Monday, October 9, 2017

Anubis Gate - Covered In Black (2017)

It has been a really good year for progressive metal, with several big bands delivering high quality records, and more unknown challengers coming in for a slice of that cake of success. It has truly been a big smorgasbord for us fans, waiting for us to feast on tasty records from bands such as Persefone, Threshold, Pain of Salvation, and Prospekt. Honestly, so far I have not come across a prog metal release that have left me wanting more... until this album came along.

I first encountered Anubis Gate a couple of years ago with their release "Horizons", and man was that a fantastic record, containing several kick ass songs with a sound that was fresh and original. It was love at first listen. So when the Danes announced its follow up, I was excited, hoping for more of the same high quality that we got before. And while I technically got what I wished for, it still felt like "Covered In Black" was different, not as exciting.

Do not get me wrong, this is a fine record, but just because it is so different from its predecessor, it took me some time to even appreciate what it is. "Covered In Black" is a very fitting title, because Anubis Gate has taken their style and done like the Rolling Stones does to doors, painted it black. This album is much darker and moodier, which is a far step away from the catchy and bright "Horizons". I do like the idea of giving this album a whole new personality, making it stand out, but it might be too big of a change too quickly, going too fast for us to comprehend.

This is also pretty evident in the music, where close to all the songs are fairly slow and heavy, even close to sluggish. There is little power to be found here, which makes the album denser than what it really needs to be. It should not really be this way since none of the songs are overly long (longest is just over 9 minutes), but they feel like they could have benefited of being shorter, and while 55 minutes for an entire album is not too bad for this genre, it just does not sit well with this one. It does ease up a bit after some time, but the overwhelming darkness is still there, hindering your senses.

But if you can get through this tough outer barrier that "Covered In Black" has built up, there is some good quality to be found. The band has some nice performances all around, with singer Henrik Fevre putting out some great emotional vocals that sticks with you (like in the opener "Psychotopia"), and guitar duo Kim Olesen and Michael Bodin lays some really nice solos here and there, also mixing in some oriental vibes that work really well. The biggest shining moment for the band though is in the triple attack "Black", "Blacker", and "Blackest", three connecting songs that displays most of the band's abilities, from speeding things up and laying in cool effects, to slowing things down and letting the atmosphere take over. If the rest of the album had sounded like these three songs (and the excellent "Too Much Time"), I would have enjoyed it way more.

So I might be ticked off about "Covered In Black" sounding so drastically different from "Horizons", but the fact of the matter is that it is still an interesting effort from the Danes. Sure, it is a sluggish black blob that could have used some more variety so that it was not too difficult to listen to in one sitting, but it is certainly a grower... a slow grower. It is not a masterpiece by any means, it does its job and has a clear cut personality to work from, and it delivers some good songs too in the process. Will I come back to this record? Probably not. Will I come back to some of the songs? Absolutely. So take a shot in the dark and give this a try, and be patient, let it sink in for some time. Sooner or later, something will appear into the light.

Songs worthy of recognition: Too Much Time, Psychotopia, Black

Rating: 6,5/10 Journies To Nowhere

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