Review Summary: Between the Buried and Me continues down the progressive route, this time with less awkward transitions and lots more singing.
Love them or hate them, you can’t deny Between the Buried and Me are one of the most fascinating metal bands active today. Their music is polarizing, unpredictable and eclectic, often melding six or more unrelated genres into a single song with little to no warning between them. The real kicker is the band is so darn talented they pull off every style – whether it’s polka, death metal, post-rock, or bossa nova – with elegance and ease. It’s essentially an A.D.D. supplement for the metal community and it can be downright addictive. The band’s seventh full-length, Coma Ecliptic
, is no different, except this time it sounds a bit more like Dream Theater
. Whether that’s a good thing is up to you, but Between the Buried and Me fans won’t be disappointed and haters will have yet another reason to hate. It’s a win-win.
Between the Buried and Me have hinted they have a penchant for circus music from their sophomore album The Silent Circus
to the eerie medleys that close Alaska
’s ‘Roboturner’ and ‘The Primer’, even going so far as to write a circus metal space epic titled ‘Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain’. Coma Ecliptic
includes these outlandish elements in practically every track but as a subtle backdrop, sans ‘The Ectopic Stroll’ which is an inferior version of ‘Fossil Genera’ anyway. Spastic riff barrages are replaced by controlled mid-tempo grooves and metalcore influences are completely dropped in favor of proggy synth leads and plenty of harmonized falsetto. In fact, Coma Ecliptic
’s foundation lies almost entirely on frontman Tommy Rogers’ synth and vocal work. It’s a risk for the band to put so much emphasis on the vocals (the bass especially taking a backseat here) seeing as how technically and musically proficient the rhythm section continuously proves to be. But even though Rogers has already proved himself a capable solo artist, on Coma Ecliptic
he proves he is just as much a crucial part of Between the Buried and Me.
Are there awkward transitions? Of course, it’s Between the Buried and Me, but unlike the constant genre-shifting of Colors
or Future Sequence
, Coma Ecliptic
sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the band’s advantage on album highlights ‘King Redeem/Queen Serene’ and ‘Turn on the Darkness’ where they’re structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 7+ minutes. Tracks like ‘The Coma Machine’ and ‘Famine Wolf’ are impressive on all fronts, and others such as ‘Node’ and ‘Dim Ignition’ are basically Thomas Giles
songs featuring Blake Richardson on drums. Even so, they fit like a glove as pieces of the album’s puzzle and still sound undeniably like BtBaM.
ultimately suffers from its excess. It’s over an hour long with seven of its eleven tracks at or above the 7-minute mark. ‘The Ectopic Stroll’ has a cool off-kilter piano riff and a refreshingly uplifting chorus but the majority of the song is sterile, gratuitous, and occasionally grating. ‘Rapid Calm’ and ‘Memory Palace’ are Between the Buried and Me on autopilot and do absolutely nothing to warrant their highly generous runtimes. Thankfully, BtBaM on autopilot is a less obnoxious version of Dream Theater
so it never becomes completely unlistenable, but the fact remains: we know they can do so much better
Still, Coma Ecliptic
is by and large a welcome addition to Between the Buried and Me’s catalog. It’s the band at their most progressive and focused, leaving forced transitions by the wayside (for the most part). Quality-wise, it’s probably in the lower end of their discography but it certainly isn’t a notable leap in either direction. Haters will still hate; fans will eat it up like a big ol’ circus lollipop. Its only defining characteristic is the largely increased presence of Tommy Rogers, which begs the question: now that they’ve traversed the vocal-driven prog route, will the band gear their next album toward discordance and unabashed insanity (it’s slightly hinted at in ‘Life in Velvet’)? Who knows, but with a track record like BtBaM’s, it’s hard to question the band’s judgment. They’ve pumped out enough winners to earn our trust; let’s keep the streak going, boys.