Anubis Gate – Horizons
Reviewed by Jeff Teets
It’s hard to believe that Danish progressive metallers Anubis Gate is already releasing its sixth full-length album, entitled Horizons. Despite releasing five albums ranging from solid to outstanding, Anubis Gate’s name is still rarely seen being discussed at great length in the genre’s circles. Obviously Dream Theater sits at the top of the heap in terms of popularity, but unfortunately Anubis Gate hasn’t even gained as wide acclaim as either older mainstays such as Threshold and Vanden Plas, nor newly-established front-runners such as Circus Maximus and Seventh Wonder. Considering that 2007’s Andromeda Unchained and 2009’s The Detached both received incredibly high marks from myself and others (bordering on, if not fully achieving “masterpiece” status), I’ve always found this to be a bit distressing.
Following the departure of vocalist Jacob Hansen (also known for his exceptional engineering and production work, which he still does for the band), who helped set the tone for the band’s aforementioned masterworks, the group released its fifth and self-titled album in 2011. It received positive reviews, but I was a little bit underwhelmed. I don’t think the change from Hansen to the group’s bassist Henrik Fevre’s vocals was really the reason for my disappointment, but rather some small, almost imperceptible shift in writing style, or lack of a certain magic that made the previous pair of records special to me. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for concept albums after all, and have a bias that I’m not quite ready to come to terms with. Whatever the reason for that feeling, it continues to a lesser extent on Horizons.
Opening with the rather remarkable and memorable “Destined to Remember”, Horizons starts off strong in a way that grabs the listener with lush melodies and soundscapes, evoking a feeling of epic proportions and an ethereal experience, which is something Anubis Gate can always be counted on to deliver. The rest of the first half of the album is solid, but pales in comparison to what the back half has to offer. “Breach of Faith” is a bit of a spectacular tune, featuring some really strong sections amidst a diverse and varying backdrop. The album’s title track is also a worthwhile offering that stands out after repeated listens. Perhaps it’s a bit too “obvious” to pick, but next to the album’s opener, the fourteen-minute epic “A Dream Within a Dream” stands as the record’s crowning achievement. The band’s longest song to date, it features call-backs to several other album tracks, most noticeably “Never Like This (A Dream)”. Vast and expansive, the song evokes some of the strongest points of what makes Anubis Gate one of the genre’s front-runners in terms of style and quality.
Overall, Horizons serves as a relative middle-of-the-road offering by a far-above-the-crowd band. It’s been said before, but most other bands in the field would have released the best record of their respective careers with this album, but unfortunately (or fortunately, I suppose, depending on how you see it), Anubis Gate has released two works that are going to be hard to ever equal or eclipse. Does that mean anyone would be wasting their time spinning Horizons? Certainly not. While not reinventing their own wheel, Anubis Gate seeks to maintain a wheel that stands as one of the best and most enjoyable in melodic progressive metal. What’s not broken doesn’t need fixing, but with that being said, Horizons succeeds in ways I feel the band’s last album fell short. The band’s music is still ripe with strong, memorable melodies, complex musicianship, intricate song structures, and thought-provoking lyrics, all of which combine in a way that challenges the listener, while providing them immense enjoyment. Few bands out there serve as a better example of what makes the genre of progressive metal one of my favorites.
4 // 5