Album Review: Anubis – Hitchhiking to Byzantium
Genre: Neo-progressive rock with experimental touches and cinematic sweep
Release date: 30 May 2014
Label: Birds Robe Records
Length: 1 hour 18 minutes
Recommended to: Fans of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Airbag and other emotional, atmospheric, introspective prog rock
Mammal’s rating: 4.5 out of 5
Few bands of any style or genre can probe as deeply into my emotions as Anubis, nor can many trigger as much contemplation or self-reflection. Probably the last band to have a similar emotional impact on me was Airbag, the superb Norwegian atmospheric prog outfit. I sit back, close my eyes, breathe deeply and let Anubis wash over me, bathing my mind with self-examination just as persuasively as Airbag does.
Airbag’s three albums were all in my top prog album of the year lists in the years they were released. “Hitchhiking to Byzantium” is Anubis’s third album. It will most certainly mark the third time Anubis has ranked highly among my top albums.
Neo-progressive rock has become an umbrella tag, not just a genre. It contains at least as many sub-genres as, say, death metal. Some is so complex and traditionally proggy that metallers can’t relate to it at all. Other styles, including the more eclectic approach of Anubis, should be much more accessible to metal fans. I’d venture there are two reasons for this. First, I don’t know any metal fans who don’t also enjoy other forms of music. Second, Anubis’s similarities to certain other bands provide a good frame of reference for exploring their music. You almost certainly know Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. If you like them, you’re already a long way down the road to enjoying Anubis.
Not even that many dedicated proggers know Anubis as well as the band deserves to be known. They’ve been going for ten years, yet they still have to reach the whole prog market outside their homeland, the little island of Australia.
They were one of the first bands to embrace the monster known as torrents and employ it effectively to introduce themselves to the world. They did so in 2009 with “230503”, a concept album with a science fiction theme. The free download won acclaim internationally. The subsequent CD release was a sell-out.
Their next album, “A Tower of Silence” in 2011, was also a successful seller globally. Even so, Anubis remained a cult favourite rather a widely known, mass-appeal band. The second album was also a sci-fi concept release.
“Hitchhiking to Byzantium” marks a new phase for Anubis. While the first two albums were musical visions of imaginary existences, “Hitchhiking” drills deeply into the reality of being human and dealing with the multiple emotional issues everyone faces. It was very thoughtfully put together and it’s very effectively thought-provoking.
I enjoyed the pleasure of listening to a three-hour interview with the band shortly before the release of the album earlier this year. They described the creative and emotional concepts that went into each track. All of the band members contributed, not just lyrics or pieces of music but also their inner feelings. The result is a collection of moods turned into blissfully good songs.
The album is full of keyboards, as one might expect from prog rock. There is also a huge amount of evocative guitar, however, presenting many beautiful solos to complement the fine, often soaring vocals.
Get yourself “Hitchhiking to Byzantium” for your Christmas stocking, or give it to someone you love deeply.
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