Released 18th October 2009
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.
The Story of 230503
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?
A TOWER OF SILENCE
Released 26th September 2011
Like it's predecessor, A Tower of Silence is a lengthy concept piece, however it differs in the sense that it is a fictional work, where 230503 was at least based on a real life-tragedy.
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 union 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 AToS), the epic wash of mellotron and organ, 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.
In contrast to 230503, A Tower of Silence was recorded very much as a performance album, in a traditional studio environment with microphones, amps, percussion instruments and old-school vintage keyboards. The album began life in the rehearsal room as the band got to grips with the new material that had been demoed by Robert and David, and it became infused with the personality of the 2011 band, before graduating to the studio where, for the most part, the whole band was in the studio together and all had a hands-on approach to the record.
David: "Robert and I scoured eBay looking for instruments that would help make this record - old analog gear that we thought we could get some novel sounds out of. There's a Farfisa organ and a Roland String Machine that we got for dirt cheap that's all over A Tower of Silence. On top of that, there's my old ARP Pro-Soloist, a Moog MG-1, a Hammond L122, my old upright piano, tons of mellotron - it's full to the brim with 70's sounds."
The same approach was taken with the guitars, with Dean and Doug using a formidable arsenal of different guitars and amps for different sounds. Not to mention a smorgasbord of pedals and effects processors. It truly is a 21st century attempt to make a classic-era symphonic prog album.
The approach worked however, as A Tower of Silence quickly became Anubis' breakthrough album in Europe. With the epic The Holy Innocent featuring on Prog Magazine's cover CD, and the NME's website quoting the album as a 'masterpiece', the album picked up praise all over the continent, selling out in Germany in 5 days and earning a coveted top 10 slot on Progarchive's 'All time best Neo-Prog albums' chart, where it happily resides even now, over six years later, alongside IQ, Marillion, Arena and other luminaries.
HITCHHIKING TO BYZANTIUM
Released 30th May 2014
Anubis’ third album, Hitchhiking to Byzantium is a concept album about the changes in life and the way one deals with others as they progress through them. After A Tower of Silence the band went through a period of personal and professional upheaval, with changes to both families and even the band itself. The situation manifested in an album that was more personal and immediate than anything the band had previously done.
Eschewing the long-form narrative for a more thematic approach, the album loosely chronicles a person's escape from a life they no longer feel they belong in. The breaking off of ties and relationships (Dead Trees), of loneliness and isolation (A King with No Crown), the self-examination of one's faliures as a role model (Blood is Thicker than Common Sense), the gradual withdrawal from society (Tightening of the Screws), the influence of money and power and it's corrupting force on the soul (Partitionists), of numbing the pain through alcohol or isolation (A Room with a View), of escape and escapism (Hitchhiking to Byzantium, Fadeout) and the ultimate realisation of the value of the people around you and how they make you stronger for just being there (Silent Wandering Ghosts). It's an emotionally weighty record that owes far more to the modern progressive rock stylings of Steven Wilson, Anathema or Marillion than of the band's more usual comparisons of Pink Floyd or Genesis.
Influenced by the Yeat's poem, 'Sailing to Byzantium', Hitchhiking to Byzantium is a meditation on trying to find inner peace. It was recorded using much of the modern technology available, and as such sounds markedly different to the albums that preceded it and the one that subsequently followed it. With the band reduced to a five-piece until the arrival of bassist Anthony Stewart shortly before the albums's completion, Robert Moulding performs all of the bass guitar, as he'd previously done on the 230503 album. The second single taken from the record, Dead Trees, had significant radio play across Australia and Europe, becoming a stage favourite and a mainstay in the band's live set.
BEHIND OUR EYES
Released 30th April 2015
When Anubis was offered the opportunity to tour Europe in 2015, it threw up a few issues as the cost of touring looked to be genuinely prohibitive. The band toyed with ideas to help raise the additional funds without having to crowdfund the tour entirely. In 2014, Anubis had taken on Anthony Stewart as bass player the previous year and was a well rehearsed and powerful live band with a number of extremely strong live performances that had ranged from a small club show in Penrith to less than 100 people to a show at Sydney's Metro theatre to over 1200 people. By the end of 2014, Anubis had a number of strong live performances recorded that could be edited down to make a cohesive live recording of the band that captured the energy and atmosphere of the 2014 shows.
Other than some commonly expected repair to the vocal and harmony tracks, the album presents the material entirely as was performed at the time. When compared to the opening night bootleg of the European tour in Heidelberg, it's similarity as a performance shows that the precision captured on Behind our Eyes is not manufactured. As a band who do not play with backing tracks, Anubis' performance tends to vary from show to show, with some songs stretching out beyond their studio counterpart in either atmosphere, length or dynamic, with Hitchhiking to Byzantium's closer, Silent Wandering Ghosts stretching out to epic proportions with a powerful guitar solo that the original LP version only hints at.
THE SECOND HAND
Released 23rd May 2017 as ANU005
The Second Hand is Anubis' fourth and current studio album. It is a 65-minute concept record about the fall of a media mogul, named James Osbourne-Fox who, after a severe brain injury, is left paralysed and imprisoned in his own body and left to contemplate the ultimate futility of his life of corporate success, greed and massive acquisition of wealth.
It seeks to address the notion of balance, where the wealthy elite control such a massive stake of the media that it can influence those that consume it, through fear-mongering, cynical manipulation and hysteria that benefits nobody but those who sign the cheques. The lyrics may pre-date the rise of Donald Trump, the hysteria of Britain's withdrawal from Europe, the re-election of the Turnbull government in Australia and the world media's constant character assassination of prominent left-wing candidates like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, and yet they simultaneously describe the way the world has grown to become in 2017, with the blame firmly placed at the feet of the wealthy, aging white elite who buy invest their money in politics to delay any real change and to consolodate their power and influence.
Musically, The Second Hand - like it's predecessor A Tower of Silence - borrows much from the symphonic progressive styles of the early 1970's. Using microphones, in spaces, on acoustic instruments and valve amplifiers, over 30 guitars, almost entirely analogue synthesisers, Electric and Acoustic Pianos, Hammond Organs, Effects Pedals and a real Mellotron 400 (one of only a small handful of working examples in Australia). The album was written and arranged from predominantly group improvisation, and recorded as a performance record with the only concessions to digital technology being the computer it was recorded on. Even though The Second Hand is a contemporary album recorded for 2017, it's hard to imagine it sounding that much different if it had come out in 1977.
Released 23rd May 2018
Different Stories was recorded to help fund the band's 2018 European tour. It features re-workings of material from the band's four studio albums in acoustic and stripped back arrangements, plus 'Technicolour Afterlife' - a recording of a lost track from the 230503 album.
'Technicolour Afterlife' was written by Robbie and I back in 2005 for what became the 230503 album, intended at the time as the title track. It was by far the most gentle song on what was already a fairly noisy and angry record, and it's subtle melancholy felt a little at odds with the direction the album was taking.
It was meant to finish the album, after 'The Collapse', but as 'Disinfected and Abused' swelled from 8 minutes to 12 minutes and on towards to 18 minutes, the space for Technicolour kind of just vanished. The concept also felt far more abrupt, ending the album after the realisation that the protagonist's recovery and eventual reuniting with his loved ones was all just a fantasy of his still-grieving sister. A song that detailed that grief seemed to dilute the record and we cut it and stuck it in the vault. At that point, Anubis only consisted of Robbie, Steve and I. It was sidelined before Dougie, Dean or Nick Antoinette joined the band.
The album was still due to be called Technicolour Afterlife right up until a few months before it's release, when Nick had the idea to change it. The right decision, I think. When this album came around, we had the opportunity to resurrect it and I for one think it has come out infinitely better than ever it could have in 2009 had we kept it. Rob re-arranged the lyrics so while it still ties in with his original style at the time, it has a bit more sophistication you'd come to expect from a decade of improvement at your craft.
The song, for me, was always the one most connected to my friend whose passing inspired the 230503 album. I'm writing this on the 15th anniversary of his death and it still seems - all these years later - like such a desperately sad waste of such a promising young life. Most importantly serves to remind me how privileged I am to be in a position and have a platform where I'm able to mark his memory with a piece of music that still feels, even after so long away, incredibly raw and honest. 'Technicolour Afterlife' is the last thing I had left from that period that the public had not heard, and releasing it here almost feels in a way like I'm clearing out some form of baggage. Albeit with a great deal of love and respect.
The last, lamented goodbye from a friend.
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