Between-the-Buried-and-Me_Coma-EclipticIt’s been three years since North Carolina’s most ambitious prog troupe polished off their Parallax album duo, which means fans will have had time to listen through the past two LPs about twice in total. In the proud tradition of sensu stricto prog rock and metal, Between the Buried and Me have churned out predictably wacky and bombastic rock operas for the past decade and a half and show no sign of slowing down, grounding themselves, or learning how to write songs. If you already love the band, Coma Ecliptic isn’t going to disappoint you, and if you don’t really care for them, prepare for more of the same.

“Node” ushers in the next hour and some change with Thomas Giles’ spooky keys and smooth, if somewhat irksome singing voice. A final burst of loud orchestration and a wide open major scale guitar solo chop it off at three and a half minutes, because of course the band couldn’t possibly put an understated track to disc at this point in their careers. “The Coma Machine” follows with staccato a capella vocals a la Haken, though not nearly as well executed. The album’s concept (which, for those of you who don’t know, can be summed up as ‘a series of helpful fever dreams’) is quite well-executed though; each song certainly has its own personality and even though you can find something to complain about in all of them, there’s also something to enjoy.

BTBAM‘s writing process is woefully intact, still reliant on the spaghetti test of riffage – if it sticks, it’s done. Unlike The Mars Volta, Leprous, or even Haken, the band still has no concept of song structure. The Mars Volta, after penning the intensely aggravating Frances The Mute, eventually went on to release fantastically written songs on Octahedron and Noctourniquet; Haken started out with the somewhat messy and very silly Aquarius and has since cleaned up their act to deliver fantastic songs like “The Cockroach King,” but this band still refuses to entertain the idea of self-editing, and their music still suffers for it. It’s not that there aren’t any good moments on display here; “Turn on the Darkness” has a very fun, noodly chorus that’s stuck on to otherwise boring and self-indulgent sections, and late in the album things become pretty listenable once again.

Between the Buried and Me_2015

As always, instrumental performances are excellent, although somewhat lacking in personality. Giles’ growls are still painfully boring, but don’t show up as much as they did in the band’s early career, and the guitarists do a whole lot of major-scale shredding that’s sadly blunted by the album’s squeaky-clean production. Coma Ecliptic meets expectations at every level.

My continuously mixed feelings about the band haven’t become any clearer with the release of Coma Ecliptic. On one hand, the consistently creative and technically adept group always puts out good albums – that is to say, albums that feel like a unit and have a distinct personality when compared to each other. On the other hand, as the champions of prog in the ’80s sense, most of their songs are terrible. The bulk of the songs on Coma Ecliptic are pretty bad as well, unfocused meanderings filled with pedantic interludes. The album’s few well-executed songs, like “Dim Ignition” and the ending duo of “Option Oblivion” and “Life in Velvet,” which tie in leitmotifs from each other and the rest of the album, are few, short, and far between. Yet the band’s adroit instrumental work and occasional flashes of brilliance keep the LP afloat, and honestly, what more can we expect from the bearers of the Dream Theater torch? Deriding the band for self-indulgence and theater misses the point of their genre, in which these are key elements. Between the Buried and Me have not produced a great album, but I can’t help but grudgingly enjoy it at times. Coma Ecliptic does exactly what’s expected of it and nothing more.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 273 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: BTBAM Official | Facebook.com/BTBAMofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2015.07.07 | NA: 07.10.2015

 

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Fantastic review. Never really understood BTBAM. If there were a ‘Random does not equal funny’ slogan for progressive metal, these guys wholeheartedly did not get the ‘Talent does not equal enjoyable listening experience’ memo. But alas, I can smell the breathe of drooling noodle fans from miles away, no doubt the trend shall continue for years to come

    • mindbleach

      Same. I just don’t get them – technically impressive for sure, but every song just seems like they threw the kitchen sink at it. It’s not like I need every song to go verse-chorus-verse or anything, but every song is so random they all become completely unmemorable.

      The only album of theirs I vaguely like is Colo(u)rs.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    “BTBAM‘s writing process is woefully intact, still reliant on the spaghetti test of riffage – if it sticks, it’s done.”

    This is perfect.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    And here I was thinking Francis the Mute was a good record!

    • Jm from nj

      I second this…loved this album, and thought the song-writing took a nose-dive on “The Bedlam in Goliath”…although I can see why later albums are considered more song-centered.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Yep!
        Tho nose dive is a bit harsh.

    • Kronos

      I love the album, but I also hate it. More on this is coming…

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        interesting!

      • I’m a Mars Volta fanboi and I have pretty much the same relation with almost all of their albums

        • Saw them live. Good band.

    • Atte Loikkanen

      It is! The last song seems to be the one people get stuck up about (core song, a looong jam, core song). The first four are pretty much normal, beautiful songs!

  • fgt

    Ahhh well, can’t agree on everything. I reckon this album is amazing and feels like Colors v2, albeit Tommy basically parading around with vocals and synth the majority of it. Still my AOTY so far. I can’t seem to get into bands like Leprous and Haken but love stuff like NeO and BTBAM. I was hoping this would tickle the AMG teams fancy more, so I’ll just sit quietly subtly nodding and agreeing whilst non regrettably enjoying the fuck out of this.

  • Jm from nj

    This band has done nothing for me since “Colors”, which I adored. I felt their songwriting, even back then, was better than this, more memorable, etc.

    It is, in the end, what you said: a tangled web of riffs strung together, though many of the band’s fans and the band themselves would probably argue that it is consciously created this way.

    I would love to see this band write some 4-6 minute tunes for once.

    • Ywen

      I too believed it, but then I gave Parallax II several good listens. Seriously now I find this album truly awesome.
      It’s the stuff _before_ Colors that I don’t care for. Way too unstructured.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I like the video and song, tho does the video’s strong narrative too easily over shadow the song a bit?
    I’ve neither been a fan of these guys or had issue with them…So this is my view based on this one track.

    It does little to change my position. I admire them for taking a narrative stance and trying to do more than string a few riffs together with mouth noises over the top. But you need to compare apples with apples and i’ll put this up against the new Steven Wilson record .. he sets bench mark and this isn’t there for me. The vocal delivery is great the musicality is top notch…They just need to concentrate on the core material more and they’re straight to the top shelf.

    I think this band need how to hold back a bit and deploy their considerable chops in service of the song or story. It feels a bit like shoe horning the other way. I recommend spending some time with some Tom Waits

  • Steve

    Colors imo is a masterpiece and it’s actually very catchy once you give it a chance. Every album since then has had it’s good share of boring ass songs and parts of songs though and they’ve never hit the same heights and the point about self editing is pretty spot on.

    I can’t really take the review at face value though, because theres obviously a lot of inherent bias against the band and the genre – I don’t get the Dream Theater dig either, they have some self indulgent moments, no doubt, Train of Thought is a really boring, noodle filled album, but on a whole, their songwriting is very “song” orientated. You see reviewers and people on forums doing it so much that it’s become such a lazy point to make, and it’s not even accurate.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I’m with you on never “getting” these guys, Kronos. The only song of theirs I remember somewhat enjoying was “Prequel to the Sequel” but that was years ago and if I remember correctly was basically a techy metalcore song. Great review, “spaghetti test of riffage” is top notch.

  • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

    I can’t help but think that if you can’t discern the structures on this, BTBAM’s most straightforward album, you probably just don’t have the ear for their particular style. I picked up pretty quick on the song structures, but I’m also a fan of the band and found it worth taking the time to try to digest. Their style is pretty scattershot, even on Coma Ecliptic, and I can see why someone might not like it, and I know that like any review this is the opinion of the reviewer. I don’t agree with your opinion, and fortunately it doesn’t have any impact on my enjoyment of the album, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    • fgt

      I would have liked to have said something similar to this, if I wasn’t so tired and could communicate how I feel about the album. BTBAM has always been one of those, you either enjoy it or you don’t, bands to me, with more and more concise listens you get the style. You can’t argue their overall technicality, but song writing I can see the direct disapproval and lack of enjoyment, as you said it’s very scattershot.

      I feel as if (don’t crucify me) but BTBAM are one to add subtle avant-garde aspects to their music, through the likes of Bungle and even odd odd time signatures. I’m going to be bias as all hell as well considering Bungle was the first band that awed me and I related BTBAM to them…. somehow.

      • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

        There’s definitely a Mr. Bungle influence to their music, especially on Coma Ecliptic. And they’re definitely an acquired taste, like a lot of more challenging bands.

        • This. I didn’t start out as a BtBaM fan either but eventually after tasting “Alaska” and then discovering “Colors” it all just clicked.

          • fgt

            I started listening just after TGM and fell in love. I guess it’s just because they are more unorthodox prog. Like you can flow rather nicely from Opeth to Tool to Soen rather easily, but BTBAM seems to change things up a little in regards to experimentation. Although I do agree AMG saying they write song stubs, personally I think it works wonders for their particular take on music.

          • I agree. I think if they were classified as avantgarde that might change a few folks frame of reference. But this album rocks through and through…its basically the Giles stuff (Rogers solo project, check that out as well) injected into the core BtBaM schizoid song writing architecture.

          • fgt

            Just change the name to progressive experimental jazztechcore or something. I’ve just described them as experimental to mates or people as they can expect a different band. I also love Tommy’s solo stuff, couldn’t pass that stuff up if I tired.

    • I think the issue with BtBaM is that they don’t write songs. They link riffs, they write song-stubs and make them into linked collages. And I guess that’s OK, but it’s their biggest weakness. I’ve never been a huge fan because of that. I know that this album is more straight forward, generally speaking, but it still is their biggest problem.

      • Thatguy

        You have summed up my opinion AMG

        It is interesting how much passionate support these guys are getting here – their music to me is entirely passionless

        Anyway, I just wanted to register that I find BtBaM bombastic and boring

        • Two words: they’re prog.

          • Thatguy

            Ha!

            Good one, Captain

            And they are the new Dream Theatre and just as pointless – and I feel better for having said it

          • Dream Theater don’t even try anymore. BtBaM, on the other hand, actually try to put out an album that they feel is a landmark for them and that is exactly what we need today in the metal and prog community. So, in that case, I praise BtBaM for actually trying something new, putting work into an album, and most of all, making an amazing concept album.

      • Nillionaire

        Very disappointing review AMG. They are eclectically talented. I feel like your slightly biased against loosely structured prog music. They’re music has depth that takes more than one go around. It’s like saying Meshuggah sucks cause they’re djent. A 2.5 does not do justice for the material on the album.

        • Thatguy

          Meshuggah ain’t djent

          • Nillionaire

            Well they invented it as far as the Internet is concerned.

      • Professor D. Grover the XIIIth

        This is true at times, but not as much on this album, which is definitely their most cohesive album to date. Their song structures tend to be pretty convoluted, and that is still the case here, but after a few listens I was able to pick up on most of the basic structures pretty easily.

        • I have only heard bits and pieces of this album, so I can’t speak to it. But I’m just saying that traditionally that’s been my impression.

      • Yeah , Gentle Giant maybe had the same problem, thus they have timeless albums and they held the flag for progressive genre.

  • Tim M

    Colors was a revelation for me back in ’07 and the last two Parallax offerings are my favourite output of theirs. This Coma Machine taster, however, leaves me cold and disappointed. It’s meandering, consisting almost exclusively of regurgitating motifs from their previous albums. Really hope that the other tracks on the album change my view.

  • Jose Barajas

    I really appreciate that you don’t like what this band puts out and aren’t afraid to say so. The unfortunate problem whenever I talk to anyone about this band is the majority of people like them, and vehemently so, and whenever I say anything negative I’m Always met with harsh comments akin to the likes of ” why don’t you just listen to motionless in white instead you fag.”

    I liked this band up until the Great Misdirect. I love Colors and think it’s their only good album because they manage to have songs that seem finished or at least an ending. The heaviness is there and it sounds like a metal record with some weirdness and prog thrown in. Every album after seems just like.. I don’t even know how to describe it but a mess of instrumentation and too much weirdness to be fun to listen to.

    I saw them live about a two years ago and it’s impossible to mosh to their set. Whenever they do their old Colors era and before stuff, it’s fun because it’s metal and hardcore. Then They do a newer song and it’s just twenty minutes of standing around and watching their super fans just sing all the words.

    I gave this new CD a listen before I bought it and it didn’t stand out at all. Their last CD was a chore to listen to and have only listened to it maybe twice

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Ha, I saw them live some years back at a fest and it was about the same experience. Halfway through their set 3/4 of the crowd (myself included) was over by the other stage watching Kataklysm set up and soundcheck. Those guys know how to put on a show.

  • Ryndan Riley

    I think you overstated how often they miss the mark on song structure. I agree that more often than not they meander without real direction, but there are 2 to 4 songs on each album that I think are focused and solid. For example the great misdirect had desert of song, the first song, most of that weird song message from cloud mountain or whatever. Even ants of the sky from colors is pretty solidly written all the way through. But the vocals miss the mark through most of that song.

    • Kronos

      2-4 songs on each album is between ~15 and ~40 percent of the songs on a BTBAM album. If less than half of an album is good, it’s a bad album.

      • Ryndan Riley

        Congratulations sir, you managed to makr an entire comment that had nothing to do with what I was talking about.

      • Ryndan Riley

        But that wasn’t the argument of the article. The article made it sound like all of their songs are meandering, and they’re not. There are a few more focused songs on each album. It’s not like they’re all just random riffs linked together. 20% is a pretty big percent for deviance when youre trying to claim a hard rule. Obviously it’s not that they just can’t or don’t write focused songs since, occasionally, they do.

  • My review:

    I spinned this record just one time.
    It isn’t better than Colors.
    It’s ok.
    I can spin it twice. They’ve improved in their narrative in the songs. Kudos for that.
    I’m enjoying my weekend and I’m eating cooked plantains with butter and mozarella cheese.
    Happy Venezuelan Independence Day, I’m going full nationalistic playing WoW.

    -LL

    • This is better than Colors. Not better than Parallax II though.(Parallax II is my favorite of theirs, if you couldn’t tell.)

  • Welp. This is disappointing.

  • sui

    As much as I loved their last album, which I still think is cohesive in its own right, I agree with this review for the most part. Not bad but not exactly great. Alkaloid’s album probably remains my fav prog release this year, with Wilderun, Kingcrow and Imperial Triumphant (if you consider them having a rather intense prog aspect) on the rise.

  • I really dig this record and I get a sense from the review Kronos, you (as well as other AMG staffers) aren’t just big fans of this band in general. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    Btw, Colors in my humble opinion is still a prog metal masterpiece…

    • Kronos

      I’m not a huge fan of the band, but I would have probably given the last record from them a 3.5. I still go back to it every so often, but I really can’t see myself listening to this much in the future.

      • I do find it fascinating how BtBaM garners these polar opposite reactions from both mainstream media and fans a like.

        • Kronos

          They sure do get around.

  • sssgadget

    Interesting review.

  • Noobhammer

    As a fan of these guys since their first self titled, I can honestly say my patience for them has gotten less and less. While I give all their albums a few spins, the more recent the release, the less it gets spun as time marches on.

    For me, their best album, combining musicianship, writing, and just all around greatness will always be Alaska. That album just had everything.

  • Ben Armströöng

    Personally I think the point you make about song stubs is their biggest strength rather than a weakness. Each album expands upon elements of a story in isolation so it makes sense that things flit around. They’re after a vibe rather than writing traditionally tidy songs.

  • Ben Armströöng

    Also your stab at them cutting Node short because they ‘can’t put an understated track to disc’ – let me refer you to Desert of Song and Mirrors. I’m a bit critical of the record too but this screams ‘i dont like them’ rather than offering much in the way of helpful insight.

  • Óðinn

    Thanks for the review Kronos. This album rates higher for me, but I appreciate your opinion and review.

  • Tom Fitzgerald

    I find it interesting that so many people just don’t have the ear for BTBAM and others (myself included) obsess over them. To me, no band compares to BTBAM. I love the sudden surprises at every corner, never settling on one pattern long enough to become dull. I feel like, in order to truly enjoy their music, you really have to dive in; one listen is never enough. My first go around with this album I felt sort of disappointed because it was so different from my expectations. This album is definitely a step out of their usual style but I am starting to dig it.

    Overall, I think the review above is pretty terrible, written by a listener who simply just doesn’t get it (yes, I know everyone is entitled to their opinion. here is mine)

    • Tom… several listens to something that is not made for you, will not make it work. The structure is meant to be constantly changing and if your brain enjoys that then you enjoy the music , if your brain needs consistent flow and clear patterns, then this music is not for you (meaning the listener).

      I am totally enjoying the new album, every track in it.

  • Dan

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with this review and the comments about them not being able to write songs. I know it’s technical and it’s showy on the surface, but there’s some really meaty song structures in their work. It may not be apparent on the first few listens and it’s generally not “catchy”, but when you give it the time, and you really discover what the songs are all about, it’s an amazing experience. Every spin of this record gets better, it’s a really great work. I don’t know if I’d say it’s their best, but it certainly deserves much higher than a 2.5

  • Barry Neilson

    I personally love the album. I’ve enjoyed BtBAM since Alaska (couldn’t get into their first two records), and I’d say this one finally gives Colors a run for its money. I actually think this album feels a lot more structured than their previous works, with more repeating parts etc. Cannot wait to see them with Haken in London in a couple of months. That’s going to be one sweet gig.

  • So your expecting ballads with simple structures and consistency in an album that discusses the chaos of coma…

    This is what the band is representing… It is chaotic in the best artistic way.
    Strangely this album gets higher ratings on “Prog” related websites.(I will not mention examples, I am not here to spam.)

    • Kronos

      I’m not expecting ballads or simple structures, I’m expecting structures in which pieces actually fit together. Between the Buried and Me have the problem that, even if their songs are structurally simple (verse, chorus, bridge, etc), the individual pieces are cobbled together and lack a lot of continuity. I don’t hate everything the band has done; I like Colors and the previous album, but the group either doesn’t edit or doesn’t ever stop their writing process, so you get songs with everything thrown in instead of focused songs.

  • Ywen

    “the guitarists do a whole lot of major-scale shredding that’s sadly blunted by the album’s squeaky-clean production”
    Seriously, why? That’s a very gratuitous comment, I think. BTBAM’s production is excellent, and they’re not the type who want a mushy sound.