I’ve always had trouble getting to grips with Anubis Gate. Why I should need to “get to grips” with a band is of course a moot point. In spite of interviewing their highly articulate multi-instrumentalist Kim Oleson and seeing them live, which always helps to contextualise a band, I’ve never really understand how they manage to combine progressive twists, commercial tunes, traditional elements of metal and awe-inspiring atmospheres. There have been upheavals in the band, yet they have managed to produce something interesting and fresh each time. The last, self-titled album (2011) had me singing in the allotments and blew me away with its variety and depth. Then last year, Kim and co had the foresight to release a three-track taster called “Sheep” in preparation for “Horizons”. I now expected a great deal.
In spite of reviewing “Horizons” and therefore feeling the need to pick out its finer points, I found that I was being subliminally invited to sit back, indulge myself and enjoy it. I knew the opener from last year’s EP. “Destined to Remember” is a commercial track with rousing progressions. The dimension I felt coming at me over and over again was the unremitting cultivation of epic soundscapes. To me, this isn’t like an album in the traditional sense. It’s more like a staged musical with dramatically developing backdrops and ever-transforming scenes. “Horizons” is massive. This isn’t just a bunch of Danish guys in a recording studios or doing a live show. Anubis Gate are flying through clouds, and we’re on the same aeroplane. These musicians are actors as each scene is played out with lofty precision. “Never Like This (A Dream)” continues the extravagant luxury to which we’ve become introduced. The killer chorus in this immaculate song is tear-jerkingly good. Fluttering keys and drum work with lashings of gravitas are juxtaposed against the pop style that goes with the sing-a-long chorus. After a briefly shadowy section, Anubis Gate demonstrate their own peculiar way of re-visiting choruses. The song structures are breathtaking. “Hear My Call!” promises much and delivers more. Henrik’s voice is in the higher ranges and may not be to everyone’s liking but it has real control and emotional longevity. In this metal maelstrom, his haunting voice and echoing sounds appropriately broaden the horizons. And if that isn’t enough, we are taken to further heights as a luxurious Mediterranean-style guitar section comes in. This sets up the big chorus and a sublime metal guitar solo. There’s a lot to take in.
“Airways” then showcases the band’s versatility and imagination. The acoustic opening has an element of Jethro Tull. A sophisticated drum beat guides us towards an unexpected cosmic turn. With the enhancement of Henrik’s lofty and expressive vocals, “Airways” lifts off and transports us to a magical universe in the sky. With this level of drama, it really is like listening to “Anubis Gate – The Musical”. I can imagine Henrik, Kim and their equally talented colleagues on a London stage with bright lights everywhere reflecting further personality on this massive production. There’s an air of a concept album about this as they seek higher and higher strata. Anubis Gate’s “Andromeda Unchained” (2007) was a concept album but it’s a bit of an experimental one. It’s time they did another. I found myself wrapped up in the movement and emotion of “Airways” as the band collectively dig inside our souls and work from within. From acoustic and cosmic atmospheres they conjure up a marching tune worthy of “The Wall”. Such originality and fluidity of movement and structure are hard to grasp. The modest Danes present us with monstrous drama and showmanship. There are layers and layers of authority and emotion. “Airways” ends with an acoustic touch – so much had happened that I’d forgotten about that side of it. By contrast “Revolution Come Undone” is a heavy and complex track, whose thunderous and persistent instrumentals are matched by a mesmerising rapid-fire harmony. It precedes another epic masterpiece “Breach of Faith”. The build-up shows great promise. What follows is an anthemic, commercially-orientated song. There’s the usual mix of hard-hitting drumming but like a dreamy cake, you’ll never get weighed down by an Anubis Gate song. “We’ll respect you, we’ll perfect you, we’ll protect you … for nothing” is the sinister chorus, but this colourful song is far more than a chorus. There’s a majestic solo of Brian May proportions, and a classical piano solo but it’s all a prequel to the stage lighting up and the band re-appearing in a blaze of glory on the imaginary West End stage.
The dramatic mood is upheld as “Mindlessness” signals its lofty intentions from the off. There’s always something slightly off-centre, and here there are dark infusions as Anubis Gate take a leaf out of Pagan’s Mind’s book with their cosmic effects. The song rattles on nicely in its irregular kind of way. Henrik and the band take us beyond this world with the supreme atmosphere, which gave me goose pimples and (Kim won’t thank me for saying this) in its heightening drama reminded me of Mercenary. The instrumentals are sharp, profound and tell a dark tale as the track spreads itself out into expansive territory. “Mindlessness” is sophisticated and multi-coloured. It is a song for all seasons. The first time I listened to it, I was sitting on the train from Cambridge to King’s Cross, but nothing could be so mundane. The sophistication of this album is such that it’s like being taken along a cloud on a journey to a deep and meaningful destination. The title track is another ethereal, adventurous and unusually constructed track. Every note and every word has meaning and import.
“Horizons” pursues it course in the now customary delightful and breathtaking way. “A Dream within a Dream” is a slower number, taking its time before inevitably reaching into the sky. To a constant patter and shadowy keyboard sounds, we’re taken off in another direction. The path we tread is dark and strange, but the appeal to our emotions is omnipresent. This gripping track is constructed in different phases. Progress is intriguing. We fly high as ever, but there’s also something shadowy and melancholic about this enigmatic track. The only solution is to dream on and let Anubis Gate take us places with their exciting and dynamic brand of progressive metal music. It’s evident that Anubis Gate have set out to avoid conventionality on this album, and so rather than ripping us apart, which isn’t their way, they finish with a beautiful and mellow song.”Erasure” has a bluesy start. The production does justice to the majestic vocals as it mixes purity with hollowness. In doing so, it extracts every drop of emotion. This is a highly evocative track. The unusual output resounds through the listener’s head. What a way to finish.
With this album Anubis Gate take on new dimensions in sounds, atmospheres and structures. The richness of ideas is immense. It is testimony to the band’s hard work and creativity. It isn’t about getting the shopping or anything mundane. This is an adventure. I have to recognise that not everyone will see this the same way as me, but I feel I’m constantly on a higher plane when I listen to “Horizons”. The timing and progression are immaculate. Huge walls of sound mix with delicate and troubling passages. This massive album is devastatingly good.
(9.5/10 Andrew Doherty)