Review Summary: Between the Buried and Me pound out their best album to date. Featuring non-conventional song structures and progressive styles of songwriting, this is something any fan of technical music should invest in.
I’m writing this revew in North Carolina, one of the most boring states ever to grace America. Filled with Deep South influences and uptight rich conservatives, this place is surely something that I find to be quite boring. Once in a blue moon a band or decent tour will come by, but then it’s usually on a weekday because the bands swinging by don’t really care about this state. And with good reason, it’s devoid of anything fun. And even when you find a town with a decent music scene like Chapel Hill (which is where I reside), it’s filled with alternative and indie bands. I can’t stand it. Metal is dead in North Carolina.
Oh wait, then there’s Between the Buried and Me.
Between the Buried and Me (or BTBAM) have really been making waves in both the metal scene and the hardcore scene since their self titled LP came out in 2002. Hailing from the state’s capital, Raleigh, this band combines many various genres of music, making something that’s fresh and revitalizing for America’s metal scene. While these guys have often been slapped with the “metalcore” label because of other American metal bands out there, they certainly aren’t. BTBAM is diverse, technical, and far more sophisticated than the majority of most American bands out there today. While all of this may be a bit much to take in at first, Alaska will keep you coming back for more. And that’s what’s so cool about it.
The album will greet you right away with some great metal riffing and odd musical delivery. I was hooked instantly with the band’s incredibly heavy and often complex guitar, drum, and bass exchanges. Throw on top of that some brutally delivered vocals and you’ve got a great album in the making. The musical virtuosity doesn’t ever let up, as there are constant time signature changes, key changes, and obscure musical moments throughout the entirety of the album. And while this is primarily a metal album, Alaska goes beyond that. BTBAM’s vocals are more than just a one-trick pony, as the screams are ideal for the band, like in “All Bodies”, or the soothing clean vocals in the almost ambient section in “Backwards Marathon”. The vocals are definitely one of the reasons that this band is very interesting and strong.
But the strongest aspect of Between the Buried and Me is their guitar work. It’s constantly changing throughout every course of the song, and rarely goes back to a relatively song structure. The title track, “Alaska” is a great example of this. It starts out with an almost neo-classical intro, then immediately goes into a brutally fast thrash part, then oddly enters a chugging breakdown. And this all happens in just over a minute. Upon first hearing this band I just couldn’t take it all in and was like “What the hell just happened to me?!”…but I like that in a band. Being so complex and different makes the listener really pay attention to what you have to say, and BTBAM certainly does that. The entire album is loaded with instances like this, as both guitar players are really putting your ears to the test with their varied styles of playing. From the soothing clean guitars in “Breathe In, Breathe Out” to the almost black metal style guitars as well as melodic death metal riffs in “The Primer”, there’s always something interesting too check out. Looking for weird guitar playing? Invest in this album.
The drumming is always locked in with the rest of the band, always pounding away with your typical heavy-metal blast beats, double bass, and the like. Since the band often goes into different tempo and time signature changes, being a drummer in BTBAM is no small feat. The drumming on this album is always spot on and takes the band exactly where they need to go. It’s defeintely a solid performance. Not too much can be said for the bass with the exception of a few breaks here and there during some obscure technical parts. Other than that it’s just there to pound you down with a thick low end to accompany the guitars. Since so much else is going on at the same time, you’ve got to have at least one person in the band keeping everyone connected. There’s nothing wrong with the bass, even though it’s quiet. And there’s even places where keyboards are featured! You can find some keyboard breaks in “Selkies (The Endless Obsession)” and the intro to “Alaska”. It’s not very frequent, but when it’s there it’s a real treat.
This album is a lot to take in all at once which may drive some listeners away. Not everyone can get into technical music as easily as I can, so there is a certain point on bias in this review. Between the Buried and Me have always been playing this way with their weird guitar styles and non-linear song structures, so those who are looking for a simple album to listen to casually may turn their heads. BTBAM can be seen as a progressive band because of the way they incorporate multiple genres of music, but the heaviness and brutality of this album might turn away some progressive listeners. The screaming, crunchy guitar tones and blasting drums could make people not enjoy it, but it’s actually the reason why I like it. BTBAM takes the ugly side of metal and turns it into something beautiful. Sounds like North Carolina isn’t so lame after all.
Highlights of the album:
-- The first entrance of the vocals in “All Bodies”
-- The intro in “Alaska”
-- Any part in “Backwards Marathon”, especially the ambient section and preceding moments.
Final Rating: 4.5/5