I had the very good fortune of being able to review the first part of this double release from Between the Buried and Me when Automata I was released back in March of this year.
In that review, I referred to the first part as “Stunning” and called the band “masters of their trade”. However, I did bemoan the idea of releasing this in two parts.
Well at the risk of repeating myself, the exact same premise applies here. ‘Automata II’ is 4 songs (yes FOUR songs) long, but in true BTBAM style it still clocks in at over 30 minutes in length and is ram packed full of musical brilliance, technical surprises and outright good song writing. It’s safe to say that Raleigh, North Carolina’s finest musical export just don’t do bad albums.
It seems with ‘Automata II’ that the 5 piece, comprising Tommy Giles Rogers Jr (Vocals & Keys), Paul Waggoner (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Dustie Waring (Rhythm Guitar), Dan Briggs (Bass & Keys) and Blake Richardson (Drums), having decided to take musical pomposity to the next level.
Opener ‘The Proverbial Bellow’ clocks in at 13 minutes long. In it there is a host of keyboard driven passages and Dream Theatre-esque guitar widdlyness. BTBAM have become a more melodic monster over their last few albums and the distribution of screamed to clean vocal passages is divvied up very evenly here as well. The drumming is again astonishing (Blake Richardson may well be the best thing about BTBAM) and he is brilliantly supported by Dan Briggs and his “Lead Bass”.
A criticism I do have with the way BTBAM have gone about these releases is that it makes the story hard to follow and pick out. Whilst I am blown away by the musicianship on display (as I usually always am) I am struggling to identify how it fits within the concept.
This makes the 2 minute long polka styling of ‘Glide’ all the more weird. BTBAM are renowned for odd passages in their songs taking you by surprise. More often than not you end up grinning to yourself because the passage falls straight back in line with the song and in this case, because you know it will fit the concept, you just chuckle to yourself. The absurdity is in your face. The reasoning is logical. The delivery is, once again, spot on.
‘Voice of Trespass’ is BTBAM at their creative and artistic best. Plenty of big band vibes mixed in with the screamed vocals. There’s brass, there’s a big drum fill that finishes with Richardson shouting “1, 2, 3” and then the song gives out to death metal styles you would normally associate with the band. There is a reference to the previous album here too with the line “We are hollow, condemned to the gallows” giving a hint that the story is reaching its conclusion and has come full circle.
‘The Grid’ adds the finishing touches to the second part of the ‘Automata’ double release. This track harks back to some of the songs on ”The Parallax” with jarring guitars in the intro giving out to swathing sections of tasteful guitar work. I particularly enjoyed the odd metered passages at around the 5 minute mark. From here out to the track builds to an epic solo which sees the track out.
It’s always difficult to describe the whole experience of a concept album. You could go all out on the story (and then a review would be thousands of words long). You could leave it totally open to interpretation and focus on the musicianship and the song writing. I decided to go with the latter because that really gives me an opportunity to tell you just what I think of Between the Buried and Me.
I think they are innovators. I think they are game changers. I think their musical abilities transcend most others in the genre and I genuinely believe that they may be one of the best bands to ever grace the planet. In years to come, others will use these musicians as benchmarks to aim for in their quest to become better musicians themselves. Their albums leave you speechless and their creativity knows no boundaries.
The ‘Automata’ series is another weapon in their arsenal. It’s another part of their story, which contains so many other stories.
I implore people to not only pick up the Automata series, but to delve firmly into the back catalogue of a band who will probably change what Prog Metal is in the years to come. They are that important.
Check out the band at:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/BTBAMOfficial
Website – www.betweentheburiedandme.com
The Proverbial Bellow
Voice of Trespass