BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME’S PSEUDO-RETURN TO FORM ON
THE PARALLAX II: FUTURE SEQUENCE
“This music is full of shit! … It’s like saying, “Wow, you know what? I love American cheese. And gin! And crab dip! I also love chocolate, too! Come to think of it, I like sniffing Sharpie markers as well!” So there you are, that’s how it happens. You’re writing your wanky inaccessible garbage music, eating/drinking your cheesy-chocolate-crab dip gin, and sniffing markers like a goddamned fool.”
It’s very rare that I come across anything in the wacky and deluded world of metal criticism that is enlightening, or, at the very least, makes me laugh. Drew Ailes of MetalReview.com did both in his lukewarm but wonderfully written review of Between the Buried and Me’s landmark album Alaska.
I’ve gotta say, for the most part, I enjoyed that record quite a bit; a little all over the place? Sure. But the ever-shifting blur of styles kept things consistently interesting across its relatively manageable 53-minute duration, especially compared to the blah-core garbage that infested the metal world in 2005. “Selkies…” is the kind of song any metal head should love; 7 minutes of brilliance, right there, but I digress.
Given the clear state of distress Mr. Ailes found himself in upon listening to Alaska, I can only imagine the barbecued hummus and cigarette bud casserole he probably thought of the band’s last LP, The Great Misdirect. I’d been along for the ride for most of Between the Buried and Me’s career, but at that point I felt that they had finally lost me. Somewhere between the acclaimed Colors and its successor the group had decided that they weren’t just going to be a deathcore band with some nifty prog flourishes, but the catch-all Dream Theater and Mr. Bungle of the -core world. Whatever you may think of those acts, the last thing the world needs is another version of either. BTBAM had truly devolved into the bloated, obtuse fiend Ailes had accused them of being. I found myself gradually losing interest in them altogether and seeking out bands like The Contortionist, Last Chance to Reason, and The Faceless that took the strongest and most memorable aspects of their sound and created pithy songs that you could easily listen to without clearing your schedule.
It seems I wasn’t the only person who felt that way because the work that followed The Great Misdirect all but abandoned those impenetrable excesses and boiled the band’s sound back down to the simplest and best elements, and even better: just a half hour of good music. The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues was billed as a prelude to the real deal to come, a twelve track opus. Would the work that followed be the, dare I say it, “tasteful” return to form BTBAM moderates had been yearning for?
Two tracks in and I was already dreading writing this review. Beginning in the same fashion as the last two albums, we have the obligatory minute and a half acoustic pop intro that gives way to the unsurprising swirl of sweeps and arbitrary starts and stops and starts and loopdy-loops. More of the same. But, as I had to, I pressed on and I’m glad I did. The Parallax II: Future Sequence contains some of the best songs the group has written in years.
At 73-minutes, The Parallax II is anything but brief. Five of the album’s twelve tracks are what you might call “fillers,” and the two shorter songs don’t really stand on their own, yet amidst its five 10-minute-and-beyond tracks, the real meat of the album, the band shows that they still have a lot left to say. It’s clear that this is still the same BTBAM of old but now with a cleaner and more listenable approach to their unwieldy sound. All the quirks are still there, just less obnoxious and better integrated.
I’m probably not smart enough to understand the concept at work, but rest assured, it’s really progressive. Transcendent meaning or not, by my third listen these five tracks all began to register. “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” might as well be track one. Beginning with a furious staccato-stuttering chug pattern with some of Tommy Rogers’ most impressive gutturals to date, the tune lays waste to all that came before it only seconds in. Thankfully there’s a lot more to the song than that, too.
Fittingly, it’s the more conventional album tracks where the band succeeds most. “Extremophile Elite” and “Melting City” actually have catchy choruses that repeat more than once every seven-minutes and “Telos” is a ten-minute thrash-fest that sets the tech-wizardry aside to deliver a buttload of riffy awesomeness. And the penultimate track, “Silent Flight Parliament,” succeeds exactly where The Great Misdirect‘s “Swim to the Moon” failed, bringing the record to a theatrical and emotionally-charged climax without letting the players’ skill get in the way of creating a memorable song.
The Parallax II: Future Sequence will not convince you that BTBAM are not overrated or pretentious, but if you’ve been on the fence about them because of their recent output I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the alluring package necessary to rekindle the flame. I can’t say crab, cheese, gin, and chocolate sound all that appealing, but French fries sure are tasty when you dip them in the frosty and The Parallax II is one crunchy, creamy, greasy delight.