'The Second Hand' is Anubis' fourth studio record, and marks a return to the narrative driven concept album format. It charts the downfall of an aging media mogul, James Osbourne-Fox, who, after a severe brain injury is left paralysed and imprisoned in his own body and left to contemplate the futility of his life of corporate success.
The album seeks to address the notion of balance, the media's influence on those who consume it, and how the bias and hysteria benefits no-one but those who sign the cheques, dividing people and leading to political turbulence and unrest. The lyrics - written very early in 2016 - had, by the end of the year and recording process, become seemingly even more prescient with the media and moneyed interest's roles in influencing the results of referendums, elections and even conflicts worldwide.
2014 marked our tenth year as a group, turned out to be tremendously exciting as we headed out for the first time with the current band, with Anton making his presence very much felt.
Shows ranged from a packed out Metro Theatre in Sydney playing to some 1200 people to an intimate club show in our adopted hometown in front of 100 people, most of whom we probably knew by name. All the shows shared the same powerful atmosphere and a selection of material from all three Anubis studio records, with the newer material from 'Hitchhiking to Byzantium' more than holding its own against the older material in the set.
This album was compiled and released in order to help fund the band's 2015 European tour. As ever our thanks go to all those who enable, promote and consume what we do.
We're still humbled by the appreciation for our work and the demand our fans around the world have made for this CD release. We love you all.
Awakening new chances, as the moonlight fades to sun...
"This record, if I'm to be honest", says keyboard player David Eaton of Anubis' long awaited third album, "is the record we'd have made back in 2006, if we'd been good enough". And let's face it, he should really know. It's been ten long years since the idea to write a concept album about a lost friend spurred him and vocalist Robert James Moulding into forming what would evolve into Anubis.
This third album, 'Hitchhiking to Byzantium' is the first Anubis album not to have a plot or narrative. It's more of a thematic work, based on modern life. "It's about growing older and trying to do better at things", says guitarist Dean Bennison, "and about the excuses we make for ourselves, all the crutches and braces that we find for ourselves along the way, and how good and bad they are for us". "It's perhaps a little more esoteric than the last two albums", say guitarist Douglas Skene, "although I think at core they all touch upon the same theme - which is what is and isn't important to people in their lives". "You do still get the sense that it's someone" says drummer Steven Eaton, "Someone who is on a journey. And the hope is that when they get there, they're happy with what they've found".
However, the journey to find Byzantium hasn't been easy. Nearly three years, and a new line-up later, the band find themselves under pressure to deliver a record that matches up to the expectations left by it's predecessors. "We've had a lot of motivation because there is so much to live up to" says Moulding, candidly. But that pressure has already yielded rewards. Most importantly, the addition of new bassist Anthony Stewart. "Anton's just fantastic" says Dave, "and although he didn't arrive in time to play on this record, he knew exactly what did need to be done and has done it brilliantly, really adding to our chemistry". "He's just a phenomenal player" says Robert Moulding, who did play the bass on Byzantium, "absolutely, definitely the standout when it came to looking to people to work with".
Whilst it doesn't have the narrative cinematic approach, Hitchhiking to Byzantium does have an emotional punch quite unlike anything before on an Anubis record. "Whilst we hid all our very real emotions behind conceits before - haunted workhouses and lost friends - this record is about the things that happen every day" says David. "I feel that there's more of us in there - the hurdles that life throws at us and the only way to feel true inner peace - by examining the love around you. It's certainly an introspective record - but it's real life. It's about you, it's about me, it's about all of us. Hitchhiking to Byzantium. That journey is life."
Hitchhiking to Byzantium is out on Bird's Robe Records, 30th May 2014.
The band play the 'Prog the Castle' festival in Germany and tour Europe for the first time in May 2015.
'A Tower of Silence' was released on Bird's Robe Records on September 21st 2011.
The album muses on the theme of limbo, specifically told through the narrative of an 11 year old girl who lived and died in a workhouse in England in the early 19th century. A group of teens, trespassing in the abandoned buildings play seance in one of the abandoned wards, leading to the apparition of the girl, who proceeds to recount her life, death, and her inability to pass on to any form of afterlife. The album functions as a metaphor for any kind of entrapment, be it depression, loss or terminal illness. The theme of being caught between two places, within the unknown, is the central conceit. On the way, the album tackles alienation, social division between the rich and the poor and even the very concept of afterlife.
The album kicks off with the 17 minute "The Passing Bell", and clocks in at over 65 minutes with three other tracks tipping the 10 minute mark. The album includes all of the elements that afforded 230503 much praise; the vocal harmonies (all six band members sing on it), the layering of all-vintage keyboards, the dynamic rhythm section, the incendiary guitar playing, (with a host of instruments, amps and stomp-boxes to boot) and the songwriting team of David Eaton and Robert James Moulding.
That's not to say there weren't any major changes on 'A Tower of Silence', having 230503's producer/engineer Dean Bennison join the band as another guitarist/vocalist and writer fleshed out the sound and added great depth to the arrangements, as well as adding his distinctive voice to the harmonies. The material was infinitely more collaborative too; with Douglas Skene emerging as part of the songwriting team, especially on the song 'Archway of Tears', and the whole band working much more as a unit in the studio arranging the compositions.
In the studio, Dean Bennison pushed the band to revert to a mainly retro way of working (save for the use of digital recording technology). As a result, there is not an amp sim nor a software synth to be heard. All the instruments were real, recorded in real time with microphones. All meticulously captured.
There was a sharpened focus on the lyrics too, with Robert and David having worked hard to be more direct and clear without losing any of the poetic effect. The preceeding 18 months of live performance also sharpened the vocals and as a result, AToS brimmed over with the most precise and passionate vocals Robert had ever committed to tape to that point.
Upon it's release, the album quickly gained a considerable following in Europe and South America, with it quickly topping internet charts all over Europe and regularly appearing in many publications' best of 2011 polls. On www.prograchives.com, over two years from it's release, it still sits in the top 10 Neo-Prog albums of all time alongside such luminaries as Marillion, IQ and Arena.
The penultimate track from the album, 'The Holy Innocent', was featured on Prog Magazine's cover CD in August 2012.
Unidentified male, 20 years old, frustrated in the lack of direction and meaning in his life leads to his searching for what he believes is missing. Confused by his shyness and naivety, he finally meets a girl on the internet, and shortly afterward leaves to be with her. After a romantic date on a houseboat, he gives his lady a silver pendant, and, disguising the emotion, steps outside for some air. In some sort of freak accident/ misjudgment he disappears off the edge of the boat and is not seen again. Police helicopters circle, failing to detect anything. The dreadful news is duly delivered to his distraught family.
Floating aimlessly in the inky-black amnionic fluids that surround him, he is roused by the itch of sand on the back of his head. Battered and sore, he struggles to his feet. Unaware of his whereabouts, his name, his life, he slumps and begins to make his way toward the lights in the distance. Taking shelter in an abandoned wreck of a house, he is alerted to the fact he is not alone. He has stumbled into a drug den, operated by a dealer known only as 'The Doctor'. A real bastard. With no other option beckoning, our man relents and falls into a rut of supplying and using to exist. Supply and Demand? Flying and falling. Barely aware of either.
When he collapses in a busy street some time later, people walk by, unmoved. Another degenerate who’d OD'd. They'd seen it all before. Someone eventually calls the emergency services. They arrive at the hospital as he's drifting in and out of consciousness. Duly assessed and processed by the casualty nurses, he's dispatched to a bed where he remains in a semi comatose state for a few days.
As the days roll by more and more faculties return, and he is drawn to a pendant worn around the neck of one of the junior nurses. A similar one to the one he'd given to his lady a few years previously. A rush of confusion is followed by a single positive recollection. The first exploration into the hitherto concealed vault of memories. The experience gives way to an exhaustive torrent of repressed experience, and the battle between the two selves begins.
Racked with guilt over his decline, but buoyed with optimism for a return, he struggles with the ghosts and corpses he has left along the way. But worlds away, a woman puts the faded photograph back on the table. The phone has been ringing again. All of this never happened. The ringing simply served to remind her of the moment she found out her brother had drowned. What if he hadn't gone? What if?
230503 was a concept piece that examined the effect of loss and grief, and was loosely based on the accidental drowning of a close friend of David and Robert.
The music was mostly written by Robert Moulding and David Eaton from mid 2004 through to early 2006. The album took close to five years to complete. It was further arranged and mostly recorded by the initial line-up of Robert, David, Steven, Doug and from early 2007, Nick. With Dean Bennison producing and making some key guitar and vocal contributions, he joined the band officially in time for the official release of the album.
230503 was released independently on October 19th 2009. A full scale digital release followed worldwide from April 2010, and the album went on to sell unexpected numbers all over Europe, South America and Japan.
The band performed the piece live in April and May 2010 to general acclaim, performing the final full rendition of it at The Annandale in Sydney on May 15th 2010.
The album could best described as a continuous piece of music, split into ten separate ‘movements’. Featuring much of what a progressive rock fan comes to expect- layered, lyrical musical passages; stark, exposed acoustic passages; ballsy agitated rockers; experimental soundscapes; electronica; musique concrete and world music; tempered with multiple time signatures and anything up to six part vocal harmonies. All culminating in the album's all-but 18 minute centrepiece, Disinfected and Abused.
As a journey, the album is both melancholic and uplifting, soothing and occasionally downright frightening. It encompasses a gamut of moods and colours, but is buoyed with a real, genuine emotion that is perhaps, hopefully, the reason why the album seemingly resonated deeply with people.