Review Summary: Between the Buried and Me delivers a solid album that perfectly marked their transition into what they are today.
There is no doubt that Between the Buried and Me is one of the more well known metal acts at this point in time. Before the release of "Alaska", BTBAM replenished their roster leaving only Tommy Rogers and Paul Waggoner as the original members. New members included drummer Blake Richardson, bassist Dan Briggs, and guitarist Dustie Waring. Along with that, BTBAM kept the new music fresh. From this album forward, BTBAM started a more obvious approach to progressive songwriting, and added a much more genre-changing flow to their music (which would be more evident in Colors). But it all started somewhere, and Alaska is for sure where BTBAM kept their old habits while spicing it up with some new flavor.
The album kicks off with "All Bodies". Immediately, you can hear the change. Tommy Rogers growls more ferociously and sings more mellowly than in previous releases. The music is still as aggressive as ever, and anyone will vouch for that. The song soars into a catchy chorus featuring great guitar noodling by Paul Waggoner. It all ends right into the great "Alaska".
Yes, this is the song that made many a people quit guitar for not being able to learn it (specifically the intro). "Alaska"'s opening riff is quite sought after, as Waggoner goes crazy on the fretboard. The song (also notable for the music video) really put BTBAM on the map and into the ears of more headphones. There is tons of progression, and no clean vocals found here. It all culminates in a heavy section featuring Rogers growling "Alaska. Alaska". This one proves to be a fan favorite, and is one of the more sought after songs from BTBAM.
The first two tracks are definitely defying, but does the rest of the album hold up?
Certain songs on this album definitely pop out more than others, for sure. "Croakies and Boatshoes" emits a complete grindcore approach to songwriting, as "Laser Speed" comes out as a laid back, coffee-house type of groove. The length of these songs are different and will take some getting used to by certain listeners, but some of the most ingenious songwriting is found in these opuses. "Backwards Marathon" is the perfect example of this.
The absolute highlight of this album would have to be "Selkies: The Endless Obession" which starts as a synth line eradicated into a heavy mess of gritty guitars. But of course, the last two minutes cap the song off with one of the most memorable highlights of Paul Waggoner, as he solos over an absolutely tight rhythm section from the rest of the band.
Is this a masterpiece?
I wouldn't say that. But this definitely paved the way and made listeners ready for what BTBAM became. New listeners would probably find this less appealing than their newer material (or older material, depending on musical taste), but I dare say that this album serves as a focal point in the band's career thus far.