Review Summary: The aptly named "Colors" is a colorful and refreshing breath of fresh air that isn't your father's progressive rock, and not your unhygienic, chain smoking and long-haired buddy's death metal.
Isn't it just splendid when progressive rock bands do what the label usually applied to them suggests and, well, progress? The term "progressive" seems to be applied to just about any band nowadays and might just be losing its meaning. Some bands like to call themselves "progressive" but stay in one comfort zone musically, which doesn't show much growth. If you've heard BTBAM's previous discography to this album, you'd notice that a good deal of each album sounded mostly metalcore, with some dashes of prog thrown in there for good measure, at least until The Silent Circus
. But even Circus
can be identified as the start of the band's maturation, as it began to mark a change in sound. And the previous album before this, Alaska
, showed a considerable amount of evolution towards a darker and even heavier sound. Colors
, usually considered by most to be the band's best album (and it's not hard to see why), shows the band continuing their musical journey even further and certain,y lives up to its name- it's very colourful, musically, and shows that BTBAM know how to keep their music exciting by touching on nearly all musical bases- brutal death metal, jazz fusion, even eastern sounding rhythms, folk, and even a few shakes of country at times- so that you're never once bored.
As with all progressive rock albums, you won't like it the first time. I'll admit the first few spins I gave this album didn't do much for me, and I almost considered handing my copy to a used CD store, until I saw a few clips of them performing live. This was also my first exposure to the band, and I wasn't much into death metal at the time. Taken aback at how great they are live, I decided to do what I usually do with all complicated albums- head to the living room with the awesome stereo sound and the volume turned up to 11, sitting down and listening straight through with no interruptions. That's when the album began to sink its teeth into my musical tastes. It isn't an album that's designed to be listened to while on the go- the album is meant to resemble a full 64 minute song, a symphony almost. Anyone familiar with classical music would know that the great composers wrote their music in full blocks, made to be presented to an audience sitting down with no interruptions and their attention fully devoted to the music. And that's one thing you have to respect the band for- caring about music, and knowing that their fans are people who are all about the experience of losing themselves in such sonic landscapes. As I wrote above, the band experiments a lot with different styles than just death metal. People who are into death metal bands like Gorguts or Cryptopsy will want to stay away from this album, where the tracks are an average of eight minutes long and the lyrics aren't about gore or severing limbs. In fact, traditional tech-death fans may even hate this album, as the band' metal core roots can still very faintly be heard at times, and the vocals don't sound like cookie monster. It's also not for people who are used to the "side a" and "side b" concept of music, but those who have the patience to take an hour out of their day to sit and listen to this album can find something in there that they like, even if it's only a 20 snippet.
Though this album was released 6 years prior to this review being written, it's still not uncommon for albums to be intended as big, long songs. Especially in the age of CDs, and maybe even moreso nowadays where CDs are being junked in favour of MP3, making these kinds of albums seems to be much easier than it was back in the old days, where vinyl and cassette were the real deal and bands recorded their albums with "side a" and "side b" in mind. And yet even despite the fact that this album was written as one long song, amazingly the album doesn't sound like eight tracks of the same thing over and over, nor is it ever once repetitive. It's also not self-indulgent- a crime most prog albums commit nowadays, and funny enough, this album was released amongst a glut of tepid wankfests like Systematic Chaos
by Dream Theater, where self-indulgence plagued the album greatly.
From the album's opening with soft piano and clean vocals ("Foam Born (A) The Backtrack"), it's clear that this album is very different from what you may be used to hearing usually. It doesn't take long for things to really kick in, with the Queen-like blast and quick transition into death vox and sudden transition into "(B) The Decade of Statues". And this sets the tone for the rest of the piece of music. Reviewing an album that's meant to be treated as if it's one piece of music can be hard, which is why picking tracks for highlights would be grossly unjust to an album like this. But there's plenty of moments that can be highlight easily- one being the intro to "Informal Gluttony", with its eastern flavour and truly majestic feel, and the chorus of the same song. Seriously, the chorus to that song is magnificent and just plain beautiful, with some if the most wicked harmonization I've heard and smoothest transition from fast and brutal to slowing things down for you to experience the true beauty of the music. Then there's the weird polka hoedown in "Prequel to the Sequel" that wouldn't be out of place on a Weird Al album. It sounds silly, but it does add the song a lot. Even more odd is the vaudeville style piano vamp on "Sun of Nothing", which quickly ends and gets back to the metal- but the weird part is, both the polka and the piano work
. How it does, I really don't know, and maybe I shouldn't know, but I shows the band's insistence on making keeping the music spiced up. The clean vocals are amazingly great as well, and while Tommy Rogers' death vox is fun and enjoyable, he truly shines when he actually sings. But the most exciting part is "White Walls"- the climax this chaotic death metal symphony builds up to and truly deserves. There's everything to name in it- ridiculous theatrical rock a la Queen, some smooth jazz, brutal death metal and thrash metal, and even a moment of country
. It truly must be heard to be believed.
So the album doesn't work all the time, granted. There are moments where it doesn't work, but these moments are few and in between. And they escape your mind quickly while you're listening to the piece of music, because the rest of it is just so bleedin' awesome. It might not be one of the progressive rock great albums that would include Pink Floyd's The Wall
or Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
, and maybe focusing on the technical aspect would be pretty much useless. But either way, Colors
might just be a sign that progressive rock isn't as much a lost cause as the mainstream expects us to believe, and there still are bands out there that care about actual music. In fact, their latest album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence
is also incredibly kick ass and worth every penny of the purchase. But Colors
is an album that demands multiple listens and while not perfect, is still an excellent album that is fully worthy of your attention.