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Anubis - The Second Hand CD (album) cover

THE SECOND HAND

Anubis

Neo-Prog


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5 stars Review from promotional copy:

After loving Anubis' second album - A Tower of Silence (still highly rated on PA after all these years) - a fairly heavy criticism of organised religion seemingly disguised as a ghost story; I had warmed to their slightly edgy lyrical and conceptual stance. 2014's Hitchhiking to Byzantium seemed to represent a different place, and whilst the songs were still very strong, it lacked the cohesiveness and the desire to hear it repeatedly as a complete piece seemed to elude me.

I caught the band in London a couple of years back, and with 'Silence' material dominating all else in their set, I felt they could maybe repeat the trick and turn out something else of comparable beauty and impact.

The Second Hand, largely, seems to have achieved this. Where a world has turned upside down, good guys aren't necessarily good, and nobody knows anything anymore, Anubis steams into the media establishment that gave us Brexit, Trump, ISIS and an endless cavalcade of bad news, anxiety and scalding, debillitating empathy.

By creating a Murdoch/Maxwell/Beaverbrook hybrid, the English public school educated, emotionally disconnected uber- tory James Osbourne-Fox, Anubis project their rage at the system that created the wealth inequity, the establishment and its self interest. It's like Marillion's FEAR in intent, but this one is really furious about it. He suffered some form of accident, or perhaps attempts suicide - 'a noose no longer evades' (we're not told, it's kept vague)

The lyrics are amongst the strongest the band ever had - with the plight of an incapacitated Osbourne-Fox dealt with from the point of regret and realization of the ultimate futility of wealth and power, the ultimate 'you can't take it with you when you go moment'.

Musically, the band have mined the 'classical' approach. It's a symphonic prog record in all but name. The band have claimed to have used vintage equipment, including Hammond organs and mellotrons, and it certainly has that texture all over it. But it doesn't feel like a prog pastiche either, it's literally burning over with ideas and different stylistic approaches that all seem to reach the same end goal. There's beautiful vocal harmony that almost has a west-coast feel, there's avante garde psychedelic moments, some strong stately anthemic passages, sound effects, and in the epic Pages of Stone, arguably their strongest recorded moment, where the ensemble playing is devastatingly effective and the climax rivals even 'The Holy Innocent' for emotional impact.

Is it as strong as A Tower of Silence? It certainly feels like it may be. Time will tell.

Report this review (#1707739)
Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2017 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
5 stars Are they serving their first or second hand here, or what? ... oh, it doesn't matter. It's not the bands first sign of life of course. This new ANUBIS album runs into a 70 minutes lasting revelation, when it comes to (my) prog standards. Going back to the very beginning ... similiar to Aisles due to 'Club Hawaii' this Aussie sextet made Fool's Gold and The Making Of Me available beforehand. Those songs are addictive really, sorta well sought out appetizer, which won't let you turn away in the aftermath, never ever. What stays, nothing but eagerly waiting for the release date ... and finally obsessively hoping for some more jewels, hell, yeah!

They are returning back to a concept album format, dealing with the downfall of media mogul James Osbourne- Fox, left paralysed and imprisoned in his own body after a severe brain injury, this obviously spiked with references to current conflicts worldwide. The cinematic touch predominantly comes from several interspersed samples, often representing the transition from one song to the next. As for that 'The Second Hand' ultimately comes as an epic unity, moreover somewhat ageless, sounding like a modern blend of neo and art rock, however, due to the offensive use of mellotron, organ and piano, also rooting in the early prog years too.

This album shows the band on its emotive peak, definitely. There's no need, respectively no chance, to emphasize any particular excerpt or involved musician. The entire compositional attitude belongs to the finest attempts I could listen to this year. Featuring diversity and a bunch of catchy moments, alongside with the technical and instrumental implementation, a really stunning result. By the way, Douglas Skene has offered another regarded effort with the band Hemina last year. Perfect, perfect, almost perfect! Hardly ever it occurs that I'll hand over a masterpiece status to a new album appearing ... now here we go!

Report this review (#1729831)
Posted Saturday, June 3, 2017 | Review Permalink
2 stars Run-of-the-mill prog. Lackluster melodies and progressions, no unique changes or anything that catches you off- guard. It's only highlighted by entry-level odd time signatures, which is barely a highlight in lieu of other prog bands. The concept for the album is pretty dull and uninspiring; don't expect riveting, emotional content here.

The production and mixing is brutal. It sounds like the panning is too centered, and the vocals are boosted way too much, pushing the rest of the band back in the mix. This is 2017; the music industry has made larger strides. This is either too retro or just straight-up shoddy. This doesn't help, considering there is not much going on in the layering, arrangements and orchestrations. The overall sound is very thin and flat.

This was very painful to sit through. I'd only recommend this for people looking for something to supplement their time before the next big sound. At the time, I saw this album at No. 10 on the Top 2017, which happened to be an album I saw in the Progressive Rock listing on Bandcamp. I figured I would check it out. I regret my decision; wasted time.

It'd be nice to see this band improve, because you can tell they're trying for something unique. Just not quite there yet.

Report this review (#1766995)
Posted Friday, July 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Anubis return in 2015 with 'the Second Hand' which feels like the classic 'A Tower of Silence' in its concept feel and sound. Like Stephen Wilson's 'Raven' album, this album looks lovingly over the shoulder at the classic era prog with a sympathetic sound to match. The use of real Mellotron and the keyboard sounds orchestrate the album, with highlights being the excellent single 'fools gold' and the epic 'pages of stone' which is powerful with an emotional and powerful climax. The harmony vocals are the best the band has recorded and the guitar solos are full of passion and always suit the song. New bassist Anthony Stewart makes his presence felt with some of the band's strongest rhythm section work to date. Will everybody love it? No. It'll divide people. But so does all good prog. Is it as good as 'A Tower'? Not quite. But with a beautiful artwork and a concept that strikes at the heart, it's a album that I'll come back to again and again. Four and a half strong stars from here. Welcome back Anubis.
Report this review (#1767192)
Posted Saturday, July 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars James... James... open your eyes for me....

Surrounded by breathing machines and the sound of ominous TV and radio reports I'm sucked straight into the downfall of James Osbourne-Fox. A Rupert Murdoch figure, a 1%er.

This album is the true follow up to the bands still luminous second LP, but with the concept and message drawn into even starker focus and the material more varied. Take the opening single - 'Fools Gold' and tell me it couldn't have been very at home on Marillion's Clutching at Straws or Seasons End? A Tower of Silence had a brooding intense vibe all the way through - save the end of the last track, but this one emotionally zig zags between that same intensity (The Second Hand, The Making of Me, While Rome Burns, Pages of Stone) and the more uplifting musical sections that are steeped in reverie and reminiscence (Fools Gold, These Changing Seasons trilogy, Blackout). The highly engaging way the story is structured throughout the musical journey allows the listener to see the actions of the fallen protagonist through a more sympathetic viewpoint - that he was the product of a time and class system that damaged him and many like him. It's unashamedly cognitively dissonant; and all the better for humanising him.

Musically, the performances exceed those on Tower of Silence - the drumming and bass playing have more fire and unpredictability, with Pages of Stone a highlight in its 'Passing Bell' esque arrangement and development. Anubis excel at this 'everything including the kitchen sink' style of arrangement as it reaches frightening intensity throughout.

The band have been explicit in their promo about the exclusive use of vintage instruments in this album which is where the 'all too retro' criticism in some quarters may have come from. This does work very well for the album but may not be something that will work again and again for them, so it's best not to get stuck in 1975. However, to hear a real mellotron and grinding Hammond organ and guitars with tape delay effects is a joy that always excites an old prog guy like me. People do still make music 'like that'.

The vocals are the crown jewel on this album with Robert James Moulding soaring over the band in excellent voice. From a whisper to a roar, his range and register has expanded since Tower days and his voice and lyrics are the deserved centrepiece for what must surely be one of the best symphonic progressive rock records of 2017?

Report this review (#1767890)
Posted Monday, July 31, 2017 | Review Permalink

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