American progressive metallers, Between the Buried and Me, have released the second part of their two album concept in Automata II. The first part, Automata I, came out in March this year and was an album I really enjoyed for it’s creativity and strong story mixed with powerful, sombre and melodic music.
Between the Buried and Me have long been known for their extreme capability in creating music that is full of variety, brimming with ideas yet still heavy. Having expectations like that against each release haven’t deterred the band though their creativity almost comes at detriment to the band now. Every time they release anything we absolutely expect it to be all of those things to the point where it is now almost predictable. I don’t mean that as a dig at the band, it is purely my opinion in that the only way these guys could surprise me now is if they put out a release that was standard, using regular time signatures and structures.
Between the Buried and Me are Tommy Giles Rogers Jr on vocals and keyboards with Paul Waggoner on lead guitar and also adding vocals. Dustie Waring is on rhythm guitar and the bass sits with Dan Brigs, again, who also adds backing vocals. Finally, on the drums we have Blake Richardson.
You can read our thoughts on that first release, Automata I, here. One of the few faults I had with it were the length, at just 6 tracks and 35 minutes, it felt like half of an album rather than a two part. With Automata II now being released, as of the 13th of July, that is really confirmed. At just over 30 minutes and with only 4 tracks on it, it seems the decision was likely made to split one album into two, rather than actually create two separate albums. In regards to length, Automata II is more of an EP than a full album.
The concept of the album is a futuristic setting where one man’s dreams are broadcast for the entertainment of the public. The broadcaster is known as Voice of Trespass and while, the dreams are just that, for the man, like all dreams they feel very real.
Automata II starts us off where we left of and with a huge song called The Proverbial Bellow which is over 13 minutes in length. It starts off fairly typically with a thick riff being laid down. Over the top of this comes weaved webs of lead guitar lines. It breaks down into a gentle melody before picking back up into the speedy riffing and soloing. All this ends with the crash of drums, feeling like the end of a song but really it is just the end of the intro as we move now into a hauntingly sung, soft section with melancholy keys and lots of echo. Muffled drums tap along as the same line gets repeated “I am I, What is this?
That soon leads into a heavier section with speedy drums and snarled vocals before entering into a proggy chorus. From then we move into sections that are full of lead guitar wonder and bass heavy riffs. Heavy vocals lead into echoed, cleans. The drums switch up timing and power from gentle taps to blistering blast beats as you go on a journey with the band.
Glide is the second track and is very different to the first. In length, it is a fraction of the time at just over 2 minutes in length and it acts as more of an intro to the third song, Voice of Trespass. Glide is basically a theatrical piece mixing cabaret/fairground carousel styled music with a sombre keyboard melody before some softly sung vocals join in, though still holding the theatrical edge, transporting you to a stage show.
Glide leads directly into the completely bonkers, but clever, Voice of Trespass. Voice of Trespass is an 8 minute example of everything Between the Buried and Me have become known for, though with the heaviness turned down, I guess. The start of it is a bit jazz like but mixed with metal tones and sounds interesting, a little confusing but addictive. Imagine one of those smoky jazz clubs in Chicago, back in the prohibition days and that is what I picture, jazz hands and all. The vocals are delivered theatrically with quick picked melody and big sounding brass backing. The tracks switches up as it goes, keeping the jazzy elements but the vocals get heavier and the drums get louder before we head into a brutal section with furious riffing and growled vocals. A huge instrumental section follows with a dreamy guitar solo before the song closes.
The final track of the 4 is another large one, called The Grid, at just under 10 minutes long. It starts with a synth backed guitar intro that leads into a heavy verse with off beat drumming and a thick bass line. This leads into a cleaner section. These two styles alternate for a large part of the song, occasionally punctuated by a soaring solo or melodic keyboard melody. Nearing the end, the music fades into a stand alone acoustic guitar which is soon joined by the repeated line “We are in this together”. This line is repeated pretty much through to the end, closing the story as powerfully sombre lead guitars spiral through different tones.
Automata II is another fine example of Between the Buried and Me pushing boundaries and progressing genres. I don’t think it is as strong as Automata I but it is still a fine album. I really like the concept but think it is diluted by the fact it is split in two. You really have to go back and listen to the first again to get a sense of the complete story. There are moments within songs where the creativity almost turns to a mess. Generally it is pulled back from the brink before it becomes a problem. Automata II is a very intriguing listen with expert musicianship on show mixed with a tremendous array of ideas. Solid stuff. Maybe not for everyone but you have to listen to it to find out right?
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Automata II is out now and can be picked up at any of your preferred streaming platforms, like Spotify and Apple Music from here. You can grab a physical copy from Sumerian here. Keep up to date with news from Between the Buried and Me at their website, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Automata II by Between the Buried and Me (Sumerian Records)
The Final Score - 8/10