Between The Buried And Me

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author AP date 26/09/19 venue Lille VEGA, Copenhagen, DEN

It is no secret that I count Between the Buried and Me among my favourite bands, and as such, I have been looking forward to this evening for a very long time. The Raleigh, NC-born progressive metallers visit Denmark frequently, but often it is either to promote a new album or in the capacity of a support act. Not so tonight — the group has promised us two separate sets covering the full breadth of their discography from 2002 to 2018, which, for a long-standing fan such as myself, is of course a mouthwatering prospect, especially because the band tends to be vocally opposed to playing material from their early works when they do tour. With so much ground to cover, there is no need nor room for a support act, and so as the lights dim on a surprisingly scant audience just after 8 p.m., I am almost trembling with anticipation.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Bruse thor Straten


Between The Buried And Me

Once the five musicians are in position, the set is kicked off with a short snippet of “Naked by the Computer” from the band’s 2002 self-titled début album, making it clear from the get-go that we are going to be treated to plenty of rare cuts throughout this marathon performance. And despite the fact that BTBAM was a very different band 17 years ago, it must be interesting for newer fans to discover via this song that they have always been a melodic and progressive bunch at heart. The intro from this song thus flows seamlessly into the pairing of “Astral Body” and “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” (off 2012’s “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” that follows next, and just as seamlessly, the latter eventually transforms into the outro from another 2002 track, “Fire for a Dry Mouth”. It is a spectacular beginning, showcasing both the evolution BTBAM underwent during that 10-year period, and the roots to which the band is still firmly connected today — and as such, it is no wonder the audience, myself included, looks ravenous. The complexity and, at times, extremity of BTBAM’s music must sometimes be difficult for a sound engineer to handle, yet here the mix leaves little to whinge about. The grinding verses in the likes of “Alaska” (off its namesake 2005 album) sound sharp and scathing, the crescendos in songs like “Mirrors” and “Obfuscation” (both taken from 2009’s “The Great Misdirect”) are as grandiose as they are on record, and the voice of Tommy Rogers in tracks such as “More of Myself to Kill” is as clean and esoteric as ever. Just like the aforementioned snippet of “Naked by the Computer”, this track, which mixes brutal death metal grooves with jagged mathcore and eruptions of classic prog, sounds as fresh tonight as it did in 2002, and the 14 year-old in me is up in arms!

The first set is indeed packed with myriad treasures for BTBAM connoisseurs, with “Mordecai” and “Reaction” off 2003’s “The Silent Circus” also getting rare airtime. I am so lost in these deep cuts that I have hardly had time to focus on the group’s showmanship, which, while certainly not as explosive as some of the previous times I have seen them live, is still intense and impassioned. Rogers is the main subject of the spotlight as usual, as he alternates between standing behind his keyboards and hovering over the frontmost members of the audience with menace in his yes. His compatriots — guitarists Paul Waggoner & Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs, and drummer Blake Richardson — come across as a little too reserved for my liking, but then it strikes me that having to remember how to play some of this older material must be a challenge even for musicians as talented as these five. Briggs once admitted to me in an interview that he still considered playing “White Walls” (from the band’s 2007 LP “Colors”) live a daunting prospect, and as such, I could imagine that songs they haven’t played in 15 years or so might have a similar effect on him and his cohorts. It is thus no surprise that BTBAM chose to divide the setlist for this tour into two separate parts plus an encore, and once the aforementioned “Obfuscation” has brought the first half to a conclusion through its crazy time signature shifts and jazzy riffs, it seems like both band and audience are ready for a breather and refreshment break.

Indeed — even though the general pose adopted by the crowd is one of crossed arms, it can be quite demanding for the mind to listen to BTBAM’s music. When “The Black Box” and “Telos” kick off the second part of the concert, everyone seems revitalised though. During the latter’s bridge, Rogers manages to incite a resounding clap-along, and while there is no moshing to be seen, it is hard to spot even one person standing still when the quirky “Proverbial Bellow” and “Glide” (taken from 2018’s “Automata II”) are aired shortly after. The band has often been likened to King Crimson and when you experience the madness of these two songs in the live setting for the first time, that comparison makes a lot of sense. BTBAM never let themselves be restricted by conventions, which is the primary reason for their reputation as one of the most innovative and unpredictable metal bands in the world. Certainly “Voice of Trespass” has me guessing even today, its strange melodies and jazzy bass groove catching me off guard every time. It is the last song to feature in the ordinary set, but as usual, there is still a good 25 minutes of concert still to come in the encore, in which BTBAM deliver a chilling rendition of “White Walls” once again, preceded by the “Viridian” interlude. Were it up to me, I would probably have swapped the fan favourite “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” in the beginning of the encore for a less usual choice off “Alaska” — like “All Bodies” or perhaps even the fantastic “Primer”. But this is a minor grievance in what has been an absolutely stunning performance, one that has kept me guessing throughout and rewarded me with the best setlist BTBAM have ever assembled.

9

Setlist:

— Set I —

  • 01. Naked by the Computer / Astral Body
  • 02. Lay Your Ghosts to Rest / Fire for a Dry Mouth
  • 03. Alaska
  • 04. More of Myself to Kill
  • 05. The Coma Machine
  • 06. Mordecai
  • 07. Reaction
  • 08. Mirrors
  • 09. Obfuscation

— Set II —

  • 10. The Black Box
  • 11. Telos
  • 12. Bloom
  • 13. The Proverbial Bellow
  • 14. Glide
  • 15. Voice of Trespass

— Encore —

  • 16. Selkies: The Endless Obsession
  • 17. Viridian
  • 18. White Walls

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