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Album Review: Between the Buried and Me’s Automata II is Bizarre and Beautiful

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Well, well, would you look at the time? It feels like only yesterday we were graced with Automata I, the first part of Between the Buried and Me’s double feature and now it’s time for the conclusion of yet another progressive epic from the masters themselves. In Automata I, we saw the protagonist of the album journeying through different realities that are actually his dreams being broadcast for all to watch as entertainment. At the end of AI, the protagonist wakes up from the system broadcasting the dreams, called the Voice of Trespass, and realizes everything he has experienced was fake. So how does AII follow up? Let’s take a look.

To start off, there should be absolutely no question that AII is damn good. After all, it’s BTBAM. But although it’s a great album, it’s going to take you more time to digest than AI because, to be blunt, AII is fucking bizarre even by progressive metal/BTBAM standards. There is all sorts of stuff I wasn’t expecting on a metal record, such as quick banjo interludes in “The Proverbial Below,” and even some scatting in “Voice of Trespass.” Although the whole point of progressive metal is to you know, progress, I found myself saying ‘what the fuck’ multiple times through my first listen, and then enjoying the seemingly organized randomness of it all in listens after. So this isn’t just copy/paste of any of their other albums or even of AII, it’s a beast of its own nature. Once again, it never ceases to amaze me that even sixteen years later, Between the Buried and Me still find new ways to push themselves into uncharted territory and keep their music fresh.

So even though AII has its bizarre moments — the one’s I mentioned previously, as well as all of “Glide,” which is definitely one of the more out-there songs BTBAM have written — it also continues the heaviness of AI, which will delight anyone who didn’t like the softer, dreamier Coma Ecliptic. I wouldn’t say that it’s quite as heavy as AI, but it still continues musically where it left off. “Voice of Trespass” is easily the highlight of the album, with its use of brass instruments that make it sound like it could be the soundtrack to a Sonic the Hedgehog casino level. I never thought I would be cool with there being scat in a metal song, but leave it to BTBAM to make me enjoy something I’ve hated for my whole life.

As far as the story of the album itself goes, the conclusion is logical with SPOILER ALERT: the protagonist going back into the dreamworld after finding his own version of peace, even though it isn’t real. At least that was my interpretation. However, unlike in past BTBAM albums, the main character doesn’t die this time around, and I believe this is the first time that has ever happened.

So what’s the final word? Just like anything else BTBAM have ever written, Automata II is fantastic. The only issue I have with both parts as a whole is that I’m just not sure that a double album was the right way to do this. Sure, Parallax was a double feature as well, but that was an EP and a 70-minute album, whereas Automata is roughly an hour of music cut in half. Now that both parts are out, this is a non-issue, however, it still just doesn’t make a ton of sense to me as to why BTBAM wouldn’t just release the whole product upfront since their albums are the audio equivalent of cinema. At the end of the day, it felt like getting a cheeseburger and having to wait on the fries and shake. Sure the burger might be the best one you’ve ever had, but the meal still isn’t complete without the rest of the food. If Automata were released as one album, I have no doubt that it would have gotten a perfect score. BTBAM’s music is made to listen to as a whole, rather than separate parts, so if they do a double album again, I hope they do it like Parallax instead.

Automata II drops July 13th via Sumerian. No singles have been released yet, but you catch pre-order here and catch BTBAM on the Summer Slaughter Tour here.

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