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Between The Buried And Me - Coma Ecliptic CD (album) cover


Between The Buried And Me


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.87 | 343 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars (If you want a quick recommendation on this album, please check the very end, the adjust in style will not appeal to everyone, and I'll clarify if you're not sure what to expect or whether to buy or listen to this album)

It would probably have helped if I wrote a review to "Future Sequence" before I get started on "Coma Elliptic" (which I will soon), but that's not really the worst thing in the world.

To be brief: "Parallax II: Future Sequence" is the pinnacle development of BTBAM's sound. It's more melodious than ever, but still brutal as always, and even more and more memorable phrases and breakdowns that keep me coming back to again and again.

Dare I say it may be one of the best albums ever conceived? Bold as it may, it's no different than critics claiming Wagner the best composer ever after witnessing his "Der Ring des Nibelungen" operas. Even better than Beethoven? Critics today still debate.

Perhaps it's the storytelling, the motifs and themes that reprise and reoccur, and the memorable spectacle that it is, a description that easily characterizes BTBAM's catalog since "Colors". Maybe it's that bold step that the band took to make "Future Sequence" that gave me anxiety when cracking open "Coma Elliptic" for the first time. Surely the first worrying step is the fact that for the first time since "Alaska" has no song breached the double-digit mark.

It starts off promising though with "Node", a sort of quiet intro familiar to BTABM fans, echoing "Mirrors" and "The Backtrack". And it really does feel like an intro, with a bombastic overture-like sound. It doesn't quite segue into "The Coma Machine", but like "Mirrors" did to "Obfuscation" on "The Great Misdirect", it sort of leaves it out there as a single, the catchy tune that people will remember, and it surely does. The main theme alternates between 4's and 5's, and places a quite catchy melody ascending chromatically over a syncopated beat. The most notable factor here is singer Tom Giles', with even more melodic singing than ever before. The screams are still present, just not in abundance on this particular track. It really feels like a single (which is in part because it was), but it leaves a lot of the hectic and spastic breakdowns and heavy bridge sections fallen by the wayside. It's still a good track, mind, one of the few BTBAM songs that you can listen to that might not actually give you a headache (maybe), but despite that, the chromatic ascending phrase punctuated by the keys is such an ooey, gooey line, a real feel-good progression.

So, as I listen for the first time, the album has so far presented a more melodic BTBAM, not quite as heavy, but it still sounds like the band that produced "Colors", "The Great Misdirect" and "Parallax I & II". And as "Dim Ignition" floats by as a sort of bridge that echoes "The Black Box" from Future Sequence, I'm tripped up from the cut to double time as "Famine Wolf" kicks in underneath the synth segue. And the crazy guitar licks as well. So I expect more of a focus on singing and more complex melodic phrasing than just simple meathead breakdowns, but even though drummer Blake Richardson doesn't kick the band into serious get-up-and-mosh mode, roughly two minutes in the screams and heavy breaks kick, and the gang reassures us that "Yes, we still know how to melt your faces".


My worst fears abated (and I'm sure many loyal, direhard fans). It's a shift in style, but not a warning of sell-out mode. Less of "let's make a catchy song to get on the radio" and more "Let's try and evolve melodically, not stick to the same tried-and-true boundaries that held us together. Let's try to even be more radical in sound, style and singing."

Sounds ambitious, but "Famine Wolf" appears to have done just that. It still sounds like BTBAM without feeling constrained, but rather held back, not because they don't have the ability to go nuts like usual, but rather, they don't WANT to. Some could argue that taking a normally complex idea and massively simplifying it is even more radical than the vice versa. Karlheinz Stockhausen was praised for composing "Gruppen", a piece for 3 (3!) orchestras, each with a conductor, filled with tone rows and never-ending complexities in 1957. Yet 7 years later, Terry Riley comes out with "In C", the first piece widely regarded to have started the phenomena of "minimalism", and he received complaints and hate mail for doing so! Minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass have been mocked by contemporaries for 'going the opposite direction', but their responses have been to the effect of "there's no need".

"King Redeem - Queen Serene" solidifies this remark. The sounds we all come to expect are there, but the abrupt jump-cuts to different rhythms and key signatures seem to have vanished. A loss in style? Perhaps, but to my ears, rather, smoothness. It's clean, it's effortless, it's transitionally brilliant. Any prog fan in their right mind will agree that if it doesn't flow together, that's a "No go, Joe". Perhaps if it's a bit of criticism, it's that Giles chooses to sing, rather than either scream or even whisper during one section with roughly a minute and a half left to go when it's a bit quieter and mysterious. Still, rather than just sounding like 4 songs in one, it really does feel like 1 song. In fact, that's part of the reason why I never much cared for "Prequel To The Sequel"; it felt too abrupt, too many jump-cuts, not enough cohesiveness.

So on we march, into "Turn On The Darkness", which, not to be rude, is more of the same song-and-dance. Not in a boring way, but it still sounds like BTBAM (quite a lot more screaming in here, in my mind, as well). One thing I did happen to notice, though, by this point is that even though no track exceeds the 10 minute mark, this album doesn't feel short at all. It feels deceptively long, in fact. "Famine Wolf" is shy of 7 minutes at 6:51. "King Redeem - Queen Serene" is 7 minutes at 6:59. In fact, no song falls below 7 minutes until "Option Oblivion", the penultimate track, hits 4:22.

So when you look back at the track times, again, it feels like a bit of restraint on paper, and at the end of "TotD", the screams should herald a classic Richardson blastbeat frenzy, but it doesn't. It's not an embarrassment, but rather just a little bit of restraint. Think of it like losing weight. Don't think of it as an "ONLY EAT LETTUCE" diet, but rather a "Cut back junk food, but make sure to eat all the different colors of the food rainbow, get all your meat, dairy and protein" approach. A gradual change in habit, but not so utterly radical it seems foreign to us.

"The Ecoptic Stroll" perhaps feels the most traditional of all tracks on this album. A weird stutter-step piano rag foreshadows Giles in a raspy tone, rather unusual, but actually quite refreshing, not at all like his monotone performance on "Colors" (one of the main niggles I had with that album, in fact). And yes, there are snippets of Richardson spaz-outs! The raspy verses are really quite entertaining, a unique sound you can really only expect from BTBAM, and before long, chessy and unusual synth licks bring out their always clever and playful side. "Stroll" by this point (roughly 4:30 into the track as I type this) is by far my favorite off the album, frankly because it provides the best of both sounds (the chorus is kind of forgettable, but meh, you can't win them all). FYI: The best part is clearly the guitar lick accompanied only by piano chords and the occasional finger snap. The finger snap makes it, honestly.

Just the title "Rapid Calm" hints that a major 180 degree turn is coming in relation to "The Ecoptic Stroll". And it surely starts off that way, with Giles gently floating on top a cloud of synths. Except, the drums kick in, and then the main verse sounds a bit heavier than you might otherwise expect. Still, it doesn't take long before a quick sentence of screams fades out, and a gentle waltz rhythm wafts you through a gentle croon of melodies sitting on top of an ascending bass line and the occasional flit of guitar and synth ditties. About 2 minutes from the end, though, the drums do fade out and a cloud of windchimes waft their way through a plethora of synth clouds (although 6 minutes doesn't really equal 'rapid' to me). Except that only lasts 30 seconds, and the track closes out with quite a nostalgic nod to hard rock guitar solo underneath a bunch of screams, ending on quite a nice melodic arpeggio. A good track if I say so myself.

If that doesn't impress though, "Memory Palace" will stun and baffle. It sounds like a corny hard rock intro, almost in nod to the "Rapid Calm" outro, but than Giles' brief vocal interjection almost echoes cries of Protest The Hero? What? The brief instrumental showcase though foreshadows a melodic and arpeggiated feast for the ears. Not necessarily in a fast, ballistic and virtuosic fashion, but again, in a more restrained manner that signifies more of a clean and smooth transitional process. Right before, in my mind, an abrupt drop to half speed roughly 3:40 into the song (meh, there's gotta be one, but there you go, all of BTBAM's signature tricks are still here!).

Although no track breaches the 10 minute mark, "Memory Palace" just barely slides under there at 9:55, and not only feels like the juggernaut of the album, but rather IS the juggernaut of the album, and frankly feels and sounds the part. It juggles all the typical influences and styles the band mashes up from album to album, and after that cut to half speed, from there it just picks up steam and, while it doesn't fly through at breakneck speed, it chugs along like an unstoppable steamroller, especially towards the end (with about 3 minutes to the end), echoing more blues rock phrases heard in "Ants Of The Sky" and "Fossil Genera". The half speed section comes back in at the very end, though, which clues to me and the listener that "THIS IS THE CHORUS". Well, duh. I wish it wasn't so abrupt, but now that I've heard the song the whole way through (including the guitar wah-wahs that bookend the song that sounds exactly like the James Bond theme [SO EPIC, not gonna lie]), it's definitely one of the best on the album. Catchy, action packed, and a hell of a lot of fun.

So now we hit the home stretch as the penultimate "Option Oblivion" sounds like a bit of a reprise, with a bit more spastic outbreaks and more soaring vocals from Giles (which is now frankly turning into a vocal showcase for him, my god). Only problem with this track is that, now used to the longer 6 tracks previously, it feels too short with not a lot of substance. It also feels like a finale, which doesn't make sense because it's not the last song on the album. But then all makes sense when that last track does come in, which essentially is a piano reprise of the "Coma Machine" riff with Giles once again providing fantastically beautiful lyrics over a haunting synth in the background to end the album. Right before the band comes right back in in triumphant fashion. Typed too soon, I guess.

VERDICT: So, what do we have then? An album that's still distinctly BTBAM, but as I suspected before even pressing play, it's more of an evolution and maturation of their signature sound. Nothing has vanished entirely (As Giles relentlessly screams at the close of the disc), but their spastic nature has been repressed to present a more polished and seamless album. Transitions are much smoother and less herky-jerky. Of course, that also means the heavy bridges and spastic blastbeats are reduced to a minimum, which will (I know) upset some faithful (then again, "Colors" pissed off all the old "Silent Circus" and "Alaska" faithful as well, so deal with it).

Which of course brings me to singer Tommy Giles' now more pronounced presence as, not just the frontman, but quite a talented tour de force. Granted, there are times I felt he was trying a bit too much (sang in sections he probably could've whispered or screamed), but overall it was a different change of pace and it still resulted in quite some good music and catchy tunes. (If it was boring it would've put ME in a coma. It didn't. Mission accomplished, 10/10 would listen again).

Now, I've given this 4 stars. At this time, I haven't given a review or rating of "Parallax II:Future Sequence" but I will give it a 5. It blends that traditionally chaotic sound with more elaborate rhythms and melodies and still catchy and melodic singing phrases and choruses. To me, "Coma Elliptic" just can't be compared to it at all. In fact, you really can't compare it to ANY BTBAM album at all.

(Seriously, don't even try. I did. It didn't work. It just made by brain hurt).

Still, it does lack a few tracks that are truly standouts, ones that just catch your ears and force you to put on repeat over and over again (like I did with "Extremophile Elite" and "Telos"). Even a diehard like myself, while not entirely disappointed, don't find myself listening to this as much as older albums. I will say, though, that it'll probably take MANY, MANY listens before it finally clicks. The same could be said with ALL BTBAM albums. One listen does not a proper conclusion make. It will take many listens for just one album to finally make sense, and it feels like the same will go for this, so we'll see if it stands the test of time, who knows?

LONG STORY SHORT: If you love BTBAM's heavier side only, STEER CLEAR AWAY. Yes, there are a few sections in here, but by and large, it's just not the theme of the album. In fact, it just may be considered the most progressive (in the most literal sense of the term). Yes, I love a big meaty face-bashing breakdown as much as the next simpleton, but sometimes it feels just a bit archaic, like it never really goes anywhere and just exists for the hell of it. It almost seems like a culmination from the band's very beginnings, from constant moshing on "The Silent Circus", to very little on "Coma Elliptic". Heartbreaking for loyalists, but for those of us of this generation whose attention spans equal that of squirrels, something refreshing and different like "Coma Elliptic" might be just what we need.

If you love the band's style, though, the melodies and harmonies and their occasional quirkiness, it's still a great album. Easily their most digestible. If you haven't or don't listen to BTBAM regularly, you'll enjoy this album thoroughly, guaranteed. For the regulars, it might not be so easy to accept the slight change in sound. Then again, if you've been a fan from the beginning, change and evolution in style is something you've lived with, and something you'll have to get used to for many years to come.

"Adapt Or Die". There's really no better musical representation of that phrase than this album.

Wicket | 5/5 |


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