Review Summary: Musically adventurous, technically superb.
After a four-month gap, Between the Buried and Me have returned with the second half of their double-album Automata
. Much like Part I, it’s a refinement of the style they’ve been pursuing since The Great Misdirect
. This time, ‘70s prog influences take center stage, pushing metalcore to the side almost entirely (there’s not a single traditional breakdown on the album), and it’s largely to the band’s benefit. BtBaM’s penchant for experimentation has always been their greatest asset, and on Automata II
especially, it feels like that experimentation has solidified itself into part of the progressive mold. There’s no longer a sense of “the polka part” or “the circus part” in songs that are comparatively grounded. Now, every song has direction and purpose, and it just so happens that they’re also musically excellent.
begins with “The Proverbial Bellow”, a 13-minute long prog extravaganza, pure and simple. It plays like a cross between Dream Theater
and Pink Floyd
, fit with off-kilter melodic riffs, soothing synth sections, tight instrumentation, and a simple, tender chorus that serves as the foundation for an otherwise structurally chaotic song. It’s not too over-the-top either, so even casual listeners may be inclined to stay on course until the end. “Glide” is the token Mr. Bungle homage, though it functions as little more than a glorified intro to “Voice of Trespass”. It could have worked well as a fleshed out, “Bloom”-esque silly track, but at a mere 2 minutes, it’s simply too short to gain any momentum.
“Voice of Trespass” is the clear standout here. It’s BtBaM doing their best big band impression, horns and all, through a heavy metal filter, and it works wonderfully. It features jazz staples such as a swing beat, a walking bass line, and a brief solo-jam session of every member trading fours with Tommy scatting in between like a drunken stage performer – it’s a blast. Then four minutes into the song, it shifts gears to a darker, brooding atmosphere before building to a grandiose climax. While it’s not their smoothest transition, both halves of the track are terrific in their own right and epitomize everything that makes BtBaM great. Finally, “The Grid” calmly wraps up the 33-minute journey with a neat bow, though it probably won’t go down as one of the band’s best closers.
accomplishes exactly what it sets out to. BtBaM continues to do their own thing, trekking along the progressive route and learning some lessons on the way. A minor complaint would be that this doesn’t quite hold up as a single album. Unlike Part I, which had some semblance of finality despite “Blot”’s abrupt ending, Automata II
relies heavily on the first half to prop it up. Even at face value, this is a technically superb, musically adventurous release from a band known for technically superb, musically adventurous releases. If you’re a prog fan jonesing for a fix, Automata
will surely fill that void.