Review Summary: Takes a few listens to sink in, but once it does, it's catchy and captivating.October 13th, 2015: We are temporarily re-featuring this review in tribute to its author, Daniel Davis (known to all here as paradox1216), who lost his long battle with cancer today. Stay tuned for a blog post from some of the staff writers who have banded together to honor his memory. Daniel's enthusiasm and good spirit will be sorely missed here.
Between the Buried and Me has a band that has been showered in praise and admiration ever since the 2007 release of their breakthrough album, Colors
. They’ve made every effort to incorporate classic forms of progressive rock into their music since then, taking the prog ideas explored in Colors
to their logical extreme with The Great Misdirect
before returning to a slightly heavier sound with The Parallax
EP and its LP follow up (which were still heavily progressive and drew comparisons to bands like Dream Theater). The Parallax II: Future Sequence
was the band’s most coherent and most cohesive release to date, but it was obvious where the band was headed – towards even more experimentation, leaving their metalcore roots further in the dust. When the band announced their next album would be a “rock opera”, this was pretty much confirmed, and the single showcased a BTBAM that had left most traces of their death metal sound behind in favor of full-on progressive rock/metal. Does this new direction work out for the band, or should they have stuck to riffing and screams?
Truth be told, with the direction the band has been heading in recent years, Coma Ecliptic
doesn’t feel like a much different listening experience than any other post-Colors
release. It does take some getting used to – the songs are built more around memorable melodies than actual riffs, although there are some sick ones to be found in songs like “Famine Wolf” and “Turn on the Darkness”, which also happen to be album highlights. But the album structure (and those of the songs found within) is extremely similar to the one found on Future Sequence
, and if you felt right at home there then this shouldn’t feel like a leap at all, despite the superficial differences in sound. Songs still have choruses that ground them even as they fly about in all directions, there are still motifs that repeat themselves throughout the album in ways that fit in perfectly with the songs in question, and the album is still presented as one long piece with songs that flow directly into each other.
The album’s concept/story is thankfully much more coherent than what we got on the Parallax
records, although the individual lyrics still don’t do much to help you understand what’s happening. The album is about a patient who enters a coma and begins to float through what appears to be his past lives. One cool song that appears to serve the story is “The Ectopic Stroll”, which appears to be a conversation between the main character and a wise, eccentric old doctor whom the main character wishes to help him in his struggle to understand what’s happening. The song bounces schizophrenically between a bouncy riff based on a jagged piano part that starts the song and a part with a faster, straight rhythm that’s supposed to represent the desperateness of the protagonist. It’s a cool musical way to express the story that doesn’t compromise the song, and makes this release stick out from albums that are conceptual in lyrics only.
The sheer amount of instrumental talent that’s in Between the Buried and Me should go without saying by now, but it’ll be said anyway – this album showcases musicians that are at the absolute top of their respective instruments. It’s less obvious here though; the toned-down nature of the music means that everyone gets less of a chance to show off, except for lead vocalist Tommy Rogers, who gets to sing much more than on previous endeavors. This ends up being refreshing though, and for people who thought the band always bogged themselves down in needlessly complex rhythms and riffs, it should allow them to appreciate the music even more. Engineering is once again handled by longtime collaborator Jamie King, and the mixing and mastering were done by Jens Borgen, resulting in a well-produced album that brings out the best in BTBAM’s sound.
is an album that takes the basic approach and structures of the band’s previous album and applies a different aesthetic to it, resulting in a release that manages to be fairly experimental while still keeping all of the refinement and polish the band has developed over the years. On paper, it’s less heavy and more focused on melody, but in practice you’ll really just feel like you’re listening to more modern-era Between the Buried and Me. Whether or not that’s your cup of tea is something you’ve probably figured out by now, but if you haven’t, give this a listen if you’re into progressive metal. Like all of their albums, Coma Ecliptic
takes a few listens to sink in, but once it does, it’s catchy and captivating.