Shortly after the impressive performance (see review) of Anubis at 't Blok in Nieuwerkerk aan de IJssel in the Netherlands, I received from keyboard player David Eaton Different Stories. A special album released to fund their 2018 European tour. This way he made it possible for me to tell you what this release is all about!
The Australian musicians managed on Different Stories to sound differently but still very recognisable. Differently because they went into the studio to record the compositions with most of all acoustic instruments. Still very recognisable because they chose rearranging their own material in a much stripped-down form. This means you can hear seven selected songs of the past four studio albums recorded without the many electronic keyboards and electric guitars. However it doesn't mean you can't hear any electric guitars or electronic keyboards. Because the organ for instance can be heard several times, like for example on the brand new track Technicolor Afterlife. This so far unreleased composition is a nice extra which was originally planned as the last piece on their debut 230503 (2009, see review), but so far dormant in the archives. Another extra is guest Martyn Cook who played tenor sax on The Holy Innocent, as on the original studio version.
The opening piece, and also the longest of all on this release, shows right from the start that they did a great job in playing the well known material stripped to the bone. The Passing Bell, taken from their masterpiece A Tower Of Silence (2011, see review), still sounds amazing thanks to the strong vocal performance of Robert James Moulding (vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion). But also thanks to the fantastic acoustic guitar parts of the two guitar players Dean Bennison (acoustic & slide guitars, clarinet, vocals, mixing) and Douglas Skene (acoustic & jazz guitars, vocals). The first one also can be heard on the clarinet on the first part of the song and does this beautifully. The song sounds still very recognisable because the melody and vocal lines are done in a way as they can be heard on the original studio version. But I guess the same can be said about all of the other six rerecorded songs. The use of a rather unknown instrument, like a melodica on Fool's Gold played by David Eaton (piano, organs, keyboards, acoustic guitars, laúd, strings, melodica, vocals), makes the difference with the original version. Compared to the original versions the bombastic parts are gone. Furthermore the tempo is sometimes slower compared to the original studio version. The rhythm section, consisting of Anthony Stewart (bass, vocals) and Steve Eaton (drums, percussion, vocals), is most of all reason for the different tempo.
All in all you can say that the sextet goes with Different Stories on a beautiful journey through their own history. The arrangement of the well performed songs are based on the original, simply the instrumentation sounds a bit different in the end result. But I think the songs get a whole new charm. Only with the guitar solos do I miss a bit of the bombast but the way they replaced it with the acoustic guitars works perfectly. At last, it becomes clear that the band works best with all their disguise and facets. The material from this Australian band from Sydney works in this changed approach, even if one sometimes misses the outbreaks and power of the original title. The overall impression is restrained, introverted and relaxed, the atmospheric touch of the original material is replaced by a certain melancholy campfire mood and acoustic interactions. This may seem a bit too unspectacular, too reserved for some listeners, for it is precisely through the renunciation of euphoric dodges that the music of Anubis usually changes in a similar mood.
You might think that Different Stories is probably first and foremost something for the fans of the band, who get to hear here another, more reserved, dreamy side of Anubis. But that's certainly not the case. I recommend this album to everybody who enjoys listening to progressive rock in general, because the band gives an outstanding performance of well know songs from their back catalogue which have to be heard by not only their fans!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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