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


The Anabasis


Heavy Prog

3.49 | 42 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
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.

lazland | 4/5 |


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