Review Summary: Future Sequence is Between the Buried and Me much as they've always been, but with a little bit more finesse.
I admit it, I’m a bit of a Between the Buried and Me fanboy, but let’s get one thing straight from the start: that does not
mean that I find everything they do to be perfect. In fact, that’s far from the truth. Despite all the appeal their music has to me, I still accept the fact that they too slip up in the music writing process. That much was pretty well apparent on their previous full length The Great Misdirect
. Make no mistake, TGM was still a damn good release, it just suffered from some major pitfalls, the biggest of which being that its proginess, in its utter determination to be as unique as possible, held it back from being as good as it could have been. “Swim to the Moon” was a prime example of this. Let’s be honest, as fun as the huge instrumental chunk was to listen to, what purpose did it serve other than to exemplify the group’s respective skills? As enjoyable as it was, moments like this, which were present on many other parts of the album as well as previous releases, that have been a bit of a thorn in the side of Between the Buried and Me to fans and haters alike.
The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
was a somewhat cleaner release. Their songwriting had improved, and it was a more focused whole than its predecessor. However, it too had its flaws, most notably the first 7 minutes of “Augment of Rebirth” which appeared to be Between the Buried and Me being heavy for the sake of being heavy. In addition to that, it didn’t really introduce anything new to their established sound. Every path they tread on the EP was familiar ground, even if “Specular Reflection” was one of the better songs they’ve written to date. This left some fans, myself included, fearing that their formula was growing stale. So, despite my fanboydom, I was more than a little concerned that this would be the band’s lackluster release, the record that would showcase a group fresh out of ideas.
It doesn’t take long for The Parallax II: Future Sequence
to swiftly silence those doubts. It's Between the Buried and Me, but bigger and better. “Goodbye to Everything” and “Astral Body” open up the album in much the same way that “Mirrors” and “Obfuscation” did on TGM. “Goodbye to Everything” is the softer, mellower opener that provides a good contrast and intro into the rifftastic "Astral Body." However, one quickly realizes that there’s something different at work here. Something we haven’t much seen in the world of Between the Buried and Me; cohesion
. That’s right, Between the Buried and Me are finally making a bit of sense with all their genre bending chaos. There were countless moments on TGM that had the feel of proginess for the sole purpose of being proggy. I’m not going to lie to you and say that Future Sequence
is entirely void of these moments (because that would be just plain wrong,) but most of the softer moments and the crazy genre shifting that they’re so renowned for feel more sensible.
The main reason for this is that most ideas on here are given more time to develop and flourish, rather than merely serving as some random filler in between the heavier moments. The middle section of “Telos” is a great example, as the slow section dominates the entire middle half of the track and is allowed ample time to expand and build into a rather well executed crescendo. The latter minutes of “Extremophile Elite” serve as some continuity from part 1 of the Parallax by revisiting one of the best moments of “Specular Reflection.” The behemoth track on Future Sequence
called “Silent Flight Parliament” is very reminiscent of Colors’
“White Walls” stylistically by starting off with some of the heaviest moments found here, only to slow it down midtrack and explode into the best crescendo on the album. "Melting City" showcases some of the groups' best songwriting yet. Every piece of the track fits together neatly, even with the presence of a flute solo. There just simply aren't as many ill conceived and oddly placed sections here as on previous efforts (see “Ants of the Sky” and the bluegrass section.) The most interesting track by far (at least in terms of uniqueness) is "Bloom." The song, despite being extremely cooky and odd, even by the band's standards, still manages to fit with the flow of the album, and expands the group's already expansive repertoire.
The group as a whole has also improved in terms of playing. Waring and Waggoner’s riffs are just as ridiculous as ever, Richardson’s drumming is still ridiculously technical and his fills are still some of the best in the business, and Dan Briggs is still given moments to blow away the listener. Tommy’s vocals are a bit of a different story. His cleans have taken a massive step forward. Future Sequence
puts more focus on his cleans than previous efforts have, and as a result, the heavier parts have a little bit more umpf
than usual. That being said, his harsh vocals have taken a couple steps back
. Tommy's harsh vocals have always been a bit of a turn off, but this time his weakness in that department is even more apparent. A lot of times they border on grating, and it does take away from the album a bit.
There are a few minor gripes with Future Sequence
, two of which being “Autumn” and “Parallax.” Interludes can do a lot to further an album, and Between the Buried and Me has used them properly before (“Breathe In, Breathe Out” on Alaska
) but these two tracks don’t really do much. “Autumn” is, for lack of better phrasing, almost entirely pointless. It doesn’t bridge “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” and “Extremophile Elite” at all. “Parallax,” while it does serve to further the story in an important way, leaves a lot to be desired. While this is somewhat saved by the way “The Black Box” flows perfectly into “Telos” immediately afterward I feel as though there still could have been a little bit more there content wise. Also of note is the presence of a few out of place moments here and there. 4:22-4:52 of “Extremophile Elite” (I honestly have no idea how to describe this section) leaps most readily to mind. As always, these few out of place moments still sound great, but would be better utilized in another manner (or perhaps not all.)
The Parallax II: Future Sequence
shows that Between the Buried and Me are, slowly but steadily, becoming better songwriters. The record flows from genre to genre and heavy to soft much like all their previous albums have, but in a manner that makes at least a little bit of sense. For once in their career, it feels as though they wrote with a certain degree of cohesion in mind, and while they still haven’t quite hit the nail on the head in that department, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Musically, they are still just as astounding as ever, playing every style with daunting technicality and precision, and making it look easy. If they can manage to perfect their cohesion and flow with that stunning instrumentation, well, we can only dream of what they could do.