Review Summary: And now class, if you will observe the graph of f'(Between the Buried and Me), you will see that it levels out at x = The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
When discussing the “adult contemporary progressive death metal” band, Between the Buried and Me (by the way that category was coined in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner by vocalist Tommy Rogers), the album that is always brought up as their crowning achievement is 2007’s Colors
. Therefore, it is the album to which all other BTBAM material is (somewhat unfairly) weighed against. After Colors came the band’s fifth full-length effort, The Great Misdirect
, which was released in 2009. Although Misdirect was damn good, it didn’t quite live up to Colors (and how could it?). After disappearing for another year-plus, BTBAM returned with an “EP” (its runtime is a half hour), of course entitled The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
. When asked why they chose to make an EP, Rogers was quoted as saying “We wanted to get some music out quickly, and we wanted to keep our name out there.” Although he didn’t quite say it, that statement almost sounds like BTBAM didn’t put the time and effort into Parallax that they had put into Colors and Misdirect; the time and effort that gave those albums the buoyancy to rise above the rest of not only their own material, but everyone else’s. Although Parallax (much like Misdirect) is damn good, by BTBAM standards it’s rather average.
Exhibit A is found early on in the first of only three tracks, “Specular Reflection.” The song starts with a dark, anxiety-layering piano/orchestra/chorus buildup. The buildup itself is practically perfect. It’s one of those moments where you truly don’t know what to expect next, especially coming from an unpredictable group of musicians. In fact, I remember listening to it for the first time, thinking how one of either deathcore, prog, polka, or really just about anything between could come next. It reaches its climax at the 0:49 mark, when a horrifying screeching takes over, followed by option A: deathcore. Although I was completely and utterly blown away the first time I had heard the transition from buildup to the beginning of the song, over time I’ve come to expect a little bit more. I’m not sure exactly what BTBAM could have done, I just feel like they were capable of better. To me, that’s the story of The Parallax.
Parallax has all the familiar elements that BTBAM have used that make them great. Pounding deathcore passages lead by Blake Richardson blowing through blast beats and fills at mind boggling speeds still make up a good chunk of their songs, beautiful clean sections featuring Tommy Rogers’ falsetto tones are scattered throughout, enjoyable genre-bending is thrown in here and there, Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring still play the hell out of their guitars, and bassist Dan Briggs still adds technical flair from his five-string. All of that in itself certainly makes this record a tour de force, but it also acts as a double-edged sword, knocking Parallax down from what it could have been. The problem here is that although BTBAM deserve huge amounts of respect and praise for all that they have shown they’re able to branch into, they just don’t expand upon it here.
In previous records, jaw-dropping moments came pretty regularly (see second half of “Mordecai”, clean section of “Ad a Dglgmut”, solo in “Selkies”, practically all of Colors, last few minutes of “Swim to the Moon”, etc.). In Parallax, however, BTBAM have melted a bit too much into themselves to be able pull comparable moments off. That’s not to say it’s devoid of them; the previously mentioned “Specular Reflection” is a very strong track, especially from about the five minute mark on. The highlights from the other two songs include the last few minutes of "Augment of Rebirth" and the ever-changing “Lunar Wilderness” teetering back and forth from brutal to beautiful.
At this point, this review probably reads like one of the most negative fours ever given to an album on Sputnik, and from a very disappointed fan. This isn’t quite true. Although BTBAM haven’t really added much to their discography with Parallax, they’ve solidified their spot as one of the best (insert your preferred BTBAM genre) bands in the business. They haven’t regressed any, they’ve just leveled out. Considering the sickening amount of momentum the band had had coming into Parallax, of course simply leveling out will feel like coming to a screeching halt. The challenge now facing Tommy and the boys is to regain their lost momentum on the next record, which is to be the second half of a two-part series of sorts with Parallax.
“Eeny meeny miny moe.…”