Review: Anubis – The Second Hand

Australian prog rock unit Anubis returned last month with the release of their fourth studio album titled The Second Hand.

The Second Hand is an album of big themes. Never ones to shy away from stories of emotional impact, this time Anubis set their sights on modern life with capitalism, politics and the movement of people all being broached. For themes of such grandeur, it would be all too easy to slip up and turn into some po-faced nonsense but Anubis are the kind of band who thrive off this sort of challenge. Determined not to preach to the listener, they instead lay out the threads of the songs allowing us as listeners to hear and make our own minds up. And speaking of topics, in the band’s own words “’The Second Hand’ is a concept record about the downfall of a media mogul, James Osbourne-Fox, who after 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.

It’s this subtle way of opening up their music, and the opening of the title track leads the listener into their nest of emotional corners. Anubis have always had layers, here they have layers upon layers yet through front-man Robert James Moulding, they have a master ringleader who lays out the path for you to follow. It is then left to the masterful musicianship of David Eaton, Douglas Skene, Dean Bennison, Anthony Stewart and Steven Eaton to create the emotional maelstrom.

Not that you can single out any band member here as The Second Hand is a tour-de-force from a unit who are—obviously—at the peak of their powers. As “The Second Hand” (song) unfurls its wings, you never know quite which way they are going to take you next. Unashamedly progressive, it’s the human aspect which makes you wonder why this band aren’t playing to sold out arenas.

The Second Hand

At nine songs long, and one of those broach the 17-minute mark, it may be too much for the casual listener living in the era of singles, but for those willing to offer up their time they will certainly have something to enjoy and to return to.

“Fool’s Good” sets itself up in familiar anthemic territory of which Anubis do so well. Simple, yet powerfully delivered, you can almost feel the futility of it all as Moulding turns a famous man made object into a symbol of diminished power and energy.

The true emotional heart of the album lies with the 17-minute centrepiece “Pages of Stone.” You get a suite which allows the band to display the entire breadth of their experience yet its the simple piano moments which deliver the true moments of reflection. Musically this song drifts from shimmering synths, turning almost European.

In the meantime, the record splutters with crafty, sly, and then explosive moments; with lots of twists which show Anubis to be a band so alive and full of vitality.

With The Second Hand Anubis have released an album which is dense, emotional, cathartic and explosive. Rarely has a band sounded so on tune and what is all the more remarkable is that The Second Hand stands side by side with some other classic releases. Indeed, you can file this album alongside Selling England by the Pound for its sheer scope and emotional impact and in time may become regarded as their best yet. Anubis remain our best kept secret and with The Second Hand they remain truly at the top of the prog game.

Get the album here.