The success of innovation often coincides with the ability to not question: to allow an idea’s master to be fruition and achievement alone. Surely, the prerequisites for such evolutionary decisions are honesty, trust and being in a band for 15+ years. True to their unrivaled Prog Metal reputation, Between the Buried and Me release the second part of the double concept album Automata II via Sumerian Records on Friday, July 13, 2018.
The most currently over-used words referring to the North Carolina natives (and only because there’s no way around it) are obviously “double album.” And with those pesky nouns comes the statute by which fans choose to lay their blame or hold it pedestal-high; the buy-one-get-one-free of blunt, exorbitant public opinion. Revealing the concept just after the New Year, Automata I was released via BTBAM’s new label, Sumerian Records, in March of 2018. The album’s theme focused on a protagonist whose dreams are the central source of popular entertainment (think live TV/public stream of all your thoughts and memories).
Ending the 34-minute first album with cliffhanger “Blot,” fans had barely just finished all 6-songs before demanding round 2. Without the exact release date yet set for Automata II, the majority vote seemed to lean towards the consensus: this would’ve been their best album yet, had it been released as a whole. For what it’s worth, fans need a little reminder of the excitement they first felt when it was revealed they were getting not one, but two BTBAM albums in a single year.
“The Proverbial Bellows” introduces Automata II with a satisfying structural ascend into the signature hightail of Paul Waggoner (guitar) and Dustie Waring (guitar). Building in speed and complexity, a layer of banjo-twang brings subtle focus to the splintering track. The triumphant intro peaks intensely, before relaxing into keys and ambient inflections. Tommy Rogers (vocalist) offers velvety tones flush with the gradual increase in tempo, giving in to the throaty snarls at all the right angles. “The Proverbial Bellow” is a seamless connection between both Automata albums and takes its time implying the continued theme.
A haunted-carnival organ creeps into “Glide” with Rogers theatrically singing, “May I have this dance?” The mini-song (for BTBAM, that is) abruptly ends just after the two-minute mark, but is the clear segue into the the jewel of Automata II. “Voice of Trespass” ruptures into modern jive with a jazzy streak, horn section, scats and all. Grand-marshalling the lustrous beat parade, Blake Richardson (drums) spares no second from embellishing fill, keeping the multiple time signatures disciplined to his wishes. Taking influence from Dan Briggs’ (Bass) side project Trioscapes, “Voice of Trespass” thrives under the lively demands of Jazz. Each instrument’s vital contribution remains flawless, delicate, calculated; given to listeners only after the ecosystem was ready to flourish. A made-for-live song if ever there was one.
Concluding the album’s theme with a non-traditional twist from its protagonist (no spoiler alerts here), Automata II does nothing less than exceed expectations: it’s what BTBAM does best. Needing a reason to be innovative is absurdly foolish. Whether the concept was a success (it was) or not, Between the Buried and Me’s mission has always been to expand the minds of those whose creativity remains inside the box. A double album release is the perfect testament to the micro-attention spans that today’s fans possess; a little patience never hurt nobody and good things come to those who wait. For these reasons, CrypticRock give this album 4 out of 5 stars.