Anubis Gate is the self-titled fifth album release from Danish metal act Anubis Gate. The album was released in 2011 and is the first album to feature a four piece line-up of the band following the unexpected departure of vocalist Jacob Hansen, who sang on their prior two albums, Andromeda Unchained (2007) and The Detached (2009). Bassist Henrik Fevre has taken over vocal duties full-time now, after having the odd section of lead vocals on past albums (Take Me Home being a notable track) and having filled in live in between the time the band parted ways with original vocalist Torben Askholm and Hansen’s full-time induction. Fevre is definitely the logical choice for the band, being pretty much the central figure in the line-up despite not being an original member. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged with guitarists Kim Olesen and Jesper M. Jensen and drummer Morten Sørensen. Jacob Hansen remains involved behind the scenes however, co-producing the album with Kim Olesen, as well as mixing and mastering it. In a sense he’s simply returned to the role he held with the band prior to Andromeda Unchained. As Hansen only left during the recording process of the album he still has a handful of writing credits to his name however.
Anubis Gate is widely considered to be a part of the progressive power metal style, but like with their last couple of offerings the album has a lot more to do with progressive metal than it does with power metal. This is probably best considered as being melodic progressive metal, rather than anything to do with power metal even. To be honest I don’t get a lot of a power metal feel from this music. It’s worth noting here that Anubis Gate is the band’s most progressive album to date, although this only becomes apparent a few tracks into the album when the eight minute World In A Dome kicks in, and is most noticeable in some of the later tracks. One thing you’ll note as well though is how the tracks have different feels and styles going on, adds some small additional layers of progressive influence in that they don’t stick to any tried and tested templates. Each track has its own identity if you will.
Now I really feel that Anubis Gate has a tough act to follow with this album. They set their own bar really high with Andromeda Unchained, and then proceeded to set it as high as it can go with their flawless fourth album The Detached. The way I see it some bands can make several albums of the highest calibre in their career, such as Iron Maiden, while some only manage one or perhaps two masterpieces, while others remain strong and consistent but never really deliver a true gem. Some artists within the first category can even do them one after the other. Anubis Gate is one of the few artists I’m aware of that fits into this small and exclusive group, and as of this album they prove that they can certainly do it in style.
Henrik’s Fevre’s vocals on the album don’t sound so far removed from Jacob Hansen’s style, which is definitely a good thing, as his style was really fitting to Anubis Gate’s brand of progressive metal. Naturally he has his own tone to his voice but it’s not hard to imagine this material with Hansen, or the prior Hansen material with Fevre. Jacob Hansen leaving was originally a great disappointment to me when I heard the news, but Henrik slips into the dual bass/vocalist role with total ease, delivering a faultless and varied performance throughout. If there were any doubts about Henrik fronting the band before then he destroys them all with this performance. I have to be honest I did have a few, mostly because of his lead vocal contributions on previous albums weren’t really as good as the actual lead singer’s in my opinion, or indeed as good as they are on this album for that matter. But yes, doubts utterly destroyed in this case.
This is a more song based album throughout than the Hansen fronted albums. That means no introduction or outro tracks, or any interludes. The album kicks off with the seven minute Hold Back Tomorrow. This reminds me a lot of Find a Way (or Make One) from The Detached in the way that it follows what appears to be a standard verse-chorus song structure, but vary the way they deliver the chorus, albeit less so than on Find a Way. So there are some aspects of repeating themselves on Anubis Gate, but it’s just as good song that they can be forgiven for it, especially since the album as the whole introduces some approaches new to the band and the album does in general, such as some electronic sounds, which to my surprise works to great effect (usually for me metal plus electronic stuff is a no go), and overall the album has its own feel to it in much the same way as their past few albums did, which also includes A Perfect Forever (2005) and to a slightly lesser extent their debut album Purification (2004). It doesn’t feel like a prior album re-worked in other words.
The use of keyboards (which are mostly handled by Kim Olesen) seems to have taken a different role in Anubis Gate’s sound on this album, with some parts even pushing into symphonic territory. As if in answer to that the album also has several parts where the intensity of the guitars of Kim Olesen and Jesper M. Jensen has been turned up to eleven, such as in Desiderio Omnibus, which also features some very impressive lead work, and is one of their heaviest tracks to date, in fact this is easily their heaviest album to date despite the sense of melody on display. To further add to the variety of the album they also include Golden Days, a track which pushes commercial boundaries but works well in the context of a melodic progressive metal album, and also the mid-paced The Re-Formation Show, which showcases a slightly more laid back Anubis Gate but of course no less interesting and not to forget the mostly instrumental River.
As per usual for Anubis Gate the album treads the line between being progressive and being accessible. Anubis Gate isn’t going to wow you with the sort of lengthy and technical compositions in the manner of acts like Dream Theater, but neither is their music only really flirting with progressive tendencies, such as with Evergrey. Instead they find a balance between the two, and their song based progressive metal sounds extremely powerful on this album, which also comes complete with a professional production that showcases the music to great effect. I’d expect nothing less of a Jacob Hansen production.
The only thing I really dislike about the album is the way the otherwise excellent track Oh My Precious Life abruptly ends. It feels like part of the song is missing when this happens. This said it doesn’t really bother me enough for it to deduct from my overall listening experience and I did get used to it after I’d heard the track a couple of times, but I do feel obligated to at least mention it. It’s the only negative thing I have to say for this release; otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Even with masterpiece albums there may be a couple of little niggles to be found within it, and for me this is the one niggle on Anubis Gate, and to be honest it’s one that is quickly forgotten about, and that’s probably because they get me caught up in the lyrical hooks of Golden Days right after it that I find myself more inclined to sing along with the chorus than to worry about the sudden cut off of the previous track.
So other than this little niggle though Anubis Gate simply represents that this is a band that are not only still at the top of their game after two masterpieces, but they fully deserve recognition as being one of the finest modern progressive metal acts around at the moment. Not many albums are worth a truly perfectly score. The Detached was one of them...and this is too, since as I said, the little blip that was Oh My Precious Life’s sudden end doesn’t really deduct from my listening experience. That makes Anubis Gate in my opinion the band’s second truly perfect album in a row. I love this band, but I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting perhaps still in the same tier of excellence, but not perfect. I mean come on, two perfect albums in a row is too good to be true right? The album is however just as good as The Detached and deserves to be acknowledged as such. I guess if I was feeling harsh I could deduct a marginal point (0.1/10 at most) from my final rating for the one blip, but this is the best album I’ve heard from its year, and 2011 has been an extremely strong year for metal music, especially progressive metal, and even with new releases from prog metal giants Dream Theater and Opeth, Anubis Gate is the one standing on top of the pile. Even such a minimal point deduction would be too harsh for this album. Pat yourselves on the back guys, you’ve really delivered the goods here, these really are your golden days.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 10.0/10, "Masterpiece/Classic Album")