Andromeda Unchained is the third studio album from Danish metal band Anubis Gate and the first to feature the lead vocals of Jacob Hansen (Invocator, guitar in Beyond Twilight, as well as a notable metal producer), whose relationship with the band has always been a close one, with guest slots on both albums prior to Andromeda Unchained as well as sitting in the producer’s chair.
Andromeda Unchained is a concept album with a science fiction theme. I wish I could tell you a little bit about it, but the album is one of those concepts that is difficult to follow based on the lyrics alone, and the one link to the story that I could find on the band’s website no longer seems to work, but I guess ultimately the story doesn’t matter so much when the music itself is this good. So moving on...
Anubis Gate has always been something of a hybrid between progressive and power metal. On their previous releases Purification (2004) and A Perfect Forever (2005) the sound was mainly rooted in their power metal side but as of Andromeda Unchained the band’s progressive side has been coming out more in their sound, which is particularly obvious in the album’s first proper song, Snowbound. Heavy guitars are in abundance, but the use of acoustics is also down very well in the chorus, which in my opinion is a slightly atypical way to use acoustics in a metal song, since most of the time you may hear them in the verses, and a band would then heavy it up for the memorable chorus, but Anubis gate uses the acoustics in the chorus, and the effect works really well. Snowbound stands as a highlight for other reasons as well, mainly for the great instrumental work that appears later in the track. The high standard of quality never drops from herein either.
Hansen’s vocals sound a lot more pure in tone than many metal singers, and his deliver is very different than what I’ve heard him do in Invocator, which is a thrash metal band. It took me some time to get used to him to be honest, but once I was used to him he became one of my favourite metal singers and his tone fits the Anubis Gate sound really well and he is very much an improvement on the overall sound to the band’s former singer Torben Askholm, who was pretty good in his own right. Band bassist Henrik Fevre also performs some lead vocals on the album, in the song Take Me Home. Since I’m writing this review in 2011, several years since Andromeda Unchained was released, I just want to bring to attention to the fact that Henrik has actually now replaced Jacob as Anubis Gate’s lead vocalist, and that the song may be worth paying some extra attention to for any newcomers reading this review, just to give you an idea about how the band may sound on their still as yet forthcoming fifth studio album.
But back to the album at hand, Andromeda Unchained is a very impressive release. Each of the proper songs is powerful and has its own identity from the rest. Waking Hour is very much a metal song, being heavy throughout and the title track is just as intense, but features excellent use of synths to provide an almost spacey atmosphere to the music that is fitting with the sci-fi theme, while there are a couple of longer tracks in This White Storm Through My Mind and The End of Millenium Road. And of course as I already mentioned, Take Me Home features a lead vocal from Henrik Fevre, and also features a lot of good acoustic work. Every song is extremely good and there is no track where I wish things had been done differently. Highlights? It’s really impossible to pick in a release of this high quality except to say the whole thing, but I do find myself most partial to the likes of Snowbound, Waking Hour, Andromeda Unchained, Resurrection Time and Point of No Concern. That’s purely from a subjective point of view though; you could easily have different favourites.
The album does use several interlude tracks every now and then, as well as an intro and an outro piece. I have to confess, in many albums I would write such things off in a heartbeat, but here I would actually miss them if they were absent. They are atmospheric and ideal breather pieces between the actual songs, and they serve Andromeda Unchained extremely well. Other bands should take note; this is how to use such things in style and no I do not want to hear you cutting your songs apart to make more tracks or weird sound effects! Anubis Gate proves that such things can be done without doing something stupid. Much respect to them for it.
This is one of the best progressive metal albums I have ever heard, though I do think that the album that follows it, 2009’s The Detached is superior to the point that I consider it one of the best albums ever made from any genre. However although I’ll always say that The Detached is better, there is no excuse really for not adding Andromeda Unchained to your collection as well. Albums such as this convince me that Anubis Gate is one of the most unfairly unsung bands around at the moment, and I eagerly await the release of their next album. Absolutely essential listening.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 9.8/10)