Some bands have trouble when they set off on their own creative pathways. They start out their career sounding similar to a band they loved, but they end up fizzling out when they try to do something of their own making. Last year, in particular, I saw a few different instances of this. Anubis Gate, however, is not in this group of bands. They are quite the opposite, and their new album “Covered in Black”, releasing on September 1st, makes this point loud and clear to me.
Anubis Gate is one of those rare bands that gets better with each outing. They went from a band that sounded reminiscent of Dream Theater in some ways to crafting a sound that is fresh, modern, and very melodic. Their style is definitely progressive metal, but it isn’t particularly heavy, and the riffs they use are all very crisp and clean. There is this sense that film soundtracks and pop music are part of their style, too, as grand movements of sound and incredibly catchy choruses are very common.
The band currently consists of Henrik Fevre on vocals, bass, and sax; Kim Olesen on guitar and keys; Michael Bodin on guitar; and Morten Gade Sørensen on drums. Henrik’s vocals are through the roof in range, and he knows exactly how to craft interesting, fresh vocal lines. His bass, combined with Morten’s awesome drumming, creates a deluge of rhythm that will absolutely lift you off the ground. Kim and Michael provide great finger work and jamming riffs to great effect, but they never overdo it, either. Kim’s keys, too, are a very important part of the overall sound of the band, as the cinematic feeling I get comes mostly through his offerings.
“Covered in Black” is more than a great collection of songs. There is this firm and exciting structure to the album that makes more sense every time you hear it. The album is essentially framed by “The New Delhi Assassination” and “Operation Cairo”, two songs that feature heavy world music influence: Both are awesome, especially “Operation Cairo” with its fantastic chorus, but their real purpose is to give context to the rest of the songs. In between these two tracks, you will find a journey into darkness and irrationality. This structure gives the album a feeling of being quite whole, and it is really satisfying when all is said and done. And, since the songs aren’t generally that long, you come out the other side feeling rejuvenated and ready for another dive into the album.
“Psychotopia” is the opener that has lots of oomph and cinematic glory to it. It really is an introduction to the crazy world we are about to experience. “In Combat” follows “The New Delhi Assassination” abruptly and with force. It is an urgent track with a great riff that might distract you from the fact that there is quite a bit of subtlety going on in the background. In fact, many tracks on this album are designed this way, such as “Too Much Time”, a song that is quite delicate with lots of musical space, but manages to sound massive, too.
While I’m not sure you can call it a “suite”, there is a three-song evolution found in “Black”, “Blacker”, and “Blackest”. This is my favorite part of the album. The transition being presented is dark and yet still melodic. “Black” starts it out with a feeling of being on the edge of something frightening, and the music is suitably spacey and texture-driven. “Blacker” is my favorite song on the album, actually. It continues the textures leftover from “Black”, and then unleashes a groove that absolutely crushes everything. It doesn’t stop, either. “Blackest” is like the fallout track where the protagonist is aware of the darkness he has unleashed, and he is desperate to rise out of it. The music is intense.
“From Afar” ends the album with melody, an off kilter chorus, and synthetic goodness. I think this track is a good indication of the cinematic, story-telling nature of the lyrical content. In fact, the band included all the lyrics in their press kit, which is actually quite rare. I’m not entirely sure of the content here, as it has something to do with an assassination and the fallout after that, although I suspect this might all be allegorical for what is happening inside the soul of the protagonist. In the end, though, “From Afar” offers hope in the blackness, and ties up the story in a satisfying fashion without being too obvious.
“Covered in Black” really impressed me from my very first listen. Anubis Gate has risen to be a real force in progressive metal, and they haven’t lost their way since setting out on their own creative path. Their sound is modern, satisfying, and full of energy, and they are showing themselves to be masters of the concept album. If you are looking for something truly great in progressive metal, look no further.
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