Between The Buried And Me

Coma Ecliptic

Written by: AP on 18/08/2015 21:25:50

If there is a contemporary band more deserving the label progressive than Raleigh NC's own Between the Buried and Me then speak up, dear reader. Voice your disagreement, for else the shockwaves aroused, the innovations exacted by these gentlemen over the course of their 15-year career stand second to none. Abreast with the likes of Cynic, Opeth and Steven Wilson, the quintet is in the process of defining the future direction of progressive rock and metal, sourcing heavily from the progenitors of those genres (your Pink Floyds, King Crimsons and Yesses), yet resisting the simple allure of idolatry in favour of shaping their own niche and always, always pushing the envelope.

On their eighth studio album now, the leaps taken by the 'Buried since 2001's self-titled maelstrom of grinding cacophony appear clearer than ever on this latest opus "Coma Ecliptic", a much different beast even to its closest predecessors. Vocalist and keyboardist Tommy Rogers, Jr. and his faithful brigade of virtuosos, guitarists Paul Waggoner & Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs and drummer Blake Richardson, have rekindled their interest in writing a sprawling rock opera in the vein of their masterpiece hitherto, 2007's milestone epic "Colors", which to this day stands as one of the most unforgettable records this zine has ever had the pleasure of dissecting. Far from a cheap attempt at reproducing past victories however, the chosen avenue for "Coma Ecliptic" has shed all but the most minute semblances of death metal and grindcore from the palette, placing a greater emphasis on moods and atmospheres that support the record's conceptual framework of a comatose man journeying through his past lives, and facing, on each of the eleven 'episodes', the choice of whether to stay or to move on. In short, "Coma Ecliptic" delivers the band's least metallic, though no less breathtaking moments to date.

To expect the unexpected; this would be the mantra by which "Coma Ecliptic" must be approached. The idea that songs need conform to a specific format with clear cut verses and choruses is to the 'Buried an absurd suggestion, yet remarkably, the vast majority of the tracks here have the haunting characteristics necessary to leave a lasting memory imprint despite their length and complexity. Perhaps it is no coincidence then, that the consummate highlight of the album carries the title "Memory Palace", a bastion of imaginative riffs, abrupt time signature mutations, constantly shifting dynamics and instantly fetching (often onomatopoetic) vocalisations of lyrics such as "Chatter has left me a statue grown, with intentions from my own" and "I did not, I did not want to come back. I did not... Take me back". It is stationed near the conclusion of the record with all the scintillating essence of a climax, but worry not: the eight tracks ahead of it will long since have left your head spinning with the light sensation of euphoria, and marvel.

The intricacy of the underlying ideas is constant and staggering, and brought to fruition with such finesse it would bring a tear to a glass eye. One feels at once overwhelmed and struck by awe, every neuron firing in a concord orchestrated by the ‘Buried, so as to grasp the myriad of stimuli being issued by a monumental composition like “The Coma Machine”. The song is a grand exposition for all of the elements that distinguish Between the Buried and Me: stark contrasts between light and dark, clean and harsh; demonstrations of dizzying bravado counterbalanced by each member’s profound appreciation for when to tone down; and of course a structure and soundscape that ensure the audience remains at the edge of the seat for its entire 07:36-minute duration. It is classic ‘Buried, even if the pendulum now swings more in favour of the band’s 70’s inspirations. Truly, the 'Buried's well earned likenings to Pink Floyd have never felt more relevant.

Listening to Rogers' gentle, artful keying of piano and singing in a soft duet with Waggoner on opening track "Node"; or the tense pulsating synth in "Dim Ignition" which segues so elegantly into the mystery and darkness of "Famine Wolf" with its unforgettably eerie citation of "Grind down, blind taste. Dripping ideas turn against our will, swallow the chosen soul. Human mist rise, sweet devouring teeth are sharpened. Swallow the chosen soul"; or the devious, Mike Patton-esque swagger of "The Ectopic Stroll", one realises that nothing like this ever did, and never will exist again. "Coma Ecliptic" thus represents one of the most expansive and forward thinking metal albums ever written, yet to label it merely as metal would be a gross injustice. It transcends what most modern metal even intellectualises.

The ease with which the five musicians symbiotically move in and out, fission and fuse with one another, seems almost to be inhuman - especially in light of the extreme level of musicianship on display. But this is perhaps the the band's most lethal asset; that despite the individual skills, Between the Buried and Me sound like a single, seamlessly woven entity. This description applies to the music also, as no less perplexing is the group's knack for taking a wealth of divergent ideas and merging them with an artisan's grace. The three-way marriage of gruelling death metal pummel, Opeth-ish heavy prog and serene post-rock which takes place in "King Redeem / Queen Serene" is an excellent example, and the only reason you will not find it listed among the recommended tracks further down is that it would be imprudent to jot down every single song on the album. Indeed, identifying weaknesses on "Coma Ecliptic" becomes an increasingly trying task with each listening session as more and more of the 'Buried's ingenuity is gradually unmasked. The completeness is aptly symbolised by the subtle reprise of "The Coma Machine"'s lead melody in the last track, "Life in Velvet"; the final bow of a magician who knows he or she has succeeded in awing the audience.


Download: The Coma Machine, Famine Wolf, The Ectopic Stroll, Memory Palace
For the fans of: Cynic, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson, Yes
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Release date 10.07.2015
Metal Blade Records

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