Saturday, August 8, 2015

Between the Buried and Me - Coma Ecliptic

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Between the Buried and Me are a mathy progressive metal band who continuously delight fans by weaving intricate details and theatricality into truly diverse pieces of music.  They are both dynamic and accessible, and each album gets progressively more epic.  So how can they continue to grow and expand as musicians?  Thankfully, Coma Ecliptic answers that question, and establishes one of the greatest and most unique metal albums I have ever had the privilege of listening to. 

You know you’re in for a strange treat when the very first song on the album is a synth laden creeper of a tune that turns into a roaring 80’s metal-sounding epic.  This can’t be your typical shred metal band, right?  Doesn’t Between the Buried and Me shred? This has singing!  This has piano? What?  While all of the usual shred-tastic material is present, it’s framed by a dynamic musical landscape showcasing the TRAINING that this band has.  These guys don’t just play their instruments…they have mastered their craft in ways that they can now incorporate masterful jazz moments, beautiful rock licks, theatricality, and even classical nuances into their now-perfected shred and sludge. 

As I listened to this album with a critical ear, I had a hard time thinking about how to actually review the album.  Most of the time, if I have an album that has a bunch of dynamic and unique songs, I’ll touch on the songs individually.  If the band makes me feel a certain way or has an overlaying theme, I may just give an overall album review.  Neither feel right for this particular album.  Too much happens in each song to appropriately write a song-by-song review, and they have too many incredible themes and sounds. 

So I’m doing something I’ve never done…a musical play by play.  Because the complexity in this music demands it!  I’ve picked two songs (they flow into one another…no real pause between tracks) where they showcase many elements of the sound they’ve created.  The two tracks (Dim Ignition, Famine Wolf) go through such an incredible range of emotions and sounds, it’s almost impossible to explain…But I’m going to try. 

We start with Dim Ignition:

0:00- We open with an intense synth intro that sounds part video game, part horror movie.  The drums create a driving back-beat that almost sounds dance-y. 

0:48- The vocals come in.  The singers passionate and theatrical voice smoothly sings over the top of the track.  The drums begin a passionate bounce on the toms. 

1:20- We arrive at the closest thing any songs have to a chorus.  While the singing is catchy and sticks in your head, a droning backup vocal chants “Dim Ignition” while the song fades out.  The Synth stays on a chord that bounces and becomes part of the next track. 

Famine Wolf:
0:00- The bouncing synth left over from Dim Ignition gets joined by a minor-keyed guitar riff.  It is very simple and very intimidating sounding.  Suddenly, a tapping and sweeping guitar riff layers itself on, creating an incredibly complex  wave of sound. 

0:41:  The full band kicks in.  A rhythmic bass and drum line anchors the impressive singing and shredding that is occurring on top of it all.  The drumming is intense and features some excellent off-beat cymbal work.  Again, this is a highly trained group of musicians, and the jazz elements of his drumming shines through.  The singing is joined by screaming.  The dual vocal styles weave in and out masterfully, creating heavy moments within parts of beauty. 

2:00- After a quick transitioning guitar lick, the song divulges into a shred-metal section.  An impressive array of riffs get framed by some chugging and driving guitar work. 

2:13-  Queen sounding vocals?  High harmonies mixed with screaming?  I’m in love with this song.  For real. 

2:55- After another sweet guitar transition, the song goes back to the “chorus” of the tune, which is a catchy little singing moment. 

3:14- Another bad ass change.  They’re now playing what almost sounds like 90’s power rock.  Of course, this doesn’t last long, as they go back to ultra-aggressive guitar mixed with more Queen sounding vocals. 

4:09- Here, we have a time-signature change.  They break into a swing-bounce with some synth and an excellent guitar solo.  The singer again shows off his chops with his tone and inflection.  This is super-unique and very passionate. 

5:10- Of course we have a jazz/blues section.  The bass takes some sick lines here, and plays with the guitar in a way that makes it sound as if they are weaving through one another. 

5:25- They really play up the theatricality here.  While the singer growls “move the flesh over this rotting bone” in a vocal style that wouldn’t sound out of place in the movie Repo: The Genetic Opera, the piano plays a hypnotic note progression.  This is interspersed with manic moments of a guitar solo. 

6:10- Man, this guitar solo section sounds like Back or Beethoven.  The classical sounding nature of the scale progression ends with a dramatic bang…leading straight into the next track. 

Of course the next track starts with acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals.  Out of nowhere of course.  As this section progresses, gorgeous piano is added, as well as another guitar riff.  All in all,  this is an incredible part that would actually be called rock more than anything.  However, being Between the Buried and me, this won’t last. 

Each moment on this album is precious and fleeting.  You wish certain sections would stay just a little while longer…but that just makes you want to listen to it over and over again. 

This is easily one of the best albums of the year.  It’s possibly the most technically accomplished album I’ve heard in a very long time.  If you’re a fan of metal or heavy music in general, this album is NOT to be missed. 

- The Professor

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