For Fans Of
Between the Buried and Me is a truly remarkable band that might not ever see the mainstream success of other groups; nor does it bother them. They are genuinely, wholeheartedly living to craft thoughtful, technically driven ear candy for their faithful fan base. I had the privilege of meeting guitarist Paul Waggoner a couple of years back when they were touring for Colors, and he was the most humble musician I’d the pleasure of meeting – he could only express gratitude for us, his fans. Qualities like this establish BTBAM as ‘the people’s band.’
The bands shift to Metal Blade from Victory Records has produced an unfortunate by-product, however. I’ll say this right now – bands like Between the Buried and Me are not meant for compilations; their music doesn’t, at all, lend itself to the notion of a ‘best of’ record. Each of their records, from their self-titled right up to The Great Misdirect, are experiences intricately sharpened to be appreciated in isolation. Hacking the albums up to glue together a Frankenstein of their work doesn’t, in any way, do the band justice.
I have to doubt the guys in BTBAM entertained any idea of putting out a ‘best of’ record, it doesn’t seem their style. In my gut, I feel this is a shameful cash-in by Victory Records as they attempt to milk the last drops they can from the band as they depart for greener pastures. They even try to dress it up as a “must have for BTBAM fans” – please, what an insult. Any BTBAM fan will have already lined your pockets, guys.
The hardest step in releasing a ‘best of’ is deciding what tracks to include. Victory has picked apart just about everything at their disposal, from The Silent Circus up until The Great Misdirect. Admittedly, each of the tracks they’ve picked is brilliance – though, while they could be appreciated for what they are, without the context of the record, and the supporting songs, it just isn’t quite the same. Cohesion is essential in appreciating Between the Buried and Me, and while the tracks are in chronological order of release, it lacks a certain flow. To polish this turd, so to speak, Victory have packaged in five exclusive live tracks never released before. Naturally, in BTBAM fashion, they’re sublime and near-perfect performances but it hardly justifies what is an errant album release.
The selection of songs does well in showcasing the band’s diverse skill set. BTBAM have an uncanny ability to meld beauty and the beast together seamlessly, as the opening track “Mordecai” demonstrates. The first half of the track is a brutal beyond belief, and then out of nowhere a gorgeous clean bridge leads into a smooth jazz solo that, funnily enough, doesn’t seem weird at all. I can’t speak highly enough of vocalist and keyboardist Tommy Rogers. He’s a robot in disguise, I’m sure of it. No man should be able to death growl like he does and then still have a singing voice so pure – he is a special talent.
Other chosen tracks like “Prequel to the Sequel” throw prodigy drummer Blake Richardson to the frontline as crushes it in style. “Viridian”, a short interlude track from Colors, does likewise for Dan Briggs whose bass work tends to drift below the radar, which is unjust as he is undoubtedly one of the best out there. Then you have the track “White Walls”, arguably their masterwork, which really acts as a vessel for the band to portray their immense talents – more specifically, guitarists Dustie Waring and Paul Waggoner whose trade-off soloing in the endgame of the fourteen minute monster will melt the face off of even the most hardened metal enthusiasts.
I’m torn between my admiration for Between the Buried and Me and the obvious abuse of their talents, in forcing an unnecessary ‘best of’ CD. It’s hard to grasp this being a “must have” for BTBAM fans – I think it is more a case of a must sell for Victory Records. If you wish to support the guys, then respect them enough to buy any of their albums, and listen in full. You’ll lose yourself, even if for an hour.
For the rest of us ready-made BTBAM fans, I suggest we kick our feet up, chuck Colors on the stereo and while away the hours until the genius of this band releases The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues next month. Which, for the record, is a must have for fans.
2. Ad a Dglgmut
4. Shevanel, Take 2
6. Selkies (The Endless Obsession)
7. All Bodies
8. Backwards Marathon
9. Foam Born (A) The Backtrack
10. Foam Born (B) Decade of Statues
11. Prequel to the Sequel
13. White Walls
16. Mordecai [Live]
17. Shevanel Cut A Flip [Live]
18. Backwards Marathon [Live]
19. Ad a Dglgmut [Live]
20. Selkies (The Endless Obsession) [Live]