Review Summary: It’s The Great Misdirect with some slightly fancier wrapping paper.
Between the Buried and Me is a real mess of a band. The group has always seemed to struggle when it comes to song writing. It’s undeniable that they’re all talented musicians technically. They all know how to handle their instruments, and it shows. The problem is it shows a little too
clearly. In the past, the band have given up strong song writing to focus on technicality, completely random and messy transitions, tempo changes, downright stupid song structures and pointless segues of cliché jazzy breakdowns and odd, fun soundscapes. This is mainly demonstrated on their breakthrough progressive metal album Colors
in 2007. In 2009, we saw the band falling down an even deeper hole with The Great Misdirect
. Let’s not let the hole metaphor fool you, this was actually a step in the right direction, the band focused on more melodic song structures and took away a lot of the technicality-driven metal that plagued past releases. The Great Misdirect
employed a heavy use of clean vocals and saw the band’s experimental side shine a lot brighter than on previous releases, rather than being confined to a few dull moments, the band fully embraced their experimentalism. What let The Great Misdirect
down was the sloppy song structures that just couldn’t be held well over songs like ‘Swim to the Moon’ that ran for nigh on twenty minutes.
, the band caught a wave with their 2011 EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
. Here we saw the band cutting some of the fat from their past releases and, in essence, creating the band’s most coherent and enjoyable release to date. The song writing was as strong as ever, it was actually a joy to listen to, with transitions that weren’t as random and ugly to hear, memorable riffs and lo! a jazzy breakdown that actually contributed to the music rather than detracting from it, heard on ‘Specular Reflection’. Even Tommy Giles Rogers’ singing was the best it had ever been. His cleans being rather dull to listen to, same with his harsh vocals, he managed to bring some character into his voice with The Parallax
. All this being said, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
actually saw the band backpedaling a little and redefining their sound. It was great. It worked. It could only mean good things for where they would head with their next full length: The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Or so I thought.
, The Parallax II
more or less came out as a polished version of The Great Misdirect
. The heavy experimentation of sound has returned, but with enough sense in their heads, the band has kept the sensible song writing demonstrated on Hypersleep Dialogues
and not totally veered back into the voracious mess of a hole they were digging with The Great Misdirect
. So, just as The Great Misdirect
was an exercise of the band trying to be larger than life, I can’t help but feel The Parallax II
is slowly going the way of the buffalo and rehashing the band’s entire back catalogue--to a certain extent. Whilst the band try to redefine where they should have been in 2009, The Great Misdirect II: Future Sequence
is undoubtedly a step forward, but for how much longer will the band be able to appease their audience when they’re doing nothing but re-wrapping old gifts?
Of course, the weakest link in the band’s sound is Tommy Rogers’ vocals. Back to where they were before Hypersleep Dialogues
, Rogers’ vocals range from anywhere between bland and monotonous growls all the way to bland and monotonous falsettos. Actually, scratch that, there isn’t much to be left to the imagination in between, it’s just one extreme or the other. In interviews, Rogers’ has stated his favourite bands being Radiohead and Muse, and now more than ever, it’s alarmingly obvious. Rogers’ almost seems to emulate Matt Bellamy’s vocal style at points; the influence is there and I’m shaking my head. And while on this album we can see the vocal style suiting the music, with tawdry synths and keyboards (everything one needs to make a successful progressive album), it just gives off a vibe that it’s all a little too over the top for its own good. The fact that Rogers’ doesn’t have the most enjoyable vocals doesn’t help when they’re produced and layered to be as obnoxious as possible.
Thankfully this album does have its high points. In among the amazingly hide tides of cheese being demonstrated, lead guitarist Paul Waggoner has created some monster riffs and solos that should be enjoyable for most ears. The production on the album is quite clean, and doesn’t leave any band members out of the limelight, and the musical cliché of totally drowning the bass has been dropped. Blake Richardson once again performs admirably and gives a solid drum performance on the album. Yes, it’s quite safe to say that the musicianship is top notch and that the band is finally working as a whole to try and give the most aesthetically pleasing experience possible...but that’s just about where it ends. Still apparent is the disjointedness of the band’s attempt to blend many styles, and while they’re improving significantly in their genre bending, it still doesn’t work as well as they think it does. Just because they’re getting better at musical coherence, doesn’t mean they’re masters of it just yet.
As this album plays out like The Great Misdirect II
most of time (albeit with a tad more filler as the glue that holds it all together), there are times when the album tries to hint at its actually being a follow up to Hypersleep Dialogues
, rather than naturally progressing the ideas explored on that EP, the album actually takes moments from the EP and puts them in new songs. Most noticeably taking robotic spoken word passage from the song ‘Specular Reflection’ and throwing it into a short segment of new song ‘Extremophile Elite’ (which also features another small segment within the first few minutes which shows off riffing that’s almost identical to some that can be heard on ‘Specular Reflection’). And when you think the band couldn’t find anything more to rip from their own song, they poorly recreate a similar jazzy section from ‘Specular Reflection’ on the song ‘Bloom’.
And, of course, just as The Great Misdirect
did, the album tries to finish off with an epic bang, found in the final tracks ‘Silent Flight Parliament’ and ‘Goodbye to Everything Reprise’. While the two do finish the album off on a high note, this album just leaves so much more to be desired. It’s time for the band to settle into a style and hone that style, because they don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. It shouldn’t take a band seven studio releases to create something that actually works as a whole. It just shouldn’t. A band brimming with ideas, promise and obvious skill and they’re yet to really take it anywhere. The Parallax II: Future Sequence
is a step into musical maturity, but it lacks the conviction that the band needs to feel comfortable with what they’re doing.