The Word Alive
The Cellar, Southampton, UK - 1/12
Between The Buried And MePrevious Next
support Periphery + The Safety Fire
author AP date 14/10/12 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN
Quite an impressive line-up this is that Live Nation has brought to Denmark this cold October evening. Even more impressive, however, is the amount of people willing to defy the Monday morning woes looming ahead, especially as this is the first time BTBAM have ever played a headlining show in the country. Feeling the enthusiasm of just about everyone around me, I brace myself for a fine evening of progressive metal from three very different bands.
The Safety Fire's newest album "Grind the Ocean" is an album that I have not gotten around to checking out yet, so it is with a childish sense of wonder that I behold them here tonight. Their music is best described as technical, progressive metal with an occasional djent injection, though of a vastly different character than that practiced by the other bands playing tonight. Throughout five-song setlist, there are audible similarities to bands as distant and diverse as The Arusha Accord, Chiodos and Dance Gavin Dance - bands that blur the boundaries of their respective genres. Sounds unlikely, I know, but The Safety Fire's music is not the sort of bottom heavy, riff driven stuff you might expect. Guitarists Joaquin Ardiles and Derya Nagle rarely make use of powerchords, preferring constantly evolving lead melodies (exactly like Dance Gavin Dance) that often break into smooth jazz interludes; Lori Peri's bass has a more important presence in the mix than simply following the rhythm; and Sean McWeeney's impressive vocals linger in clean territory for much of the time. Indeed, this is intelligent progressive metal that has not been corroded by metalcore or deathcore, which is a huge advantage for The Safety Fire in terms of differentiating themselves in a crowded scene.
From that vast wall of text it should be clear then, that musically The Safety Fire strike a chord with me. But what of the performance? Well, as you might expect, they are not the liveliest bunch on stage given the complex nature of the music. But they compensate in other ways to create a full-fledged visual impression: all five members are sporting identical moustasches; both guitarists and the bassist have strapped their instruments well above their ribs to create a consciously nerdy vibe; and the in-between banter consists of "trailblazing the growth of moustasches for men - and women". And when the band enters one of their many jazz passages, each member enters a sort of hypnotic groove that reveals just how passionate they are about their music.
Kicking things off with the brilliant "Ragnarok" from this year's "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal" album, Periphery quickly take us to a much heavier domain of technical music. It comes as no surprise, given the amount of Periphery t-shirts in the crowd, that the song is met with a wild moshpit and loud singalongs - the staple reaction to each of the six songs played tonight. It's a solid setlist, comprising "Buttersnips" and "Icarus Lives" from the first self-titled effort, and the best picks - "Ragnarok", "Have a Blast", "Facepalm Mute" and "Make Total Destroy" - from the new record (though I would have welcomed the inclusion of "Scarlet" as well); one that enables the six-piece to showcase the full wealth of talent at their disposal, from the phenomenal Rody Walker-style vocal performance of Spencer Sotelo, through the polyrhythmic grooves of guitar master extraordinaire Misha "Bulb" Mansoor, to the stadium size songwriting on the new stuff.
Again, Periphery's music is of an equally demanding character as The Safety Fire's, so if you were expecting a frenetic stage presence you must have been sorely disappointed. But with Periphery, too, the visual aesthetic is formed from subtleties like the exuberance of Mansoor when he really immerses himself into a groove, such as during "Icarus Lives", or the collective energy display that manifests itself in the simpler chorus parts, such as in "Facepalm Mute" and "Make Total Destroy". All six members of the band are loving it, and so is the audience, which is as frenzied as I've seen them in Denmark - the hallmark of a good show.
To watch Between the Buried and Me live is to admire - and, if you're a musician of any sort, to envy. The songwriting talent, instrumental prowess, and willingness of this band to go the extra mile in order to be the best, most unique, and most eclectic progressive metal band right now, stands second to none. In my highly biased opinion, the only other band working at an equivalent level is Opeth, and their take on the genre is quite different, so for all intents and purposes, with a BTBAM show the rule of thumb is that you're guaranteed a memorable experience no matter what. Tonight is not the exception to the rule.
Some might call it ambitious, others pompous, but starting your set with a song like "White Walls", which spans almost 15 minutes in length is likely to get the crowd's attention. With this song, BTBAM take us on a joyride through everything that they're about: the serpentine leads, grinding death metal, constantly fluctuating rhythm section, and magnificient solos and interludes in the time that most bands would be quarter of a way through their set already. Only after its grand conclusion does Tommy Giles Rogers introduce his band with a mellow "good evening, we are Between the Buried and Me." like the leader of some sit-down dinner orchestra. "Astral Body", taken off the band's latest album "The Parallax II: Future Sequence", then follows to provide the only traditional-length song of the evening, clocking in at 5 minutes, before the 11-minute goliath "Sun of Nothing" restores the order and brings the show to its 30th minute after just three songs.
Given the amount of Periphery fans in attendance tonight, one might have expected even the most resilient of those to depart after such a trying experience, but much to my satisfaction no such exodus occurs. Instead, everyone seems to share my enthusiasm about yet another fantastic performance by this band unfolding before my eyes. With songs like "Disease, Injury, Madness", "Telos" and the absolutely brilliant space trip of "Fossil Genera - A Feed from Cloud Mountain" comprising the remainder of the ordinary set time (that is, the next 32 minutes), BTBAM have assembled a true setlist of gems that, with the inclusion of an unexpected cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the classic "Mordecai" in the encore, takes us on a journey through not just BTBAM's discography (sans their self-titled debut and last year's "The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues" EP), but four decades of celebration of music.
And although the guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring are hardly doing more than focusing their undivided attention into playing their parts with meticulous accuracy, it is impossible to fault BTBAM for not staging an exciting visual presence as well. Mr. Rogers more than compensates for his band mates with a characteristically assertive performance, hovering over the crowd like a fearsome beast despite his tiny physique whilst wildly gesticulating with his arms. BTBAM are truly one of this generation's great bands.
- 01. White Walls
- 02. Astral Body
- 03. Sun of Nothing
- 04. Disease, Injury, Madness
- 05. Telos
- 06. Fossil Genera - A Feed from Cloud Mountain
- 07. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
- 08. Mordecai