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5 stars This album proves that Anubis' previous masterpiece was no accident. H2B is more original, has more influences and goes above and beyond AToS in a lot of ways. It has all the grandeur of the previous release but throws in some more modern, and retro, influences to create a diverse style, there's a bit of everything.

'Fadeout' begins the album in a relaxed dreamy neo-prog way before 'A King with no Crown' arrives with its jagged groove and vocal hooks. Lyrically it deals with the 'fake' talent show phenomenon and realises the reality that it's all a short-term fame. It's a bit aggressive, and the hooks in the chorus may not grab you instantly, but they will get you in the end. It's main feature is a dreamy moog solo as an interlude and this really takes this song to another level.

'Dead Trees' skips off, sounding not too unlike something 'The National' would produce until the chorus catches you. Dealing with the end of a relationship, it's a worthy next single, there's some nice atmospherics, first with the drum loop intro and then the guitar and keyboard harmonies in the chorus. We are then treated to an expressive guitar solo with a great bass-line and drums, before the song changes completely and becomes a slow atmospheric piece with a great bass-line and concludes with a trancelike guitar to fadeout.

The title track is less bombastic than I expected, it has a laid back Sunday afternoon feel to it, but rather than sailing by, it draws you in to its lush melodies. The last 3 minutes of the song build to a crescendo of guitar and keyboard harmonies. Quite magic. Listen.

'Blood is Thicker than Common Sense' picks up the pace with a quick fire vocal trade-off in the verse and staccato riffing and drumming before the chorus comes in. The vocal trade-offs continue throughout the song while the drums keep the tempo busy. There's a great rhythmic interlude in the middle with a nice guitar solo followed by a great Hammond solo. The ending sprawls out with a nice progressive guitar riff in some time signature I can't be bothered to figure out.

The opening acoustic chords of 'Tightening of the Screws' lead into one of the strongest 'songs' on the album, The vocals are gentle and melodic with a marching bass-line before the strong chorus drags you in. There's some nice guitar tinkering, some mandolin and some creative drumming that intersperse the verses and choruses. At the end we are treated to one of the best moments on the album, with the guitar solo unisoning with the keyboards. Again, just listen. 'Partitionists' begins ominously before a funky 70s guitar riff takes us through the verses and onto the chorus. Again the theme of 'false gods' and society's love affair with the dollar and fake ideals prevail. This song is one of my favourites, it grooves along before changing tempo and allowing a chance to cut a little bit loose with a tastefully blistering guitar solo. Magic. Another tempo change before leading to a smashing Led Zeppelin Presence era-like finish. I love Zep.

'Crimson Stained Romance' is certainly drawn from the darker parts of Pink Floyd (it was inevitable at some point), but it is quite wonderful due to the female backing choir, before a beautiful solo with so much space to breathe leads us to what I love best about Anubis. A change. Then the church organ kicks in followed by a sweeping guitar solo and a real high point of emotion with the return of some sublime backing vocals.

'A Room with a View' is ~15 minutes of bliss. Anubis have tried before and succeeded with Track 1 of their last album, but this track beats that for me. It starts with a slide guitar intro and goes through many changes over its 15 minutes but never loses its flow, lots of musical interludes throughout the vocal sections. It starts ominously with a pensive piano riff and some slide guitar before picking up the pace. The initial verses feature a gentle lead vocal line before bringing in the vocal harmonies, then there's a flute driven musical interlude before the pace picks up again with some nice vocal harmonies and a stellar closing out sequence that I cannot describe.

'Silent Wandering Ghosts' brings things together with the emotive coming together of the album's theme, again you need to listen to this, it builds perfectly before finishing with an excellently restrained guitar solo.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the cover artwork, which is again excellent. Artwork is very important to the visuality of the music on a disc, it provides tonal colours to enhance the music. The overt blue of the previous album gives way to a darker but more multi-coloured scene. Quite apt.

So overall, there's more going on on this release, lots of little treasures hidden in the mix, guitar tinkerings, atmospherics, keys, lots of tempo changes. I haven't covered half of it. Anubis use all their influences to create an dynamic listening experience. A worthy follow up to AToS; it sounds more original but retains the stylistic trademarks that make Anubis a band to rival their contemporaries and their influences.

Report this review (#1180738)
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really enjoyed the previous two Anubis albums, and whilst I respect them for evolving their sound rather than treading water I found this latest effort, Hitchhiking to Byzantium, doesn't quite work for me. It naturally feels slightly less cohesive than its predecessors, because unlike them it isn't a concept album, but it goes further than that - Robert James Moulding's lead vocals bug me here in a way which somehow they didn't on the previous albums, and their musical influences have shifted from the likes of Muse and IQ to a blend which reminds me more of Keane and Pink Floyd (or rather, the castrated modern approximations of Pink Floyd lots of bands try to offer up). Decently performed and some will probably love this, but it isn't quite for me.
Report this review (#1187633)
Posted Saturday, June 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1188365)
Posted Sunday, June 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Anubis shocked the progressive community with the acclaim generated by their previous album, the colourful 'A Tower of Silence". Owner of a dazzling cover and artwork as well as a series of riveting prog classics such as "Holly Innocent", "Archway of Tears" , "Passing Bell" , "All That Is" and "As I Wait for my World", one had to be very very optimistic for a follow-up to one of 2011's best albums . Well, the Aussies have decided to keep their talented crew intact, the only change is Robert James Moulding handling the bass guitar with rather pronounced results. With a bar set so high, there would be a natural tendency to compare and then judge accordingly. I generally prefer to stay away from such simple reasoning, as each work is inherently a separate entity, like going to see paintings by your fave Breughel or Monet, and being happy to imbibe yourself with the brush strokes.

Anubis have a style that is uncontroversial, a densely symphonic melange of symphonic keyboards , dual guitars that fill out the sound, a booming bass guitar that is up-front and center and a muscular drum kit that is unafraid to bash. But it's the vocal style of lead lung Moulding that really sets the band apart from its peers, a voice that has its own uniqueness, a hint of hysteria and a slight nasal twang that I find appealing but may grate on some more sensitive nerves.

Upon first glance, it pretty much par for the course, "Fadeout" humorously fading in as an intro, giving "A King With No Crown" its perfect platform and as such, is not far removed from the style espoused on "A Tower of Silence", a hard-edged, nervous and slightly psychotic vocal delivery, with crunchy guitars rambling nastily and the sudden synths pulverizing the airwaves, an aggressive opener that gets the blood flowing right from the start. Moulding howls wide and loud, very convincing but David Eaton's Moog solo is definitely a feature.

"Dead Trees" has a forlorn melancholia that searches out contrasts from serene to passionate, Moulding doing sweet stuff with his voice before exploding the next, he does remind me of Sylvan's Marco Gluhmann (one of the finer voices in prog) , a couple of sizzling guitar solos from both Douglas Skene and Dean Bennison , with Moulding holding down the bass duties. Typical Anubis tune, lush and delightful.

The nearly 10 minute title track wastes no time in presenting the guitar-led melody , a sleepy vocal emerges from deep in the valley, luxuriant washes of ballad-like contemplation, twinkling piano and one-two drumming, nothing complex or overtly aggressive. A dreamy voyage sprinkled with searing guitar themes, perhaps the calm before the proverbial storm, this is like a soothing balm in the pharmacy cabinet. Moulding mumbles like in a soporific cocoon, very convincing indeed.

Bang! Things get almost punky on the tempestuous "Blood is thicker Than Common Sense", a rocking piece that stutters, quakes, explodes and sizzles , Moulding doing a yeoman job with dueling vocals , introducing slight tonal variations to make the illusion complete. David Eaton shuttles a neat organ along, colliding with both guitar slashes in expert unison. Drummer Steve Eaton really shines brightly on the kit.

"Tightening of the Screws" is gentler and more pastoral in essence, yet still imbibed in a great deal of inner conflict , a passionately delivered vocal exalts within the profound symphonics, seared by a fiery guitar solo from Douglas, scorching the celestial skies as Dean scours the riffs below, tossing in some mandolin to boot. This is perhaps my favorite track here, a lovely ride.

The oddly titled "Partitionists" is slightly more nervous, lots of slashing guitars and snarly tone in the vocals, somehow this one does not connect with me. Maybe a need a few more spins but it's just pleasant. On the other hand, Douglas does a wicked axe solo, full of trembling exaltation.

The hulking presence of Pink Floyd stands over the otherwise luscious "Crimson Stained Romance", a clear tribute to the masters of space and time, celestial rolling harmonium waves surmounted by slippery guitar overlays, monotone drum and a sleepy voice that is bathing in psychedelia. The church organ comes bellowing into the congregation only to add some gloom and doom to the cosmic proceedings. Both fret board solos are awe- inspiring explorations as the mood gets more excited and angry.

Multiple radio channels get the proverbial second long chance before a piano and a drugged-up voice introduce the epic 16 minute monster and album highpoint "A Room with a View" (perhaps based on a romantic 1908 novel by EM Forster and a 1985 movie adaptation). Obviously lots of shifts, mood changes and changing scenarios but major kudos to drummer Steve Eaton for some amazing rhythmic mania throughout this sizzler. Moulding's voice is modulated higher, as if a cast member of some theatrical play, lots of harmony vocal help from all the other musicians. This is some of his best singing on the record, very demanding and highly expressive in the 'sweeter' moments. Bluesy guitar rips gracefully enhance the melody, painting a clearer musical picture, adding more crystalline soloing as the song progresses forward. Piano and rolling bass take briefly over, as the rustling flute suddenly shuttles this into almost Jethro Tull environments, the Sylvan singer reminder once again quite apparent. The finale gets all frizzled up with some spiraling guitar exercises, a section that will thrill all axe fans, as both Skene and Bennison unleash some magical licks.

"Silent Wandering Ghosts" terminates this fine album, in reverential melancholia, a sad vocal that has strong Steve Wilson-like despondence, roaming bass and insistent piano to keep things simple and in perspective. A truly great vocal line that may shift one's appreciation of Anubis' ultimate prog value, though Robert has a voice that is not unanimous in acceptance. The restraint shown by the shimmering guitar is to be commended, a sizzling fire that glows deep into the night, slowly fading into the mist.

In all fairness, Hitchhiking to Byzantium is an entirely worthy follow-up to admittedly a top- notch jewel of a neo-prog classic, so we will let bygones be bygones and suggest this to all of those who really loved "A Tower of Silence" and just enjoy the ride. It will probably take many more spins to really delve deeper into it inherent pleasures. I am somewhat surprised at the paucity of revues for this much-awaited release.

4 Free rides to Istanbul

Report this review (#1258827)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have loved Anubis' second album 'A Tower of Silence' and was initially a little disappointed that Hitchhiking to Byzantium did not give me a follow up of that album, but a new one with a different feel. Gone was the oppressive haunted houses and ghostly apparations and were replaced by songs about real life. To be fair, it took me three years to find my way into this album when their very excellent new 'Second hand' appeared and still had the 'Tower' magic, I came back to try again. I'm glad I did as the beauty in this album is best appreciated as something to hear after the second hand. Highlights are the wonderful title track, the long song 'A Room with a View' and the closer Silent Wandering Ghosts, but with magic guitar solos throughout the album. The keyboards seem more understated on this record than its predecessor or its follow up. There isn't the concept to hang on so it rises or falls on the songwriting, and luckily Hitchhiking has good songs. Approach with open mind if you're a fan of old (or new) Anubis. Three years ago I'd give this album three stars. Today, I feel differently and four and a half feels good.
Report this review (#1767193)
Posted Saturday, July 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
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

Report this review (#1933593)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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