by Franco Cerchiari
– Sr. Columnist —
In 1984, bassist Jesper Jensen and guitarist/vocalist Henrik Fevre first came together as members of the band V-AXE, which then morphed into Graff Spee. However, creative differences split up Graff Spee, but not to be deterred Jensen and Henrik formed Extreme Feedback, that also went through various incantations including a name change to Seven Powers until 2001 that the name Anubis Gate was decided on, with their debut album Purification released in 2004 after securing a deal with Locomotive Records. Fast-forward to 2017 and the album we are about to talk about here will be released to the world on the fantastic Nightmare Records label.
And let’s just get this shit right out in the open from the very beginning so there’s no wondering, speculating, considering, hypothesizing, assuming, questioning or any other adjective one may come up with – this WILL be 2017’s Metal release of the year for many. Holy hell is this magnificent! Fans of Darkwater, Seventh Wonder, DGM, Voyager, Andromeda, Sieges Even, or Vanden Plas will simply rave over this one, and without question, must add this CD to their collections.
Not so much a concept album as it is a “themed” album as the songs of Covered In Black, deal with the subject of a person’s perception of darkness, and what it is that keeps us in “dark” places whether it be metaphorically or emotionally. The music is progressive, spacey, atmospheric, powerful, melodic, and gorgeous, with hints of Hard Rock and Power Metal. Vocal harmonies are everywhere, while instruments do so much more than just provide an accompaniment. Rather the instruments are a vital part of the atmosphere, and the vibe of what this release is all about.
Take “The New Delhi Assassination” for example. The melody of the music is 100% immersed in the sounds of the Middle East, while the vocals soar above and beyond. But if it weren’t for the extraordinary ability of the band members to submerge themselves into the music, and make the sound and vibe of the Middle East come alive, the song would be lost. Each track comes through loud and clear, filled with character and personality, and so many times it was just best to sit back and allow the music of this simply fantastic album to just play its way through. So complete and perfect is the music of Covered In Black that the four musicians that makeup Anubis Gate sound like a full orchestra.
The chord structures are beyond good. As the music twists and turns, it never allows the songs to get stagnant and on one course. Slow gives way to fast, electric guitars ease into the acoustic, drums go from gentle to bombastic, powerful refrains effortlessly take a slide into soft, and the grandiloquent eases into the reflective. Oftentimes these take place within the space of a single song (“The Combat.”) Full use of the drum kit, the entire neck of the guitar and bass, all 88 keys of the piano, and soaring vocals are pitch perfect and done with enthusiasm, and passion. Lyrics give images of the lonely, the tormented, the difficult times we are all faced with throughout our lives, wasted moments we can never retrieve, daydreams of how things “might have been,” being part of a war that seems to never end, and tears coming about while one remembers a lost love.
Listen to the nightmarish introduction of the hard-hitting opening track “Psychotopia,” lyrics talking about the struggles our brave soldiers face on a daily basis heard on “The Combat,” and the CD highlight, the epic “A Journey To Nowhere,” is as mesmerizing as hell, and hits on so many emotions – fear, sadness, solitude, facing and accepting the past, and making decisions that will impact the course of one’s life. The mid-track guitar solo with a gentle piano, and the bottom end coming from the bass and drums all added to the greatness of “A Journey To Nowhere.” Listen as well to the monster-sized drum refrains of the heavy “Black,” the instrumental “Blacker” and the quirky “Blackest.” “Operation Cairo” is huge, with again Middle Eastern chants and sound coming through, with incredible Vanden Plas-esque vocal harmonies taking this song to the heavens and heavy guitars reverberate throughout the introduction of the closing track “From Afar.”
Not a bad track to be heard. The mixing was spot on, not a note out of place was heard. The vocals were crystal clear, the songwriting and musicianship out of this world. What a work of art Covered In Black is. The bar the band set for themselves during the making of this album has been met – and then some.
Anubis Gate has every right to be proud of what they accomplished here. It can even be said that this is the album that Anubis Gate will be remembered for. While completely useless American radio is utterly and wholly hopeless in supporting bands like Anubis Gate and stupidly looks the other way and won’t even make an attempt to seeking out astounding releases like Covered In Black, but for those fans who want the best a band has to offer, look no further than this, let it be said again, this WILL be 2017’s Metal release of the year for many. Covered In Black was just sensational all the way around.
Genre: Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Melodic Metal, Hard Rock
Kim Olesen – guitar, keyboards, vocals
Henrik Fevre – bass, lead vocals
Michael Bodin – guitar
Morten Sorensen – drums
2. The New Delhi Assassination
3. The Combat
4. Too Much Time
5. A Journey To Nowhere
9. Operation Cairo
10. From Afar
Label: Nightmare Records
Hardrock Haven rating: (9.5 / 10)