Between The Buried And Me

Colors II

Written by: AP on 26/03/2022 23:23:02

In 2007, Between the Buried and Me took the make-or-break decision to realise their long-brewing musical ambitions, come whatever may, sealing a marriage between the extremity and wildness of their early output with their love of classic progressive rock to create “Colors”, now widely regarded as one of the finest prog albums of the modern era. It was the right move, and the group’s repertoire has since swollen into an enviable catalog of heavy, complex and thought provoking music, even if none of the ensuing albums has been able to quite recreate the grandeur of their masterpiece. It was thus seismic news when the Raleigh, NC-based outfit announced last summer, that they would be revisiting the sound, style and concepts surrounding “Colors” on a sequel, the brand new double-opus “Colors II”, and simultaneously unveiled its brazen lead single “Fix the Error”, which enraptured fans and critics alike with its familiar hodgepodge of musical elements that, on paper at least, should not be able to coexist.

But as anyone familiar with the quintet knows, BTBAM are masters of finding links between clashing influences and designing breathtaking musical paradoxes, with the capacity to both thrill and perplex the listener. And where the band’s recent output has been more streamlined, “Colors II” is riddled with the maddest and most unhinged ideas in their playbook — many of them revenants from the album’s natural predecessor that both ensure continuity between the two, and offer long-standing fans a kind of time capsule opening experience that is certain to elicit an amused and impressed, “I see what you did there!”-kind of reaction from them. Amidst the plethora of musical references to the first “Colors” it is perhaps the astounding “Never Seen / Future Shock” that stands out the most, offering its own take on the poignant segment of lounge jazz and raucous saloon acoustics that left listeners swooning over “Ants of the Sky” back in 2007. And to help immortalise the new track in a similar way, it is festooned with its own ludicrous touch in the shape of a flute soliloquy that is guaranteed to tug your face into a knowing smile when it emerges from the song’s dynamic body. Elsewhere, the band reprises the dreamlike croons of “Sleep on… fly on..." from the band’s ever-improving vocalist Tommy Rogers in the end of “Bad Habits”, while the pair “Sfumato” and “Human Is Hell (Another One with Love)” evokes the relationship between “Viridian” and “White Walls”, with especially the main riff in bearing an uncanny resemblance to what many consider to be the best song BTBAM ever wrote.

Yet in spite of the plethora of similarities between these sibling records, it is best not to dwell too long on them lest you’ll decide that “Colors II” is somehow not worthy of its title. Its predecessor made the kind of quantum leap that tends to happen only once in a band’s career, and this fact alone suffices to render “Colors II” into a less important piece of BTBAM’s discography. But the fact that it is not as crucial is not even remotely equivalent to its lagging behind in terms of technical prowess, complexity of the instrumental arrangements, or the forward thinking minds that have been directing their course since… well, since their self-titled début album came out in 2002, really. The aforementioned “Fix the Error” is the perfect example of this: it takes the group’s free-wheeling spirit to the next level by virtue of a jazzy percussion freakout featuring guest drumming from no less than three collaborators (Liquid Tension Experiment’s Mike Portnoy, Entheos’ Navene Koperweis & Ken Schalk, formerly of Candiria) performing alongside the band’s own Blake Richardson and thus emerges as one of the wackiest, perhaps even the wackiest concoction from the minds of these mad geniuses yet. And it is not alone in raising eyebrows, with the sudden rhythm shifts, blinding guitar work, and that funky solo part in “Bad Habits”, not to mention the glistening sheets of psychedelic keyboard in “The Future Is Behind Us”, all producing further spine tingles in the record’s arresting expanse.

The crown jewel on “Colors II” though is the stupendous finale delivered by “Human Is Hell (Another One with Love)”, which sees the five musicians operating at the very apex of their abilities. Its myriad expressions that include eruptions of dizzyingly technical death metal, passages of muted blues, and sweeping, neoclassical bass and guitar solos en masse, render the 15-minute epic every bit as varied and unpredictable as its counterpart “White Walls” on “Colors”, and if you’re not left gasping for breath in its wake, catch me in the bar and I’ll buy you a round, you disaffected f**k. This overwhelming song is also a fine summary of “Colors II” as a whole, distilling all of the compositional ingenuity, unhinged ideas and astonishing skill of musicianship in BTBAM’s arsenal into the sweetest and most enriching quarter of an hour of music you are likely to hear in many years to come. Truly, it provides the perfect ending to an album that will be cherished as an almost equally vital pillar in the evolution of the metal genre as its revered predecessor — not least because it exchanges the fictive themes from that effort for topics much closer to home: the climate emergency, pandemics, and other afflictions visited upon Earth by mankind.

It is quite telling that finding artists similar to BTBAM at this point is nigh impossible — the hallmark of trail blazers — but with a tour de force like “Colors II”, one can only hope they’ll continue to inspire the next generation of metal bands to push the envelope and steer clear of stagnant pools, as they have done for more than two decades now. Few artists ever succeed in creating a veritable magnum opus, and it is even rarer for them to release more than one — but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to claim that “Colors” and “Colors II” represent the unique achievement of two masterpieces in a career that does not even remotely seem to be approaching its twilight any time soon. One shudders to think what treasures these North Carolinians have in store for us still, but for now, I shall bow my head in respect.

Download: Revolution in Limbo, Fix the Error, Never Seen / Future Shock, The Future Is Behind Us, Human Is Hell (Another One with Love)
For the fans of: The Contortionist, Cynic, The Human Abstract, Opeth, Protest the Hero
Listen: Facebook

Release date 20.08.2021
Sumerian Records

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