Between The Buried And Me – Automata II
Triumphant prog metal which celebrates Coma Ecliptic’s inclusiveness while mastering the art of aggression and grace
Words: Phil Weller
Whilst the cynics amongst us have been quick to sold Sumerian Records’ decision to release Between The Buried And Me’s eighth – and consequently ninth – full length release as a two-parter, as they did with Periphery’s hit and miss Alpha & Omega albums, that shouldn’t detract from Automata’s brilliance. Sonically balanced across the two albums, which were released some four months apart, the North Carolina quintet have taken the cleaner more atmospherically and melodically driven elements of 2015’s Coma Ecliptic and fused it with the band’s tech death aggression of old to great effect. There’s the gilt edged thunder of Alaska and Colors era BTBAM grunting and rattling across Automata II’s lengthy tracks, where spasmodic and metamorphasising guitar motifs tangle with Blake Richardson’s avalanche-in-a-monsoon drumming, but there are also moments of tranquillity and eerie, reverential melodies too, where vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers Jr. ushers out some of the record’s most memorable turns. This album will change the way you think about a ringing phone.
The Proverbial Bellow wastes no time in picking up where Automata I’s ten minute closer Blot left off, shifting with a Dream Theater inspired wanderlust. It burrows between ideas which transcend predictability, eschewing multiple time signatures without ever, thanks to Paul Waggoner’s smart, spicy and splendid lead guitar lines, alienating the listener. Its chorus is simplistic and lofty, icing the conclusions of immersive and journeying progressive forays. Here, they are rich in individual technicality but are locked in too by with impressive collective energy.
Lyrically, The Voice of Trespass’s references to its sister album’s opening track, Condemned To The Gallows, like many other moments on the record, which are a constant reminder of its family ties to April’s release. The song rolls with clicking fingers with show-tune-meets-sinister-circus rhythms and pianos. Then there’s flamenco guitar, abrasive brass and tastefully explosive death metal exploits too, all anchored around the stupendously fun swinging New Orleans jazz of the opening passages.
Closing track The Grid, which clocks in at just under ten minutes, meanwhile centres around an emotive Waggoner melody and punchy verses where the guitars grit and grind their teeth beneath Rogers’ rasping growls. As the final song of Automata’s glutinous feast of ideas and invention, it typifies where the band’s sound lies nearly 20 years after their formation. Coma Ecliptic’s softer, glassier and often more synth-lead tracks helped introduce them to a wider audience, old proggers and fans of disgustingly filthy metal both now properly enticed, this two part album drags their sound back towards their angrier soundscapes, which are now lavished with an accomplished anthology of hooks and encapsulating esotericism. They have learnt a lot from that last album and here they expertly merge the two worlds of heavy and accessible together on what, if it were released as a single, lengthy but well flowing record, would be a serious contender for album of the year.
For all their self-indulgence at points – a self-indulgence most BTBAM fans are more than happy to bask in and appreciate – your interest never wanes. As it progresses there is always new interest bubbling within its world, there are always unexpected plot turns and moments of smile-curling virtuosity awaiting you round the bend that make the Automata albums such a rewarding listen.
Few bands are writing progressive metal as clever and as exciting as Between The Buried And Me right now, but what’s more is that they’re doing it with fun and with heart.