Another new album, another new label. Hard to believe it's been almost three years to the date since "Coma Ecliptic" emerged, much less a little more than a decade since the groundbreaking "Colors" album changed the face of prog metal. From 2003-2009, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME was brilliantly generating LPs every two years now, since 2009 however, that interval's been a steady three, starting with "The Great Misdirect". This doesn't include the band's covers album "The Anatomy of..." nor "The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues" EP of 2011. Genius needs longer recovery periods as it matures, naturally.
BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME is no stranger to splitting a grand concept over two releases, using the "Parallax" double act as an example. Why not? It's hip Hollywood manipulation, given the recent "It" remake, much less the final rounds in the "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games" series, all delivered as two-parters. This year comes the band's bisected "Automata" project, the first half clocking in around 35 minutes, its companion part due out in June. "Automata" tells the story of a profiteering entity of the future called the Voice of Trespass, which can broadcast dreams for entertainment value. Of those whose REM images are put out for public consumption, where lies the safety net from intrusion, much less the morality aspect? At face value, let's call this plot "Total Recall" mashed with "Waking Life" and "The Good Night".
The first impression of "Automata Part 1", beyond its intriguing idea, is its heaviness. Having already topped several Billboard charts with "Coma Ecliptic", there's a noticeable liberation to this first installment that encapsulates BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's earlier work with the "Parallax" albums and "Coma Ecliptic". There's not a great deal of surprise to the songwriting on "Automata Part 1" other than a glaring return to ferocity.
"Condemned to the Gallows" is rougher than BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME has been on recent albums while they yet remain prog tinkerers of the highest order. Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr.'s vocals prevail on the harsher side, as do the gruesome riffs. Stamps, grinds and thrashes add to the track's dirge. Of course, the band's members being the brainiacs they are, expect BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's omnipresent rage to carousel through flushes of effervescence. "House Organ" patters with the barely harnessed aggression of "The Silent Circus" and "Alaska" years. Lacerating synthesizers escort "House Organ" through a placid aural trail toward a rumbling finish.
The 8:45 course of "Yellow Eyes" has been similarly mapped before, you can expect scale happy blitzes to emerge from the hardcore hammers, grind sections to flail behind tumbling jazz chops and dizzying prog segues. Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr., who has already established he's out to yelp his fool head off on this album, carries his cleans here snidely.
If "Millions" didn't turn a nutty screw toward the extreme, it would easily be one of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's most accessible tunes. They squeeze the hell out of a four-minute-plus melody while playing at times in the key of VOIVOD, Rogers in some spots yowling in shadow of Denis "Snake" Belanger.
The final ride for this turn comes via the 10:27 "Blot". Paul Waggoner, Dustie Waring and Dan Briggs freeform for a moment until locking in behind Blake Richardson's bulky rhythm with chords so intense Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr. has no choice but to barf all over them. The heavier "Blot" gets, the more flamboyant the progressions grow. Light and dark dimensions force their wills upon each other, creating a dazzling mood collision. Richardson's clapping rim shots tip "Blot" into a blithe room overflowing with prog and soul—think mid-nineties Prince. BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME concludes this chapter by dumping its listeners into a stark tundra where insanity wrestles with equanimity, ultimately forcing the latter into submission.
As the band promises the second part of "Automata" will end on an upbeat note, it's fascinating to ponder what's on the horizon, considering the dominating aggression through "Part I".