In 2011, I really got addicted to the first two albums of the Australian progressive rock act Anubis. What they achieved on 230503 (2009, see review) and A Tower Of Silence (2011, see review) really grabbed me by the throat right from the start. Both albums are true masterpieces for me. In the end A Tower Of Silence became my favourite progressive rock album of 2011. Maybe I had expected a follow-up to this release one year earlier in 2013, because in this way they would have stayed in the line of releasing a new studio album every two years, but I guess the success of their last release and the touring which followed was the main reason this didn't happen. Also plans were made to release a live CD or DVD but both didn't happen either and were put on hold. It will probably be next year, when they are embarking on a European tour. Anyway, to cut this long story short, a brand new studio album was finally released in 2014. They named it Hitchhiking To Byzantium!
Expectation certainly did run high for this release, because out of the blue, this band had become one of my favourite progressive rock acts. Would I become addicted to their music again? Would the compositions grab me by the throat again too? Would I hear strong influences of bands as Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, Marillion and IQ once more? Would I hear those strong emotional vocals, amazing keyboard parts and excellent melodic guitar solos again? All questions which were looking for answers when I played Hitchhiking To Byzantium for the very first time. Well, I still recognised parts that might have been influenced by Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, Marillion and IQ, but also Jethro Tull and Porcupine Tree came to mind. Again, I heard those strong emotional vocals, amazing keyboard parts and excellent melodic guitar solos, but strangely enough the album did not grab me by the throat instantly this time. Sure, the compositions were very strong again, but what happened is that I expected A Tower Of Silence Part II. This had happened to me before when I got a follow up album of a band that had released a true masterpiece earlier. I was just waiting for part two of their former release. Because of this, my way of looking at certain albums was unclear, therefore I had to listen in a different way to understand the real beauty of this release; something the album certainly deserved. Although the album was a large piece of music to swallow - just like the two previous albums - the music started to grow on me after several listening sessions and in the end I was gasping for air. I could hardly breathe. Little by little the music started to grab me by the throat. The real beauty finally had revealed itself and I became I addict to an album made by Anubis once over! An album with only strong compositions!
Well a lot of words finally made clear that, again, a true masterpiece could be enjoyed in the end. A masterpiece which in a way again is kind of a concept album, but not like their earlier albums 230503 and A Tower Of Silence, which both tell a story.
Behind Hitchhiking to Byzantium for once there is no ghost story or the likes, but the musicians still want to remain esoteric in their own way. Not only by uttering loud guesses, the disc is likely to be somewhat more ... esoteric, than their predecessors. The explanation of the musicians that the phrase "hitchhiked to Byzantium" is intended to mean the lyrics about modern life, seems (in the sense of esotericism) very creative. There is also the mysterious cover art that gives expression to the concept of “a journey into the unknown”. This trip corresponds to life that should be filled with the hope of eventually be arriving at a satisfactory goal.
Finally, I can only compliment Robert James Moulding (vocals, bass, percussion, guitar), David Eaton (keyboards, guitars, vocals),Douglas Skene (vocals, guitars), Dean Bennison (guitars, vocals), Anthony Stewart (bass, vocals), Steven Eaton (drums, percussion, vocals) and their guests Martyn Cook (saxophone, flutes, brass), Rebecca Bennison (backing vocals), Katharina Shaw (backing vocals) and Sarah Schols (backing vocals) for delivering an album which turned out the be an album that very sneakily turned into a true masterpiece. So bravo to all of them! All I can do know is wait for them to come to Europe next year and in the mean time play all three masterpieces they have produced.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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