Wednesday 7 June 2017

Review: Anubis - The Second Hand

The Second Hand is perhaps Anubis’s most fully-realized recording, a true concept record broken out into nine songs, one of which is a prog epic, with “These Changing Seasons” triptych scattered around the record. Needless to say,  and all of the songs exist as portions of a whole. The theme Anubis tackles here is pervasive—the influence of media on those who consume it. 

Each musician in the band is performing at their peak, especially vocalist Robert James Moulding, whose voice works to tremendous effect on the album. He sounds weary of the betrayal of egalitarianism, the worship of money and those who have it, and the acquiescence of those who don’t. And then, on a dime, he becomes ageless, summoning up something of a prophet and because of that remarkably flexible voice, he doesn’t come off as a scold.

Scolding is probably the least of the album’s content, actually. To provide context, Moulding has been for years one of the sunniest of performers on the contemporary prog scene. The other outsized personality on the recording is keyboard player David Eaton. It is more like he has written the score, and because the majority of the record follows a non-linear, non-formulaic construction, his sounds move from tenderness to sonic chaos to real anger at times.

Holding down an insistent heartbeat throughout are bassist Anthony Stewart and drummer Steven Eaton. From the edges, guitarists Dean Bennison and Douglas Skene add in texture here, patterns there, and at times these don’t call attention to themselves. But when the emotion demands it, their guitars erupt and their presence is irrefutable (just listen to the great solo at the closing “These Changing Seasons III”).

This is an album that could not have been made in the old system of music-making. Aside from the previously mentioned aversion to the verse-chorus-verse song construction or the lack of an obvious feel-good single, the album is a protest, a eulogy, and a rather dark ride. It might have bit the hand that would have fed it. 

With this in mind, if you are not prepared to give the album your full attention, you may not be ready for it. As often beautiful, cathartic, and incriminating as it can be, if you are looking for bite-sized thrills to play in the car, you’re going to be perplexed. In order to get the full measure of the 16-minute “Pages of Stone,” you need to hear how it calls back from the opening title song or “Fool’s Gold,” and “While Rome Burns.” That requires an act of trust, and if you can’t relinquish that, the record’s not for you. It might be about you

Anubis arrive with an uncomfortable, uncompromising, but altogether magnificent recording. The Second Hand serves as a warning. What we break might take a very long time to repair, if repair is even possible, because it starts not with the corruption of the system, but the corruption of the soul.

The album is available here.

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