Review Summary: Horizons showcases a group finally realizing their ambitions and delivering one of 2014's best metal albums.
Anubis Gate are a relatively fameless band from Denmark, deriving their name from Ancient Egyptian culture (sadly, their music is less inspired by). For five years, the group's inability to cross into the limelight could definitely be understood, largely thanks to a series of competent-if-unremarkable albums. Churning, palpable riffs and technicality were often their endearing qualities, and while the results were generally enjoyable, it was never enough to propel them beyond their own stale archetype. A couple things changed, however. Vocalist Jacob Hansen resigned his position, leaving bass player Henrik Fevre to graduate and assume a dual roleplay. The shift was evidently for the better, as the ensuing self-titled album proved to be a concise, accessible slab of progressive music, merging light aggression and clean-yet-rigid vocal harmonies in a way that made the band feel younger than ever. Anubis Gate was rekindled and reborn.
, a surprising venture away from the tighter nature of Anubis Gate
. Immediately this would suggest a red flag, as previous efforts struggled with their zealous meanderings. Thankfully, Anubis Gate aren't here to repeat the mistakes of old, for the exchange of simplification has yielded a sound that feels more melodic and less aggressive. The results are remarkably effective. One listen to "Airways" demonstrates exactly how eased up the group have become, both in sound and personal comfort. The track is upbeat and chorus-driven; as easy and catchy as progressive metal can get. Yet even in Horizons
' slowest moments, progressive traces are sprinkled throughout, such as the PTSD-inspired "Breach of Faith," pinching wonderful piano notes with just enough tried-and-true riffage. This type of dichotomy is precisely why Horizons
works so well. Both the subsequent "Mindlessness" and album opener "Destined to Remember" demonstrate this in varying ways. Where the former excercises a degree of restraint that allows both the sharp and soft edges of the music to mesh like fresh cookies and cream, the latter makes a bombastic statement, accentuated through Fevre's high-reaching vocals.
Speaking of Fevre, he's completely developed into the band's crowning piece. Where many progressive acts abandon their frontmen in favor of technical demonstration, Anubis Gate assume a less indulgent path. There's hardly a considerable stretch without vocals of some sort, and these never descend to the point of disinteresting the listener. It's all the more reason Horizons
retains an overall firm sense of structure--the music is consistently blessed with a voice.
truly excels, however, is on "A Dream Within a Dream," the album's 14-minute epic. Much of the aforementioned aspects would normally be of concern when regarding such a runtime, but these strengths apply, just for different reasons. While we transition through section upon section, each different in its own way, there's an ultimate, rhythmic harmony to it all. This is less of a wandering and more of an exploration, swaying through melodies that make the entire track feel like a full-fledged journey. Both progressive newcomers and afficionados will appreciate the overall lack of pretention both in the track and surrounding album.
Not only have Anubis Gate found their stride, they've excelled to the point of being a considerable force, one that may have a bright future ahead. Horizons
improves their formula in every way possible, barely missing a beat and only slipping up in regards to lyrical quality. The gate is open and the field is ripe with opportunity; all they have to do is take it.