For Fans Of
There’s something distinctly boring about technical-metal that one feels many metalheads don’t want to admit to it. In the same way that so many men around our fine country actually find the taste of beer really bland, songs devoted to the art of shredding, poly-rhythms, slap bass and synth pads tend to fly over the heads of many, dazzling with their technical skills whilst being somewhat forgettable. The brand new Between The Buried & Me album, ‘Automata I’, is one such case of this.
The latest offering from esteemed North Carolina progressive quintet, Between The Buried & Me, falls squarely into this category. It’s six new blistering chop sessions of proggy tech-thrash (post other potential genre combinations in the comments below), that for the most part, don’t offer anything melodically substantial or musically memorable beyond the band’s insanely good prior works that are now staples of modern progressive music.
See, what this group nailed so effortlessly on first-class records like ‘Colors’ and ‘The Parallax’ or even on some parts with 2016’s ‘Coma Ecliptic’, was their masterful fusion of tight musical bedazzlement that blew your damn mind and their genuinely powerful songwriting that moved both hearts and mountains alike. Here on ‘Automata I’, that’s sadly just not the case.
Truth be told, the build-up to the concluding breakdown of ‘Condemmed To The Gallows’ hits like a rampaging bull, and the quad-based gallop of drummer Blake Richardson on ‘House Organ’ anchors down furious riffage in a way that deserves a real round of applause. However, moments like these are spread far too few and far between on a record that only gives itself half a dozen attempts to draw in the listener, with the album’s instrumental ‘Gold Distance’ clocking in at a timely 60 seconds.
Perhaps the biggest disappointing let-down however with ‘Automata I’ is the lack of prog-experimentation that helps define the genre and challenge fans with each new release. Album closer ‘Blot’ offers the only real sense of a road less travelled in terms of contemporary heavy music (let alone prog), offering up a smattering of sub-continental sitar riff’s to give off a foreign yet haunting feel. Such experimentation, both instrumentally, melodically and structurally helps each individual section of ‘Blot’ stand out – which cannot be said for a majority of this record.
Of notable disappointment is the greater body of ‘Automata I’, with ‘Yellow Eyes’ & ‘Millions’ given the responsibility to keep the listener engaged through the meatier parts of the record. However, both songs meld into one long 25-minute riff fest, sounding more like a music school ‘chop shed’ video, written to merely challenge the musicians playing it as opposed to actually engage the listeners watching on.
Keys player/frontman Tommy Rogers offers little to no contribution throughout these songs, crooning over the occasional arpeggiated ‘softer’ moment, but for the better part of it all, he’s reverting to harmonising along with the duelling guitars. This in and of itself is no mean feat. However, when viewed in their broader body of accomplished songwriting, it feels like an option reverted to due to lack of fresh creative inspiration; a critique which can be applied to this entire record in general, really.
Rather than seeing songs as works to organically develop, a majority of ‘Automata I’ feels like riffs just tacked onto one another, with the occasional breakdown to keep the older purists happy. Beyond that, what makes ‘Automata I’ such a frustrating listen is the fact that we have heard it all before. The odd-time signatures, the sweeps and the sneering vocals feel recycled, re-done and uninspired in an era where more is possible than ever before.
At the end of the day, being a shred lord won’t make you write legitimately good songs, and that really shows on this new Between The Buried & Me LP. Oh well, at least the guitar masterclasses will still be helpful.
- Condemned to the Gallows
- House Organ
- Yellow Eyes
- Gold Distance
‘Automata 1’ is out now via Sumerian Records. Also, this record is just part one? C’mon, just give us the full Automata album together at once and don’t give us this part two BS for the sake of hype and stringing fans along for a few more months.