Review Summary: An impressive first half, and even more impressive return to form for North Carolina's Between The Buried And Me.
After the band's rock opera affair in Coma Ecliptic
, which was good (if a little dense at around 70-minutes) the band announced their signing with Sumerian Records, who have shown to champion many progressive metal acts in recent years, and with it, the announcement of the band's first two-part album; Automata
'Condemned To The Gallows' opens with ominous guitar picking and keyboard whirrs before kicking things up to eleven less than a minute in with Tommy Rogers signature screams and growls making a triumphant return after having been reigned in on previous releases. Automata
may showcase Rogers at his most versatile - 'Yellow Eyes' stands tall as a project highlight, slick riffs dance as Rogers croons "Yellooowww", accentuated by the record's spiralling forward momentum which could all fit quite snugly amidst The Great Misdirect
era of their career.
Despite their recent progressive leanings, Between The Buried And Me have always had a firm foot planted in the world of the heavy, yet it certainly feels like they've doubled down in this regard. To describe Paul Waggoner's riffs as sounding heavier is likely a faux pas, but; meatier? Gutsier perhaps? It feels as if the band has caught themselves in midst of a creative updraft, so while there are many uplifting guitar solos similar to those that escalated the likes of Colors
into more progressive numbers, truthfully it feels like the band has returned to their roots somewhat.
Despite aforementioned sonic heaviness, there's just as much in the way of experimentation as there is restraint demonstrated here. 'Millions' takes a more fastidious melodic approach to the band's song structure whereas 'Blot' is the signature progressive powerhouse of the album before it deliberately pulls the plug right as it hits its climax. It's hard not to draw parallel to when the band celebrated their jump from Victory Records to Metal Blade with their first ever EP, which would go on to be a precursor to the band's monstrous Future Sequence
album, their longest record to date. This known, it can be hard to judge a BTBAM project with a subsequent piece missing.
Moreover, veterans might feel a little short-changed at just 36 minutes, especially considering just how lengthy some of the group's previous work can be. It feels a little gimmicky to divide up what would be the normal length of a band's studio album into two shorter halves, but most of the band's work comes highly conceptual, so if anything, this should appeal to those looking for a more accessible foray into their catalogue.
Regardless, Automata I
is an exceptional return to form - especially for those that found their previous full-lengths to be a little too bombastic and overwhelming. It's perhaps not as exploratory as some of the band's older efforts, but there's plenty of effortless sounding technical wonder that's sure to satiate fans appetite until we get to hear the concluding instalment. Between The Buried And Me are certainly no strangers when it comes to stretching their canvas - only this time, they've sawed it in half.
Dre’s Top Three:
Condemned To The Gallows