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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


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4 stars Automata Part II is a big step up from Automata Part I, but the combined effort is still lower than their masterpieces. The Proverbial Bellow and The Grid are standard, well executed, Between The Buried And Me tracks that can fit with their best albums. Glide is a filler track, and the standout on this EP is Voice of Trespass which sounds like something Diablo Swing Orchestra would have created. I do not have an issue with them copying the style as it has been done by other groups. They did a stellar job with the track, creating the most complex arrangement on the EP. Most important with this release is that it has the energy that was missing from Automata Part I. Can it elevate Part I? Maybe. Now that we have a complete album, it will take some time to evaluate it as a whole. I really do not like this two part release process and wish they would have waited until the entire album was done. Also, I wish it was available on Bandcamp like their other albums. With all of that being said, it is another quality release that can only be marred by the stellar releases it follows.
Report this review (#1948143)
Posted Friday, July 13, 2018 | Review Permalink
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 ‹ber 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.

Report this review (#1948427)
Posted Sunday, July 15, 2018 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME have returned after a three year hiatus that follows 2015's 'Coma Ecliptic.' Instead of releasing a single lengthy album which has pretty much been their formulaic approach for most of the band's almost two decade career, in 2018 BTBAM return with a completely new approach and that is take what could easily be a single album with a theme that lyrically tackles the concept of dreams being broadcast for the purpose of entertainment and divides it into two separate albums. The first of these albums 'Automata I' was released on 9 March 2018 and continued the more traditional sounds that BTBAM has crafted ever since they launched a more sophisticated progressive metal infused version of their metalcore sound. This second edition AUTOMATA II had to wait four months to find its way into the fans' musical conclusion of what was launched earlier in the year. This one came out on 13 July 2018 but personally i waited until both were released so i wouldn't have to have that annoying four month gap. Sort of like binge watching a TV series after it has ended.

While 'Automata I' was more of a continuation of the progressive metalcore cauldron of complexities that has been a BTBAM staple ever since 2012's amazing 'The Parallax II: Future Sequence,' AUTOMATA II is the far more experimental of the two having been compared to albums like 'Colors' for its unapologetic labyrinthine journey into as many musical styles possible. While there are grains of truth to this comparison, AUTOMATA II in reality is unlike any other BTBAM release as it finds fertile new grounds to construct its esoteric and eccentric musical edifice upon. While each album essentially an EP length by BTBAM standards, they have been marketed as bona fide full albums that provide two sides to the unifying concept that revolves around the unnerving thought of dreams being broadcast simply for the purpose of entertainment. While the lyrics are vague and only poetically and pointillistically fortify the overall theme, the album does confront the listener with the uncomfortable possibilities of covert technologies being used for behavior control and other means. 'Automata I' clocks in at 35:13 and AUTOMATI II at 33:12.

While AUTOMATA II is the shorter of the pair, it is without doubt the more experimental and adds myriad elements to its four tracks that have never been explored by the band. While the opener 'The Proverbial Bellow' opens with the immediate jarring freneticism of angular guitar riffs and organ runs, the thirteen minute track evolves quickly as it shifts into Pink Floydian space rock that echoes to aspects of 'Dark Side Of The Moon' albeit with a more caffeinated tempo. Despite being just a mere slice of the never-ending changes that emerge, the track shifts from the lushly embellished metalcore outbursts to the clean vocal progressive metal effluences that trade off without warning. Instantly noticeable is how AUTOMATA II takes extreme liberties in virtually every aspect of the musical procession with traditional BTBAM elements shapeshifting into bizarre new creations as well as completely new sounds. 'Glide' begins with a Mediterranean Cafe style accordion piece that segues into a lush classical piano and back again. While only a short intro for 'Voice Of Trespass,' it is unlike anything BTBAM has ever attempted.

'Voice Of Trespass' is also quite the surprise as it tackles the familiar swing jazz metal that fans of Diablo Swing Orchestra will know quite well. In fact, it sounds a little too much like DSO with a series of gypsy grooves, vocal calls and responses and Django Reinhardt-esque guitar riffs alongside the sultry swing timbres emerging from the baritone sax, trombone and trumpet. A true surprise and although a little too DOS derivative for its own good, still performed exquisitely well. The closer 'Grid' is the highlight (both albums save the best for last) as it concludes this double album journey with an alternating mix of some of the heaviest metalcore aspects with clean vocal dominated alternative metal passages and sweeping guitar licks that could fit into the best modern neo-prog album's agenda. However despite the silkiest sweetness generated by the clean vocal segments, 'Grid' contains some of the most bombastic extreme metal sequences of the entire two album experience and its rather unique how quickly and frequently these two extremes trade off, mix and meld on their musical playground.

So after all is said and done, despite the horrible decision to separate the release date of each of the two albums and frustrate the fans of this instant gratification world we have constructed, the two albums that have emerged won't disappoint as each has its own distinct personality while hosting a unifying concept that inextricably binds them like fraternal twins with different birth dates. BTBAM prove themselves to be masters of their own unique brand of progressive extreme metal and only continues to build upon the edifice of the more metalcore based foundation that launched their career nearly two decades ago. While there seems to be a general consensus that AUTOMATA II is the better of the two albums because of its more bold and daring attempts to break free from the established BTBAM paradigm, i personally find the two albums to be on equal footing. 'Automata I' may be the less experimental but it is the better album in terms of ratcheting up the band's already established paradigm in a more consistent manner whereas AUTOMATA II despite the deviation from the norm also has moments that find the band sounding more like other bands than themselves. For me this all balances out so as a whole i find both albums of this concept to be excellent but flawed. One thing is for sure, BTBAM are in no danger of burning out soon.

Report this review (#2111112)
Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2018 | Review Permalink

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