Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Album Review: Anubis Gate - Covered In Black

We're now in August, and I have talked very little about progressive metal this year. For whatever reason, there haven't been very many albums coming down the pike from bands of renown, or the albums that have come out have been disappointing. It's been a very weak year for prog metal of the 'traditional' sort ('traditional progressive' sounds like an oxymoron, no?). The only prog metal album that I've liked so far is Soen's "Lykaia", but that's not in the mold of more typical prog metal, which might be the explanation. Anyway, Anubis Gate is one of those bands that requires attention.

"Covered In Black" is what the cover suggests, an album dedicated to the darker side of life. You can hear that right away in the opener "Psychotopia". The guitars churn with a dark tone and the heaviness of modern, down-tuned metal. There have been progressive bands trying that particular trick, but they often get lost in the morass. Anubis Gate doesn't let the heaviness of the music overshadow the need to be melodic. Between the piano break in place of a traditional solo, and the moderately uplifting chorus, they've found the right balance. That's not always easy to do.

When the band is focused on hitting that mark, the results are very good. They have an appealing blend of progressive metal elements, and they write strong enough songs to pull in even people who aren't particularly interested in the more intricate nuances of their complex passages. Let's compare this to an album from earlier in the year by Vangough. Both are dark progressive metal albums, but Vangough didn't have a single memorable melody to go along with the heavier than usual riffing. Anubis Gate does, and it makes all the difference in the world.

And for the prog lovers in the crowd, while we don't get any epic statements that defy normal songwriting logic, we do get a trilogy of songs that I assume comprises a suite, in the form of "Black", "Blacker", and "Blackest". Two of the three are energetic numbers that are intelligently crafted metal songs with plenty of surface appeal. It's in the mold of what Voyager does, but I find them to be done better than their album from earlier in the year.

Really, the only thing I find odd about the album is "The New Delhi Assassination", which doesn't work at all for me. It's a conglomeration of world music sounds and stage setting, but I don't here it cohere into a song worth listening to.

Other than that aside, "Covered In Black" is one of the better progressive metal albums of the year, for sure. Anubis Gate is a prog metal band that is evolving their sound without letting go of who they are, and the result is music that is interesting on several levels. Your mileage will vary with how much you like prog metal, which is not my genre of choice most of the time, but for those inclined for this kind of music, Anubis Gate is trying to end this year's disappointments.

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