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Anubis Gate - Horizons CD (album) cover


Anubis Gate

Progressive Metal

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Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Horizons' - Anubis Gate (81/100)

It's often the most difficult part of a review to write a compelling introduction, so I'll just cheat and summarize the extent of my feelings towards the band right away: Anubis Gate are the most criminally underrated working band in progressive metal today. It's a bold statement to be certain, but I'm sure many of the bands fans would tend to agree. Following the done-to-death prog-power trend, Anubis Gate have managed to accomplish what so many of their contemporaries have failed to do; that is, making melody sound interesting in prog metal. When so much attention is paid to a band's shredding ability or quasi-autistic technical prowess, it's painfully common for the melodic staple to get lost or discredited. Having been amazed by Anubis Gate's amazing ability to invert this trope on past albums (particularly their 2007 opus Andromeda Unchained), this year's Horizons has been among my most anticipated of 2014. By all means, the end result has not disappointed; lively musicianship, a mature execution and an exceptional integration of melody into a progressive metal framework makes for one of the first stand-out records I've heard this year.

"Destined to Remember" I heard on their free-for-download Sheep EP some months ago, and in spite of that engrained familiarity, I still find myself blown away by the song. Although the only noticeable change between the two songs is the extension of the song's bridge section, "Destined to Remember" feels like an essential demonstration of everything that makes Horizons so great. So many ideas are tossed into the structure, but it still manges to sound compelling and filled with hooks. The only shorter progressive metal song I can think of that managed to accomplish such a feeling of completion in so 'short' a time was Circus Maximus' "Abyss". If you've at some point shared doubts as to whether melodies could be successfully worked into prog metal without a cost to ambition, set aside what you're doing and take the five minutes to hear this song. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Airways" is built around some incredibly clever melody writing, and the chorus is a prime example of this; the chorus presents a simple melody, and reinvents it entirely right after by pairing it up with a different chord. Although the melody stays the same, it has a much darker atmosphere the second time around; I know it's a minor detail in context of the album, but it's an amazing demonstration of how Anubis Gate integrate melody into their music. Horizons' other highlights include "Never Like This" (an incredibly hooky tune with moments that recall Devin Townsend!), "Breach of Faith", and the concisely structured title track. Regardless which song is put under the knife and analyzed on Horizons, it's virtually guaranteed that Anubis Gate are doing something to impress me at the given time. The release of the album was delayed from 2013 to this year as a result of their perfectionism, and the attention to detail is apparent in the end result.

While Anubis Gate stand out as incredible songwriters, the craft and structure of the album itself is a lesser success. The flow doesn't stand out as good or bad for the most part, but there is rarely the sense that the song order compliments the enjoyment of the songs themselves. Many of these songs build up a fierce emotional momentum, only to have the momentum mostly washed off by the next song. This is most apparent in the album's closing segment, the part-epic/part-medley "A Dream Within A Dream" and its acoustic denouement "Erasure". "A Dream Within A Dream" takes the melodic hooks from songs prior ("Never Like This" and "Airways" in particular) and gives them a more mellowed, atmospheric overhaul. Although the ideas themselves are great, the track feels less like the epic it tries to make itself out to be, and more an attempt to bring the album together as a whole. The slight disappointment of it falling short of a true prog metal epic aside, "A Dream Within A Dream" would have been an effective closer to the album, and by all means is one, if you don't count the acoustic "Erasure" that comes after it. I get that "Erasure" is meant as a sort of 'exit music' to the album, but it bears no emotional connection or shared momentum with the fourteen minute track that precedes it. As a result, the album ends feeling a tad underwhelming, and the disregard for a momentous climax sadly robs Horizons of some of the overall impression it was set up to have.

Even having become very familiar with the album, the flow still stands as a problem for the album. Then again, when looking at the album as a whole, it's a small price to pay for an otherwise incredible product. Anubis Gate 's songwriting may be what make them so worthy of praise, but even their production and performance manage to stand out. Instrumentally, Anubis Gate are excellently professional and accent these songs with dynamic performances throughout; even if there are few sections here where it sounds like the band are playing to their limit, their chemistry and quality as musicians is never in question. As has been the case with my past experience with Anubis Gate however, vocalist Henrik Fevre remains the most impressive part of the band. The production style shares this enthusiasm for the vocals and melodies, upmixing Fevre's performance just a little bit more than is usual for metal. His high register and impressive range may come as second nature for the prog-power style, but his delivery seems to go that extra mile. There is passion and intensity in the performance, not just from Fevre, but the band as a whole. It's not the sort of dynamic presentation you would expect from a band that's so unashamedly melodic, but there you have it.

Writing about Anubis Gateand this latest album, I've come to realize something; whereas with most progressive metal bands I might tend to focus on the skill of the execution and other more 'objective' aspects of the product, I don't feel limited at all to discuss the softer elements of Anubis Gate. The songwriting and musical direction has been constructed with a clear sense of purpose and regard for feeling. They have taken memorable, cleverly delivered melodies and married them with the genre's infamous penchant for technique and skill. Although they're far from alone in this goal, Anubis Gate are among the few who can make the end result compelling and challenging. Horizons is no exception to the band's proud history; whatever weaknesses are here are far outweighed by their skill and thoughtfulness as musicians and songwriters. It's enough to dispel my suspicion of modern progressive metal trends, if only for a while, and it's my hope that this latest album will earn them a broader fanbase and heightened exposure they so justly deserve.

Report this review (#1147076)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
4 stars Progressive metal? I honestly am not so sure Anubis Gate's new album "Horizons" could be caged into such a small subgenre. This is my first real experience with the band, though I've heard individual tracks and the like. However, I was not expecting something so fresh, vibrant, and, simply put, fantastic.

Anubis Gate is a progressive metal band that bends the rules a bit. They don't resemble Dream Theater to my ears, and they don't succumb to showboating or endless riffing. Instead, Anubis Gate aims for something higher than what's been done in the past. The band has a unique sound, one that deserves more attention and that would certainly thrill many metalheads, as well as prog rock fans, too. Their sound revolves around layers of sound, of which metal is only a part. You see, on "Horizons", the band has created an album of superior dark guitars, incredible drumming and bass, beautiful keys, and powerful vocals that combine to create slick melodies, piercing electronic tones, technical expertise, and maturity beyond their years.

If I had to make comparisons, I would call this new album a cross between Circus Maximus and Subsignal. You see, the band mixes a big helping of pop into their sound, and achieves a similar sound to these two bands in that they write infectious melodies that contrast nicely to the virtuosity on display. You read that correctly---this metal band utilizes pop quite a bit. It's in their catchy choruses, their harmonies, and their general attitude on certain songs. That is not to say that "Horizons" is devoid of metal, though. Anubis Gate has a fresh sound to their riffing, and the structure, not the technicality, seems more calculating. They seem to set out with a certain idea in mind, and they pull it off flawlessly, without ever becoming pretentious.

The band leans, not on metallic instrumentals, but upon genuine melodies and superior songwriting. Indeed, one of the first things I noticed on "Horizons" was the incredibly catchy songs. And, yet, the structures are even more impressive, such as on my favorite track, "Dream Within a Dream". This longer track mixes a catchy chorus in the first half with an ethereal, almost psychedelic interlude that leads into some fantastic metal. You see, the band masterfully combines all their elements to the point where it all feels so organic and inspired.

Other tracks are equally impressive. "Never Like This" is infectious, but includes an amazing electronic break that never fails to impress. "Destined to Remember" is somewhat less catchy, but includes some wonderful drumming in the last half. And on and on the album goes, each song being fully enjoyable and supremely composed. Never overbearing, and always interesting, unlike much prog metal today. Other favorites include "Airways" and "Breach of Faith".

So, then, Anubis Gate has produced THE best metal album I've heard in 2014 thus far. They have crafted a balanced album full of truly interesting riffs, mesmerizing electronics, and catchy melodies. It's a wonderful combination that uses all the tools in the toolbox without ever using any of them as a crutch. From progheads to metalheads, I feel this album will appeal to everyone.

Report this review (#1157066)
Posted Thursday, April 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Destined to Remember' starts the show off with a familiar edge for any of those that have been following the band's releases until now. In 2013, the band released a free digital EP whose centerpiece was an amped up version of Pink Floyd's 'Sheep'. This version of 'Destined to Remember' is a little different to what we were dealt up on the freebie, however in a more enjoyable way to these picky ears.

The band touch on some great melodic heights and have some beautiful ear candy that helps keep the album fresh compared to their corollaries with some lush acoustic sections that remain fresh at all times.

The production team of Kim Olesen and Jacob Hansen is strong and commanding with a reasonable amount of dynamics. I initially became aware of their work on label leader Lance King's 2011 'A Moment in Chiros'. I was thoroughly impressed and the depth of the soundstage and the ethereal layers which are omnipresent on this album, although unfortunately not as well executed.

The band's performances shine on all tracks with a particular highlight to the intriguing keyboard layers. I do feel as though I want to like the sound more than I do as I feel especially vocalist/bassist Henrik Fevre's vocal is honest and competent but something about it just does not grab me which is confronting as I feel much of the instrumentation grabs me in a visceral way in many moments scattered across the album but it's few and far between that I feel the whole band explodes with groundshaking importance in a way that I always look for in releases. It's actually hard for me to believe the difference it makes when Henrik is singing softer sections as opposed to the more traditional metal vocals. He is really on the money and we definitely hear that in the 14 minute monster 'Dream Within a Dream' and the closing track which shows a vulnerable and tender side and is both a puzzling and satisfying closure to the album.

Progressive Music in general has many a promising release scheduled for this year and 'Horizons' is no exception to the mega-hyped anticipation that many prospering bands have been seeing such as Opeth and Teramaze. In some ways perhaps the hype had artificially raised my expectations of the release, and I have to admit I have not been the greatest follower of Anubis Gate's previous output with the exception of 'Andromeda Unchained' which I actually found to be a shining star of quality in the band's back catalogue. Horizons has caught my attention and changed some of my disposition towards the band, however I have to admit - I have not been fully captured. Whilst I see what many others are seeing in the band, the release does not connect me on the emotional level that I need to be completely transported to another dimension and height of auditory pleasure. A solid effort with some moments of greatness and some that don't quite hit the mark for me. 7.5/10.

Report this review (#1161175)
Posted Monday, April 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's as if two years ago Anubis Gate went forward in time and this album was released just on the heels of my review that wished they'd broaden their horizons beyond various metal subgenres! :) So here you'll get more dark acoustics, atmospherics, Rush-isms and even neo-prog with its expressive vocals to go along their trademark mix of power, trippiness, electronica undertow and catchy choruses. The overall sound is slightly less oppressively heavy (heavy as is not extreme but loud, mechanical and dense) than before. Tracks like Mindlessness and Airways manage to pack quite a convolute structure into their six minutes. But don't worry, this is still your metallic Anubis that needs quite a few spins to appreciate and even then I wouldn't recommend introducing it to your wife or teenage kids.
Report this review (#1162688)
Posted Friday, April 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Progressive metal is metal music which has big progressive influences. Anubis Gate is one of those bands that belong to this genre, which is relatively new to me. "Horizons" is their sixth studio album; their first was released 2004. They come from Denmark and are actuelly one of the country's most favmous prog bands.

The cover of "Hoizons" is subtle and mediates other thoughts than metal albums use to do. The line up is Michel Bodin on guitar, Kim Olesen on guitars, Morten Gade Sörensen on drums and Henrik Fevres who sings. Without having a bassist or a keyboardist they immediately become an odd bird in the prog fauna. My preconception of prog metal is that it should be a very heavy music but I don't really think you could say that about this album. The typical metal attributes are there of course such as the fast beating drums and the music is totally guitar driven. Though must I say that it is something more delicate over this after all. The lucid vocals and the moments of acoustic music bring you happy. The music contains a lot of stuff I have harder to acquire too. When the singer sonds like the singer of Dream Theater in the rougher parts or when the band gives me the feeling of alternative rock/indie rock which happens from one time and another. As a whole though must I say this is a pleasant album, I especially think you would think that if you are a fan of the subgenre.

My favourite song is "Breach of Faith" which contains a Mozart melody and is particularily nice(7/10). The long story of "A dream within a dream" would I recommend too(6/10) as well as "Airways"(6/10), "Destined to remember"(6/10), "Hear my call"(6/10) and "Horizons"(6/10). My song to song rating gives an average of 2.8 stars which will make the whole a three star rating. Had I been a metal fan would there perhaps have been one more.

Report this review (#1295926)
Posted Friday, October 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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