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(74:08, 10t Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Rome 14:15 2. Fly 6:50 3. Carpe Diem 5:47 4. Vikings 17:28 5. Epiphany 5:56 6. Egypt 23:52 LINEUP: Barry Thompson – guitars, bass; keyboards Ryo Okumoto – keyboards Per Fredrik Aasly – vocals George Andrade – arrangements; voice With: Lee Abraham – bass Gerald Mulligan – drums Gordon Tittsworth – vocals Jeroen Hendrix – keyboards Stefan Artwin – guitars Brian Hong – violin &: Several additional musicians
Prolusion. The US based project THE ANABASIS was instigated by multi-instrumentalist and composer Barry Thompson in 2009, and what was to become their debut album "Back from Being Gone" was developed alongside lyricist George Andrade from 2009 and onwards. Ryo Okumoto and Per Fredrik Aasly also got involved in the project, and with a host of guest musicians participating their initial CD eventually saw the light of day in the fall of 2011, released by the US label 10t Records.
Analysis. Conceptual creations involving a large cast of musicians have become a rather common phenomenon in the metal oriented part of the art rock universe in later years, the notable success of quite a few rock opera inspired creations probably an influential factor, alongside the relative ease one has in constructing such productions when utilizing modern technology have made such creations more numerous I presume. The Anabasis separates ever so slightly from the norm on a few aspects however: Their sound and style owe just as much to 70's hard rock as latter day progressive metal for starters, and their conceptual excursion is one based on history and symbolism rather than flights of fancy set in a fantastic or futuristic universe. It's also a rather accessible piece of work: sophisticated, but not to the extent of being a challenging listen. The compositional structure tends to favor a finite number of themes explored and revisited, and a neat effect that adds identity to the disc is how certain elements from some tracks reappear later. The most distinct use of that effect is found on the opening piece Rome and the final song Egypt with the repetition of a striking lyrical and musical theme. Apart from that there's generally a nice and logical development of each compositions, the most striking contrasts being the insert of lighter-toned, ballad-oriented sequences inside the otherwise darker toned, mostly slow-paced majestic passages that dominate throughout. The defining trio of historical epics also incorporates a fair few cinematic sequences, voiceovers laying down the contextual setting of the story being told as well as dialogue parts emphasizing specific dramatic parts of the story told. Sophisticated is something of a keyword for the arrangements too, the band favoring themes built up around one or at most two lead motifs, at most backed by two subservient instrumental textures in addition to the tight rhythm department. In some instances the bass guitar is given the role of minimalistic melody provider too, but first and foremost this is a guitar and keyboards driven production where one or the other is given the limelight, and most often the guitar. The main themes are generally of an accessible nature too, emphasizing motifs that build into a defined whole rather than utilizing contrasting timbres and details demanding a high degree of concentration by the listener. In sum this makes for a CD consisting of majestic, grandiose art rock. Fans of Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater will all encounter familiar elements, and in terms of complexity the compositions is somewhere in between the former two and the latter, but with more of a general hard rock feel than a metal one, set within an art rock oriented framework.
Conclusion. Debut albums by artists meriting a talented description have become a rather common experience for me, and The Anabasis is another addition to that list. Accessible, pleasant music that will find some favor among a vast audience I assume, and with their dedication to majestic, sophisticated heavy art rock and epic length compositions I'd suspect that they'll soon enough have a small crowd of dedicated fans that have longed for a band exploring just this particular part of the art rock universe. A disc well worth checking out if the above description intrigues you.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 7, 2012
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