Do you like concept albums?
Do you also like epics? Idealist musicians who do just what they want to do and be awesome at it?
Yes? Great, keep reading…
How about epic length pieces? Well, this album is offering you three of them! Aren’t you the lucky one today?
The band I am going to talk about is the awesome Anabasis and their album Back from Being Gone. The most interesting thing about them is, it is not easy to call them a band in the traditional sense. They are of a different breed and in their ideals, their understanding of musicianship, they are unique. They were formed in 2009 by the brilliantly talented Mr Barry Thompson on the helm and Mr George Andrade, the lyrics wizard. They call themselves “a progressive rock collaborative studio project.” So, what does this mean? Imagine a musician being themselves and themselves only, just adding whatever they wish and whatever they see as the perfect ingredient to the pot.
Yes, Anabasis was based on this sort of idealistic and brilliant premise where all of the musicians truly collaborated and put something of their own in a completely unfettered way. In their own words, Anabasis provided a basic framework for their songs and let amazing musicians “do their thing” – and over the internet to boot!
Yep, you read it right. Anabasis recruited the one and the only, keyboardist extraordinaire Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard, K2, Ryo Okumoto Band – JP/US) for the amazing keyboards; Josh Sager (Din Within – US), Christopher Harrison (Hi-On Maiden, Lee Abraham Band – UK), Brick Williams (Hourglass – US), Stefan Artwin (Relocator – DE) and Plini (Halcyon – AU) for the guitars; Brian Hong for the violins; Jeroen Hendrix for additional keyboards and finally, Gerald Mulligan (Lee Abraham Band – UK) for the earth shaking drums. Then they just developed their project almost completely over the internet. It is worth mentioning here that Ryo Okumoto has signed up for the band and went “steady” with them as well! You can listen to the most satisfying brawl between Hendrix’s and Okumoto’s keys in ‘Fly’.
As a very delicious and expected result of this approach, the musical styles, while firmly based in progressive rock, carry the flairs of many things from hard rock to even some metal. Overall, I can confidently say that this is one friggin’ impressive piece of work. At the risk of sounding like those people who shoot videos of opening perfectly ordinary boxes and commenting about the state of things inside the boxes, I can tell you this is no ordinary box. The artwork by Martin Kornick is one of the rare ones actually should be called artwork; the musicianship, it is beyond the roof (just look at the names a couple of paragraphs back); and the mix, oh, Lee Abraham (Lee Abraham Band – UK) and his Dockside Studios along with Karl Groom (Threshold –UK) and his Thin Ice Studios did a stellar job.
Now, for the songs… Which, incidentally, you can stream here…
“Fly”, a 7 minute prog tune with great keyboard solo in the middle – as expected from a virtuoso like Ryo, of course… Listening to Pellek in this song is like spreading marmalade on a thin slice of freshly baked bread and eating it – gives you a tangible pleasure. His vocals grow on you… Well, come to think of it, 4 (yes, four) octaves kind of has to grow on you, amirite?
In Barry’s words, “We recorded Fly with a combination of Jeroen Hendrix and Ryo Okumoto’s keyboard parts for the main song. But we also recorded the song with two versions of the keyboard solo: the one that got released on the album, and the one I have, that was not released.”
“The copy I have (that was not released on the CD) has Ryo ONLY on the keyboard solo, (and he definitely shreds here) the version that was released has Jeroen and Ryo doing a keyboard “duel” which is pretty cool sounding.”
Now, if you miss this line, you will be very sorry. Barry says that if you sign up for their newsletter – which is free and they don’t share email addresses with anyone – you might get an instant download of the unreleased alternative mix of Fly.
“Carpe Diem” – and this time very sad strings await you… Strings are an integral part of the song, not just for atmosphere – the guitars, violin and the awesome Pellek meld into one organic entity and the harmony introduces you to a completely new instrument… This is something I look for and crave for in music – I hate flute, strings, etc. being there just for being there or dominating everything else. Here, the perfect balance is struck. My ears are happy campers indeed!
“Epiphany” – the song is a very good example of metal with the crash boom bang harmony of puzzle like drums, sharp, cutting keys and powerful guitars. Vocals are a must hear.
“Rome” – the 14 minute tune has a mystical air about it. With the strings kicking things off, you instantly know that something beautiful is about to happen. As a person brought up surrounded by the oriental culture, I always liked these seeping into the Western music. Though, even if you are not familiar with these tones, a feast awaits you! Pellek plain confuses you (in a good way) by his vocalobatics and the spoken bits overlaid on the solos here and there… it is just so tasty!
“Vikings” gives you the heads up that something dark and growwwwwly is on its way in its intro. You can almost feel the tenseness in the air as the warriors are making their final peace before the attack. The song sets the scene so cleverly; the instruments become the cast themselves. The guitars are off the charts…
“Egypt” – the longest epic in the album, is very catchy and alive. Again the feast of oriental flair is there. Guitars have a wide range of prominence this time and their play on style is a treat indeed! Naturally, getting to grip with such idealistic and high quality sounds take time but I can tell you it is frgiggin’ worth the time!
Now, as a final word, I’ll quote Barry on what’s next for Anabasis. “It is an honour and a thrill for me to have been given the opportunity to create music the likes of Ryo Okumoto, Stefan Artwin, Brick Williams (among others) on the disc, and we’re lining up a similarly impressive crew for the next CD already, including (hopefully) at least one member of Transatlantic.”
I won’t bore you any more – suffice to say that we will definitely hear about these guys a lot!
Oh, before I forget, here is my interview with Barry Thompson from The ANABASIS!