Anubis Gate - Covered In Black - (8.5/10)
Published on December 31, 2017
More often than not, tenacity tends to be a progressive metal band’s best friend, for progress itself stems from repeated attempts and refinement over time. Like any other style, it has seen its fair share of change and development over its three decades plus history, but it stands alone in the concept of being a style that obliges each individual adherent band of the style to make a regular habit of it. When a band like Threshold or Vanden Plas tends to stick to their guns, it does so because they began with such a varied collection from their very onset, whereas the likes of Dream Theater seems to be constantly building up new ideas for sheer sake of being one of the first to glom onto the idea within a metal context. By contrast, the relatively young Danish outfit Anubis Gate finds itself pretty close to dead center between these two extremes, having a niche that consistently revisits an eastern flavor of music that their name might suggest to most, yet between several prominent lineup shifts and development of style, they find themselves in a fairly different place musically on their newly hatched LP Covered In Black, when compared to where they were in the mid 2000s.
For the most part, this album tends towards a darker and more modern flavor than the nimble power metal tendencies of their first several studio endeavors. Some of this could be attributed to the ultra smooth and almost Bono-like vocals of Henrik Fevre, who definitely things a bit more in a Threshold direction. Nevertheless, the generally slow-paced and freeform songwriting found on here is a departure from the Pagan’s Mind oriented sound of the past, and yet the frequent usage of eastern musical ideas provides an occasional link to their older sound. Particularly in the cases of “The New Delhi Assassination” and the long journey through atmospheric grandeur “Operation Cairo”, there is this sense that while things are denser, cleaner, and more reliant on keyboards and synthesized vernacular instruments that this is the same band that gave us the ingenious Andromeda Unchained, or technically speaking at least half of the same band. The latter song actually ends up in fairly familiar territory near its close, as things speed up to a triumphant zenith, though it’s a long wait to get there.
Generally speaking, this is an album that tends to appeal to the patient minded, taking its time with where it will turn on the heaviness and being very vocal oriented. Longer numbers like the opener “Psychotopia” and the moderately driving yet loose “Too Much Time” hit some highly cathartic points during the chorus segments and during the middle development segments where the music takes over from the vocals, but are just as defined by their constant sense of buildup prior to hitting those points. In essence, this is music that takes its time to make a point, and even when the duration shortens there is a sense of depth and contemplative evolution that makes things seem longer. Truth be told, the only place where things become more impact-based and outright animated is the trilogy song cycle “Black”, “Blacker” and “Blackest”, where this outfit reaches back to their earlier years and superimposes a darker and heavier flavor comparable to Dream Theater’s Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence to more than half of the content.
In the grand scheme of Anubis Gate’s now sixteen year history, this is an album that is by all measures quite good, but maybe not quite an all out masterwork after the spirit of Andromeda Unchained or The Detached. It may be a tad unrealistic to expect this outfit to stay in such a similar place musically given that none of the founding members apart from Jesper Jensen are still in congress and half the band came in just before their previous LP. Formally speaking, it shares a fair bit in common with the most recent offering of Threshold Legends Of The Shires, but reinterpreted to evoke the visual of a wayfaring travel from Northern Europe who finds himself hustling through the streets of Cairo or New Delhi, depending on the song. It’s probably the furthest removed from the power metal style of any offering that they’ve put out, but this is definitely something worthy of the Anubis Gate name and should agree with most of their established fan base and that of the broader progressive metal scene.