt, which, at nearly twenty four minutes long, screams out epic. It has five parts, and, as with much else here, it requires repeated and patient listening before you really "get it". I don't care for Part I too much, which I feel is the only piece to perform "metal by numbers", but it does, at the same time, create a middle eastern flavour. Part II is a huge improvement, with far more imaginative riffs, and it tells the epic story of the Battle Of Actium between Mark Anthony and victor Octavian. In Part III, you are once again taken by surprise by the lovely melodic sense and playing, mixed with some fine vocal harmonies. The symphonic arrangements which follow are excellent, but the very best is saved until last. Back To The Future Part II is incredible, and as good a symphonic track as I have heard all year (and it has been a very good year musically). The guitar solo is simply incredible, and the whole closing arrangement is both stunning and whimsical at the same time, reminding me a great deal of some of Yes' triumphal moments, and I love this segment more each time I listen.

Barry Thompson and George Andrade, together with Ryo Okumoto, who is a stunning keyboard player, and Per Fredrick Asly, and a whole host of guest stars, including Lee Abraham who was responsible for much of the knob twiddling, have combined to create a truly memorable album. It is a very fine line to tread between parody and serious artistry at times, and I really do think that in the hands of lesser exponents, this album could easily have fallen into the former.

As it is, this is a work to be taken deeply seriously, and is, to me, a fine marker for what I hope will be critical and commercial masterpieces in the future.

3.5 stars for this, if we had such a rating, but rounded up to four stars as recognition of the sheer bravado in releasing such a work as one's debut. It will appeal to, and be enjoyed by, any reader who loves their intelligent heavy prog combined with a sense of theatre, the epic, and symphonic and melodic prog all rolled into one huge package. In other words, most of the visitors to this site, I guess.

I will here place on record my appreciation to the band for making the download available to me to review.

Report this review (#578278)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
4 stars When it comes to ambitious new projects, southern New England's own The Anabasis is certainly a good place to start. The new band, formed by friends Barry Thompson and George Andrade, has attracted quite a bit of attention lately with their debut album Back From Being Gone. Boasting an epic concept based in the history of the three of the largest ancient civilizations (Rome, Egypt, and the Norse), something that can be gleaned simply by the telling track listing, the album contains 74 minutes of some pretty tasty stuff; the band's style is most easily equated to a mixture of Spock's Beard's grandiose Hammond-led symphonics mixed with a heap of Riverside and Dream Theaterarian progressive metal and a side dish of proggy hard rock right from the 70s. At a first glance, this formula seems like it would be a huge hit, and so it is.

The two main band members don't do all the work, however. Much of the glory of the album is also due in part to the great cast of musicians they called from all over the world to work on the album. With the likes of Spock's Beard's very own Ryo Okumoto on keyboards, new prog metal act Relocator's Stefan Artwin putting a few (or quite a few) guitar notes, well- known Norwegian vocalist Per Asly leading the pipes, and many more, the undeniable virtuosity and professionalism on this album is astounding. The band creates an exemplary balance between emotion, which simply pours from the music on this album, and musicianship, which is top notch and refined all throughout the music, a dynamic which many bands fail to achieve on their albums.

The compositions on the album are based mostly in the epic, multi-movement style that has been perfected throughout the many years of progressive rock's history. The album contains three clearly identifiable "epics," the 14 minute "Rome," the 17 minute "Vikings," and the 23 minute "Egypt," all of which follow a multi-textured multi-movement complex format exploring the history of the three civilizations in which their eponymous titles suggest. The lengthy, epic compositions are truly the heart of this album and effectively display the creative core of the band's stylistic origins.

Displaying a wide dynamic ranging from heavy progressive metal sections to light and feathery major-keyed symphonic prog pastures, the hugely diverse songs can be exciting to say the least. My favorite of the epics is "Vikings," which, while also exhibiting the most "dry" history of the three tracks, truly expresses a strong sense of emotional tension throughout the staged Viking invasion of the Mercia in 877 AD. The emotive backing music to the family's dialogue as they prepare for the imminent invasion is haunting to say the least, and the segue to the well-executed battle description and instrumental section is extremely well put together and performed. Besides the three epics, three shorter tracks appear on the album as well. Next to the lengthy pieces, they might not seem as 3-dimensional, but they certainly contain their share of punch. "Carpe Diem" is one of my favorite tracks on the album, delivering a concentrated burst of delicious prog rock with a great beat that's easy to bob my head to. While at times the other songs can seem like filler, each does have a special dynamic that contributes nicely to the overall atmosphere created by the highly diverse album.

I was overall very impressed by the debut album of Massachusetts based The Anabasis. Showing not only an avid love of history but also an appreciation of high-quality, well-made progressive rock, I have a feeling these guys will be here to stay. While every aspect of the album is not perfect, the album is incredibly well-done for a debut from any band, nevermind a band with a core of only two members. The flaws thankfully are few, with my only main gripe being the vocals. At times Asly's higher register vocals don't mesh with the music quite as well as they should, which at times detracts from the listening experience. Overall, however, this is miniscule compared to the grandiose power of the music. I look forward to more from these guys. 4 stars.

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Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Back From Being Gone' - The Anabasis (6/10)

If progressive rock is about being ambitious, it's basically a granted fact that bands have to continuously up the ante in order to impress potential listeners. The Anabasis' highly collaborative nature should be enough to intrigue some listeners, and the fact that their recorded debut takes the form of a massive multi-epic work probably doesn't hurt either. Being a lover of history, I was obviously all the more excited when I heard that 'Back From Being Gone' was a concept album detailing historical events. In other words, there is good reason for the hype surrounding this new project, and while I haven't found it to be as musically impressive as I was first hoping it would be, The Anabasis could never be accused or not shooting for the stars. Regardless, the debut of this band ultimately feels heavy on polish, but regrettably light on innovation.

As I had been rightfully led to believe through the hype, The Anabasis form their sound around the neo-prog formula. The music is never excessively complex, instead leaving the musicianship to brooding guitar solos and leads. Guitars are the most impressive aspect of The Anabasis' delivery, but- as one would expect from this brand of prog- keyboards are highly prevalent as well. There is never a definitive sound to any of the instruments however, evidently because the instruments are tossed around by several musicians. Spock's Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto is arguably the most distinguished member of this act, although the bands Relocator and Halycon also share ties with this project, among others. Despite this great sense of near-orchestral collaboration, The Anabasis' sound generally reverts to the sort of key-laden melodic rock that's heard a lot in prog nowadays. Musically speaking, these musicians execute it well- with particular recognition given to vocalist Per Fredrik Åsly- but there's little here that highlights this band, at least from a performance perspective.

'Back From Being Gone's boldest claim is that it sports not one, or two, but three sprawling epics. Add on three more conventionally lengthed pieces, and you have a near-eighty minute long monster of an album. Each epic piece is given a one word title that generally indicates what historical topic it's going to tackle. Lyrically, the words are pleasant and tastefully recount the historical issues at hand. A slight exception to this would be during the 'Viking' track, in which the music is more or less put on hold for a spoken word lesson, where the speaker describes the rise of Viking raiders and aggression. Although the educational element works in the band's favour, it would have helped to have delivered it in a more musical format. Fortunately, these moments are exceptions, although it's enough of a misstep to affect my view of what the band has done here.

'Back From Being Gone' is sure to appeal to listeners hungry for a more ambitious-than- usual slice of neo-prog, but as I stand, I am left wishing that the great potential here was realized a little more thoroughly. The composition and musicianship of The Anabasis are both good, but never achieve excellence. While it would be an accomplishment for lesser musicians, the fact that The Anabasis is confident enough to take on such a large project indicates to me that, despite the existing quality, things could have been a little better.

Report this review (#614408)
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars US based project THE ANABASIS was instigated by multi-instrumentalist and composer Barry Thompson in 2009, and what was to become their debut album "Back from Being Gone" was developed alongside lyricist George Andrade from 2009 and onwards. Ryo Okumoto and Per Fredrik Aasly also got involved in the project, and with a host of guest musicians participating their initial CD eventually saw the light of day in the fall of 2011, released by the US label 10t Records.

Debut albums by artists meriting a talented description have become a rather common experience for me, and The Anabasis is another addition to that list. Accessible, pleasant music that will find some favor among a vast audience I assume, and with their dedication to majestic, sophisticated heavy art rock and epic length compositions I'd suspect that they'll soon enough have a small crowd of dedicated fans that have longed for a band exploring just this particular part of the art rock universe. A disc well worth checking out if the above description intrigues you.

Report this review (#762938)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Anabasis is one of the newer bands from prog rock zone who caught my attention few years bach with their first album named Back from being gone released in 2011. Well this is like a super groups, musicians from Europe and USA got together and delivering a quite solid album to my ears. Among others the guitarist from prog metal band Hourglass, the fampous Spock's Beard keybordist Ryo Okumoto, Stefan Artwin from jazz fusion/prog metal band Relocator and many more. The music is very dense with plenty of great moments, twisted complex passages, only 6 pieces, 3 of them very long and very complex prog rock. Sometimes they incorporated some prog metal elements but never gone into prog metal zone entirely. The music is most of the time mid tempo but never boring to me. The lyrics are great, of historical kind. I really like a lot the vocal arrangements, are well performed and has many jaw dropping moments like on Egypt or Rome, to epic pieces where besides vocal lines, every musicins shine, very good. All in all more then decent debut, the art cover is aswell excellent, for fans of Spock's Bear, Blue Mammoth, etc. 3.5 stars .
Report this review (#1027025)
Posted Monday, September 2, 2013 | Review Permalink

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