Horizons (2014) is the sixth full-length album by Danish progressive metal act Anubis Gate. The time between albums has been a bit different for the band this time around, not only that the gap between Horizons and its predecessor Anubis Gate (2011) has been the longest gap between their releases so far but the band also had some major changes in their line-up with founding members Jesper M. Jensen (guitars) and Morten Sørensen (drums) both departing the ranks in 2012. This left the band with no original members who were officially part of the band on their debut album Purification (2004), although both Henrik Fevre (bass, vocals) and Kim Olesen (guitars), who formally joined the band in 2005, were guests on that album. The new members of the group are Michael Bodin (guitars) and Morten Gade Sørensen (drums). This line-up of the band made its debut with a free EP, Sheep (2013), which contained one song from Horizons (albeit it a different cut) and two cover songs. Horizons however is where the new line-up will really be put to the test, given that Anubis Gate's last three albums are all deserving of the accolade of progressive metal masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. The band are however joined by former guitarist Jesper M. Jensen on the epic length A Dream Within a Dream and he still has many writing credits to his name on the album, while other songs see Michael Bodin's first contributions for the band.
Before I go on with the review proper, I want to take the time to point out that CD versions of Horizons will come with some extra CD-ROM content, namely a bonus live EP, Live at the Rock 2005. These recordings were done in the time between original vocalist Torben Askholm leaving the band and the joining of his replacement Jacob Hansen. Henrik Fevre was the vocalist for these recordings, several years before the release of Anubis Gate where he made his proper debut as the lead singer of the band. There has never actually been a live Anubis Gate release before, so for those interested in that sort of thing the CD version will definitely be worth a pick-up over a digital copy. But aside from that it is also nice to hear Henrik Fevre singing the old songs. In fact he sings them so well it is actually surprising, much as I also enjoy Jacob Hansen as Anubis Gate's vocalist, that Henrik Fevre did not become the lead singer permanently for Andromeda Unchained (2007).
Horizons kicks off with the very same song that appeared on Sheep, namely Destined to Remember. The major difference of course is that the album version is a bit longer with a 6:02 running time next to the 4:58 of the earlier version. The extra time is used effectively to add more instrumental sections to the track. It was a good song when it appeared on Sheep. It is a great song now. I'd say that there is a stronger power metal element to it too, something which is a recurring thing throughout Horizons, so in that sense the album harkens back a bit more to The Detached (2009) rather than Anubis Gate, while still building on the same melodic principles of the self-titled. Tracks like Revolution Come Undone represent Anubis Gate at the most power metal based they've been for a while now.
Compared to Anubis Gate I do detect a bit of a rougher edge to the guitar riffs this time around, possibly an influence from new man Michael Bodin. The increased amount of faster paced power metal sections gives Horizons a familiar yet different vibe to the previous album. It's been clear to me for a while that Anubis Gate are an act that have found and perfected their sound though, so it's not a problem that their releases don't vary the formula too much. Aside from the stronger power metal aspect Anubis Gate have also upped the melodic atmospheric side to their music on the album so while it's still pretty heavy it parts you'll also find more lulling sections.
These differences are of course the sort of thing one notices with a band they listen to a lot. Where Anubis Gate are concerned that most certainly means me. There is of course a more obvious example of their continued efforts to grow on Horizons though and that of course is the song A Dream Within a Dream (which is based on the movie Inception). It is the longest Anubis Gate track to date at 14:09. As a progressive metal act they've never been one for tracks crossing the ten minute barrier, only doing it twice before. Rather than being a full blown progressive metal epic though, the track takes more a focus on the atmospheric side of the album for most of its first half before introducing more riff-orientated playing which gradually builds up to a symphonic conclusion. While I won't go as far to say it's the best thing they've ever done, it's up there far enough to get more than a passing mention in this review, while songs like Hear My Call!, Airways and Never Like This (A Dream) (based on The Matrix) also deserve specific mentions.
The ultimate question though is whether the music on Horizons stands up to the excellence on their previous releases, which I've rated consistently high. At first I thought the answer was no, albeit a very near miss. It's always been clear to me that Anubis Gate are still riding a pretty high wave of inspiration as of this album. Even a lesser album from them is better than most that come out of the genre and they've already achieved so much despite being sadly largely unsung for it. Turns out though that Horizons isn't a lesser album at all, just a (slow) grower, which is why I've had to go back and update this review; I experienced that awkward moment where a reviewer realises that they sold something short. That may seem weird to say when I still scored the album at 4.5 stars, which is of course much more than a respectable score to give any release. It did seem at first to fall just short of my top tier boundary and that's what made all the difference and why I had to revisit this review; it's clear that given a bit of extra time Horizons is also top tier. Moreover it's actually a stronger release than the self-titled, a release that has proved to be the reverse of my experience with Horizons, in that my opinion has very slightly lowered with further experience. That's a story for a different review edit though. I may have got Horizons wrong the first time, but especially since replacing my promo copy with the proper CD it's become clear to be that this is Anubis Gate second best album. 5 Stars.