Between the Buried and Me interest me so much, because they seem to be one of the most consistently inconsistent bands. It’s easy to pinpoint what exactly could have made each of their releases more powerful. The Silent Circus’ muddy production obstructed its overall potential, Alaska’s tracklist could have done with a little refining (let’s face it, “Croakies and Boatshoes” just sucked), and Colors was indeed a journey, but the endpoint sometimes felt a bit unclear. With The Great Misdirect, the progressive direction evident on Colors is stretched to the brink, and the metalcore sections prevalent on Alaska also surface on this release. Naturally, with these different styles being merged one of the chief concerns would be the transitions, which have caught the band a lot of flack over the years. What’s the point of having a crazy polka breakdown if it doesn’t lead into the next part one bit? These are problems that Between the Buried and Me seem to address on The Great Misdirect, although there certainly still are missteps to be had.
The Great Misdirect is an excellent album. The highlights of this band’s musical catalogue come to mind when considering the highlights of the album, because the band embellishes upon what they have most successfully pulled off in their past. Colors contained many melodic interludes that were honestly strong highlights of the album; Viridian was a pleasant delight. And here we see “Mirrors” start off the band’s latest installment with the greatest song they’ve ever written; in three and a half minutes, Between the Buried and Me seem to accomplish more than all of the noodling in the world could have provided them. It successfully merges logical songwriting with impressive musicianship, and is a very tasteful departure from the usual, one that should at least temporarily hush the critics. “Desert of Song” is a earthy ballad, crooned by guitarist Paul Waggoner; there are certainly pretty moments on the album that provide some well-needed respite from the unrelenting progressive thrills on The Great Misdirect.
It does seem that the progressive feel of the band is done tastefully here, to be fair. “Obfuscation” is another outstanding song to add to the band’s repertoire, and its second half is perhaps the most emotionally charged piece of music Between the Buried and Me have ever written. “Fossil Genera” is the most diverse song on the album, and it also contains moments that are truly breathtaking. From the delightfully fun piano introduction to the entire second half of the song, the band seems to have finally found their footing. Between the momentous refrains of “we must move on” and the lightweight nature of the plucked violins (it’s actually used tastefully; there’s no need to worry), there’s a refreshing sense of urgency that is communicated from the band. Never before has their music felt so important, so imperative to relay than it does in these moments.
However, there are nuances in this album still. Honestly, the metalcore elements of the band still feel underdeveloped, and are uncomfortably slapped into the heart and soul of The Great Misdirect. The band’s biggest problem seems to be bringing the aforementioned vitality into the heavier sections. In “Swim to the Moon” there are parts that just should not be there, and “Disease, Injury, Madness” is also a track that can be quite boring in the heavier parts. It’s frustrating to watch this band that I’ve been a fan of for years keep tripping over the same hurdles. In these parts, it feels as if the only threads to hang onto are Tommy Rogers’ intriguing narratives, which is unfortunate because this brings up the problem of consistency (The concept of a man swimming until he’s out of sight of land is fascinating, but the concept would be much more effective placed in a song that more successfully conveys these emotions.). Also, why does “Fossil Genera” take an absurdly heavy turn about three minutes in? More cohesiveness is simply necessary here; so much of the album is very, very solid, but then we have moments that last maybe three minutes long that extremely squander The Great Misdirect’s overall potential.
However, do not let this deter you from a very pleasant experience. This is a positive direction for Between the Buried and Me, but those that are uniquely proponents of the band’s metalcore leanings likely won’t be pleased with this album. If Tommy Rogers and company can recognize what they need to focus on the most, then their direction will be a positive one; utilizing their immense talent as musicians and attributing it towards meaningful moments is the one step these gentlemen simply have to take in order to have the music match up with the ambition.
I had the hardest time picking between a 4 and a 4.5 for this album. Sometimes it's a 4, sometimes it's a 4.5. I mean, Obsuscation and Desert of Song are probably two of my favorite BTBAM songs, but Swim to the Moon gets really, really wanky.
Wow, is that all I don't like about it in general? Huh, I guess I loved it more than I thought I did. But still....it just doesn't seem like a 4.5.