'Sheep' - Anubis Gate (8/10)
For a covers EP, this is about as good as it gets! Anubis Gate are perhaps the most criminally underrated band going in progressive metal today, although existing fans will attest to their greatness. Although the prog-power scene is saturated with bands that lack much in the way of power or relative progginess, Anubis Gate have remained uncompromisingly perfectionistic in their quest to make the tightest music possible, so perfectionistic in fact that their much anticipated upcoming album Horizons was pushed back to 2014 for release. In its stead, Anubis Gate have offered us the EP Sheep as a stop-gap. Showcasing a progressive metal rendition of the so-titled Pink Floyd epic, along with a cover of the Mr. Mister hit “Broken Wings” and a sneak peek of the forthcoming full-length, Sheep should be more than enough to whet the appetites of any prog metal fan. It may be only a covers release, but Anubis Gate imbue it with the same inventiveness and attention to detail that has made them such a standout band in the first place.
Anubis Gate start Sheep off with an original track, “Destined to Remember”. Being something of a sneak peek for an album that’s run behind schedule, the track is good reason to get excited about the forthcoming album. It’s Anubis Gate in top form; melodies, dynamic shifts, atmosphere and cerebral songwriting that picks up where Fates Warning left off at their peak. In true prog metal fashion, “Destined to Remember” condenses ideas that could have been the framework of a twenty minute epic into a concise five minute package. While the first half of the tune unfolds around a memorable chorus, the second half gets more complex, featuring an incredible guitar solo and cinematic atmosphere that has me thinking that Horizons is going to be one of the highlight albums for 2014.
While I haven’t been able to call myself a fan of Pink Floyd in earnest for a few years now, Sheep has continued to wow me every time I heard it. It was a darkly atmospheric album with a biting concept, the band’s cynicism held in full view. To hear “Sheep” reimagined as a metal track works much better than it may have sounded on paper; considering the song came out in 1977, it’s a testament to “Sheep” enduring quality that it can be modernized so well. The classic intro is updated to incorporate Ayreon-esque electronic instrumentation, an instant reminder that this isn’t the original we’re hearing. Once the guitars kick in, it’s clear that Anubis Gate have thrust the song firmly within metal territory. The chugging guitars are remarkably heavy for such a melodic and refined sound. Although I would have thought it clichéd for a band to have covered such a classic and well-known track, Anubis Gate make the song their own. Considering the legendary status Floyd themselves, it’s a major credit to Anubis Gate’s name that they’ve managed to take one of the space rock masters’ greatest moments and managed to make it their own. Excellence.
Their cover of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” is pretty surprising, considering that Mr. Mister has nothing to do with metal or even prog, save for their drummer Pat Mastelotto’s shared history with King Crimson. Like “Sheep” Anubis Gate are able to update the song and make it their own, although the result is obviously far less impressive. Henrik Fevre absolutely nails the vocals here, putting a heftier punch into his delivery than the original had. The electronic drum patterns during the chorus could have been done without, although I guess it makes sense given the original’s ultra-80’s appeal. All in all, a good cover of a memorable song, although given the excellence of the two tracks preceding it, it’s the certain low point of the EP.
In short, I might not recommend Sheep to newcomers of Anubis Gate, but if any fan of progressive metal is reading this who hasn’t yet heard the band, I’m speaking to you directly right now: check these guys out, because you’re missing one of the genre’s most underrated and excellent acts. It’s a great covers EP in its own right, but what’s more; it sets the stage for a potentially incredible album in the making. I can’t wait to hear Horizons!