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Between The Buried And Me - Automata II CD (album) cover

AUTOMATA II

Between The Buried And Me

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.89 | 106 ratings

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tempest_77
5 stars Automata II is definitely the better half of the Automata series. There's a lot more variation in the sounds and it feels more explorative than the first record, including what sounds like a banjo on the opening track. The album is also less heavy handed in the death metal realm than Automata I, with few blast beats, and more melodic and/or innovative passages behind the death metal vocal sections.

"The Proverbial Bellow" is the longest track in the Automata series at almost 13 and a half minutes. It's a sprawling piece with great energy and diversity, and opens with a heavy riff backed by organ, almost reminiscent of Haken on The Mountain. The opening section is carried up and down varying levels of energy, before finally breaking into a blast beat part in classic Between the Buried and Me fashion. The whole opening sequence of this piece is one of the greatest moments of either album, as it brings in new energy but maintains their classic sound. This song really shows some great exploration, with a whole section that sounds quite like Porcupine Tree in their psychedelic moments. It's filled with exhilarating guitar riffs, and an energy that flows between the constantly changing grooves. The death metal sections are still more prominent than on Coma Ecliptic, but the overall sound is still more melodic than their earlier albums. Definitely a high point in the Automata series, and the most progressive in terms of extended and detailed composition, though that's pretty much due to its length. The energy comes down near the end into a beautiful soft piano section, over which Tommy Rogers' distant voice emotionally sings, "Please pick up / Pick up the phone / It's been ringing." This section releases into a full band, melodic chorus, similar to some of Spock's Beard's choruses. The chorus leads into a heavily composed section, with odd time signature riffs doubled between two guitars, and reinforced by the organ?again showing some similarity to Spock's Beard?before shifting back to 4/4 for a guitar solo. Waggoner does a great job combining the technical side of the solo with true feeling, echoing solos like Tosin Abasi's on Tempting Time. The solo ends with a seemingly abrupt break of militaristic snare drum, similar to the end of California Über Alles, only much much shorter, before the band crashes into a final hit for the ending. The organ sustains its chord, and fades into...

"Glide" is a very quirky piece; it's an carnival/cabaret style song that starts with an accordion section. It shifts to a more laid-back piano section, backed by organ, and then repeats both, this time with added percussion and vocals. It's a short piece, but it serves as a wonderful prelude to the next song, as it switches to an upbeat swing feel at the end, and segues into...

"Voice of Trespass," clocking at 8 minutes, is the weirdest song on either Automata record, and also probably my favourite. Imagine a swing song from a musical. Then add death metal. That's Voice of Trespass. The song starts with the same feel as the end of Glide, but with a heavy down-tuned guitar leading the way. Complete with a horn section and a classic swing turnaround, the intro comes down into a more traditional feel, with hi-hat and bass filling the space. When the piano comes in at the top of the verse, it almost feels like flat out swing, but snarl in Rogers' vocals reminds us that this is the heaviest swing song we've ever heard. It's reminiscent of The Dear Hunter's Act II and Act III, where Casey Crescenzo mixes jazz, swing, tango, and more into the band's post-hardcore-tinged progressive rock. And that's just the first half of the song. The second half of it switches into a straight 4/4 section with another blast beat part, and eventually comes down into slow, heavy, doom metal-esque section. It's a great release of tension after the whole piece has constantly kept moving under the relentless swing feel. The vocals in this section recall the previous Automata record ("We are hollow / Condemned to the gallows"). The song ends with double time section that reintroduces the horn section, and eventually climaxes with the drums adding a rapid double bass part to the beat. With its heavy riffs and hit sections every four bars, its almost reminiscent of Thank You Scientist, another post-hardcore/prog rock that fuses their sound with jazz, particularly funky jazz fusion. The song ends with an distorted ambient section of people's voices under a piano part. The piano holds a final chord, which leads into the drum build up for...

"The Grid" starts out with a melodic section, similar to the end of "The Proverbial Bellow". The death metal is quickly introduced, and before the energy drops briefly, they mix the two together for an interesting effect. The first half of the song features a few brief mid-volume sections with a lot of tension, reminiscent of verses in certain Tool or TesseracT songs, combined with the band's melodic death metal sections, along with a few melodic clean vocal choruses. The first part of "The Grid", just under 6 minutes long, is definitely the least explorative part of the record, in the sense that it is most similar to their previous material on Automata I and Coma Ecliptic. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though: there's a reason Between the Buried and Me are a progressive death metal band. The second melodic chorus closes out the first section of the song, as the second section starts with an acoustic guitar alone, setting a significant contrast from the first part. A piano and clean electric guitar come in, reinforcing the acoustic, as do the vocals, with the final line of the song, "We are in this together," sung for the first of several times. The drums build up and come in, playing a swung 4/4 (or just 12/8, who knows) feel, but they come in with just the bass?no distorted guitars?indicating the beginning of a gradual and dramatic build up. The harmonies and backing vocals come in, along with atmospheric strings, until, almost at the 8 minute mark, the lead guitar finally comes in, with Waggoner playing another wonderfully emotional solo, even better than the one in "The Proverbial Bellow", which is harmonised by Waring. The song climaxes and comes to a final crash, clocking in just under 10 minutes, with the guitar sustaining and ending the album with snarly distortion fading out. The ending is the only part of the album I thought wasn't the strongest; I think they should have brought in the rhythm guitar and extended the ending from where the acoustic guitar started. They had an opportunity to make it really anthemic and epic, which I think they missed a bit. However, being a progressive death metal band, ending with an atmospheric section like that, which is almost reminiscent of some of Plini's earlier, less heavy work, is a bold move, which I have to commend them for.

All in all, I think the two albums are really at their best when they are combined into a single entity; the dark, heavy, and undeniably death metal first record needs somewhere to release its energy, and it feels much more satisfying to have all of that tension and aggression pour out on the second record. The story doesn't feel as short, and the sounds on the two albums compliment each other wonderfully. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in the Automata series to consider them one album, and to listen all the way from the first record through this one.

While Automata II isn't perfect, I thought it was much better as an individual record than Automata I was. I gave Automata I 4 stars, and while Automata II isn't a solid 5 on it's own, I'm giving 5 stars anyways, because it definitely deserves an extra star over the first record, and when combined, the whole series is quite a masterpiece. I'd say Automata II is probably about a 4.4/5, and if the whole series were one record it would probably be a 4.6/5.

tempest_77 | 5/5 |

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