In 2014 I reviewed an album which turned out to be an album that very sneakily turned into a true masterpiece. Just like 230503 (2009, see review) and A Tower Of Silence (2011, see review), their two earlier released studio albums. Those who are familiar with those albums know I am referring to Hitchhiking To Byzantium (see review) released by the Australian band Anubis. Their new album The Second Hand was sent to me by the band. Obviously I was very curious to see if they could deliver another masterpiece!
On their fourth album the band returns to the concept format. Meaning coming up with an album which tells a story or deals about a certain theme. Something which was not done on their last effort but could be heard on its two predecessors. On The Second Hand the subject matter of the media and its impact on society is examined. On this album it is seen through the eyes of a media mogul named James Osbourne-Fox, who after a stroke must spend his time as a severely ill patient and thus has a lot of time to think about his life. The interior packaging of the CD is designed like a newspaper and the use of a variety of radio play-like fragments helps to let you know what is going on in the story. Also the sound collages, which are linked to hospital sounds, self-talks and hectic everyday sounds allow us to participate directly in Osbourne-Fox's survival. Above all the album contains all the lyrics which makes it even more possible to see how the ideas of Robert James Moulding (vocals, guitars, percussion) and David Eaton (organs, Mellotron, piano, synthesisers, guitar, vocals) can be understood more easily. Together with Douglas Skene (electric and acoustic guitars, electric sitar, vocals), Dean Bennison (electric, slide and acoustic guitars, vocals), Anthony Stewart (bass, acoustic bass, Moog bass pedals, vocals), Steven Eaton (drums, percussion, glockenspiel, vocals) and some guests performers they managed to come up with the perfect score to this intriguing story. You will enjoy this if you are into progressive rock bands such as IQ and Porcupine Tree and love the music which Pink Floyd made during their heydays.
Summing up all of the tracks is not something I am going to do. Hearing the first two songs The Second Hand and Fool's Gold are probably already enough to convince interested parties to purchase this album. The title track gives a good impression of the album, because after the introductory radio play sequence and based on a hypnotic piano motif, the band rises into the album after just 100 seconds with a drifting rock part, then take off again. This piece of music is really tasteful and with a lot of love for detail- a quality that runs like a red thread through the entire album.
The interplay between the guitar players and the man behind the keyboards can be heard throughout the entire album. Dave Gilmour kind of guitar solos and the late Richard Wright sort of organ and synthesizer parts certainly move the compositions several times towards the musical style of the band in which those musicians used to play in. The Mellotron parts certainly gives the album a great retro sound. But not as much as the Italian bands use to do. The emotional vocals makes sure you go through a musical roller coaster a lot of times. They get you by the throat more than once.
The Second Hand is an all-round prog rock album, which belongs to the list of more exciting and better albums of the year. Musically they pull off all the registers in the neo prog area and the Floyd fans especially will get their money's worth. But also for those who own their earlier three released albums this is a must have album. They will hear the same kind of typical Anubis sound as on their predecessors. Therefore I can only give them the same verdict as I did to their entire back catalogue for this album. Once again in a way the album sneakily turned into a true masterpiece. But this time around it became quicker as it was with Hitchhiking To Byzantium. I guess the so called growers are the best ones!
Anubis unfortunately, have become one of the very badly overlooked high-talented bands in the area of progressive rock. A crying shame if I may say so! The five stars score are therefore very well deserved! I guess they don't go for less!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)
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