It’s been sixteen years since American progressive metal crew Between The Buried And Me released their self-titled debut record, and ever since it has been impossible to garner exactly which direction they appear to be heading towards. What can be determined, however, is that the quality of what they do appears to be on a never-ending upwards trajectory.
The fact they have chosen to split release double album ‘Automata’ over six months into parts ‘I’ and ‘II’, their eight (and technically ninth) studio record, is a slightly puzzling one, as both components added together come in at a run rate that is less than some of their singular album releases. However, both records are stacked full of quality and so this is really only a minor point.
‘Automata I’ is definitely the more accessible of the two sides, with a loose concept that evolves around the idea and impact of dreams. ‘Condemned To The Gallows’ contains black metal blast beats with a lightly tinkling keyboard overtone in various sections, while Tommy Rogers‘ peaceful vocals intersperse with some tremendously groovy guitar riffing. The band turn into full Deftones worship mode towards the end of the track with a really anthemic and harmonised vocal delivery.
‘House Organ’ has a very gothic sounding atmosphere (the clue is in the name) and is incredibly chilled in the midsection, whilst ‘Millions’ starts with a gentle guitar introduction and simple bass line before some ethereal vocals arrive to add another layer.
Album closer ‘Blot’ is a ten minute plus journey of groovy guitar riffs, erratic keyboard playing, and a distinct abundance of electronic-influenced synths. The song has a very sci-fi edge, a large melodic slant throughout, and is one of the most technical tracks on the record. All in all, an extremely satisfactory conclusion to the first part of this release.
‘Automata II’ kicks off with stupendously lengthy ‘The Proverbial Bellow’, compiling pretty much everything you can think of within the progressive metal sphere into its 13-minute length. Sounding similar to the work of Periphery but leaning on some seriously hooky Dream Theater vibes at certain times, groove-laden guitar riffs build the song across the opening three minutes before the vocals kick in.
‘Glide’ delivers a joyful tone merging circus-type fanfare with early 90s video game music before ‘Voice Of Trespass’ continues the playful atmosphere with a specific guitar hook that’ll stick in your brain for weeks (you’ll know it when you hear it). The whole thing sounds very Devin Townsend-esque, and shows just how many strings the band now have to their bow.
The fact that ‘Automata I’ is a bit more accessible makes it the slightly stronger of the two albums, but regardless of that you’re still going to have to take several listens to get under the skin of the music – a standard for Between The Buried And Me‘s catalogue as a whole. The beauty of repeated listens combined with its complex nature is that you’ll find something new to love with each spin, culminating in a grander feeling towards the record(s).
After getting into alternative music during the mid 90s with the rise of nu-metal and pop-punk, I’ve gradually spread my interests far and wide and have a real love for metalcore, prog metal and tech metal. Amongst other things, I am a husband, father of two amazing kids, heavy metal DJ, and video game/book/nerd enthusiast!