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Between The Buried And Me - Colors CD (album) cover


Between The Buried And Me


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.11 | 463 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Colors' - Between the Buried and Me (70/100)

It's all on the cover, really. The cityscape artwork has been etched onto a black background with digital precision, and looks designed as if the artist had a compass protractor at hand the entire time he was making it. For an album called Colors, the cover is pretty colourless, save for a few precious streaks of vibrance, descending from the top. Although those coloured streaks make up a relatively miniscule chunk of the composition, your attention is drawn to them, if only for the fact that they stand out from the rest of it.

You probably get where I'm going with this. I have given Between the Buried and Me what seems like equal proportions of praise and dismissal since I heard them open for Dream Theater in 2008, but a few things have always rung as constants. First off, BTBAM are some of the finest proprietors of technique the current face of progressive rock has to offer. From a technical standpoint, Colors offers one of the busiest executions I've heard on a metal album, with stylistic influences everywhere from prog metal, tech-death and jazz drawn in under one banner. What's more; unlike a sickening ratio of these technically proficient flash bands, they know how to write solid arrangements around their playing chops. Or is it the other way around? With Between the Buried and Me, it's often hard to tell whether there's an ultimate intended destination for their calculated chaos.

Secondly-- and this impression is more specific to Colors than any-- BTBAM have struggled to make their art emotionally palpable. This isn't mindless noodling in the sense that tradprog fetishists might like to hereby dismiss it as-- far from, in fact; there are riffs and passages amidst the album's go-to chaos I've remembered since hearing the album seven years ago. While I've no doubt that Between the Buried and Me made this album with passion, it's hard to receive that on the listener's end. Tommy Rogers' growl has always crossed me as dull even at the band's best, and there's a feeling of digital perfection to the band's performance that seems to undermine how impressive their arrangement actually is.

It was Between the Buried and Me's goal with Colors to make a seamless hour of music, or at least something that might be considered a single piece of music. While they accomplished this well enough that the songs would feel slighted out of the album's context, I think they went a step further, making each of these movements memorable in themselves. While their hyperprog metal is surprisingly dry and samey, each one of these songs offers moments (and usually several at that!) where the band will break out of the frantic pace for something fresh and unexpected. For what it lacks in consistent engagement, BTBAM have packed the album with an impressive amount of twists and turns. The way "Foam Born: The Backtrack" opens up the album is unforgettable, building up with Muse-like bombast before diving into the tech-death-meets-progressive-deathcore of "The Decade of Statues". While "The Decade of Statues" offers above and beyond the best metal riffs on Colors, "Informal Gluttony" is the strongest track overall, with a distinctly exotic twist and build, the likes of which almost seems plucked from Dream Theater's epic "Home". As for the out-of-nowhere bluegrass break (complete with banjo and washboard) that blossoms in "Prequel to the Sequel", the prog-for-prog's-sake randomness is too endearing not to feel some warmth towards.

Although there's still an autistic emotional distance to these non-metal parts, the unexpected progressive passages are those streaks of colour I was talking about on the album cover. Colors as a metal album is performed immaculately, and that's part of the reason it feels so, er, colourless at times. While similarly chaotic and busy progressive metal bands can make me feel their madness, Between the Buried and Me sound too controlled, too predetermined for me to really buy into what they're selling on that end. Keep in mind that this isn't a broad judgement of BTBAM as a whole, but Colors in particular. Their follow-up The Great Misdirect may have kicked up the prog another notch, but it felt more spontaneous and consistently varied than this.

Still, the question remains; should Colors be considered a modern prog metal classic? While I might find the level of polish boring compared to their dirtier counterparts, I do think the album is a classic, at the very least essential listening for anyone who wants to understand the post-millennial progressive landscape. Between the Buried and Me impressed me a lot with this album when I first heard it seven years ago, and while I don't think it's ever left an emotional impact on me, there's more than enough vision to their self-indulgence to make it memorable, when compared to most of their less-capable kin.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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