Asking me to review the new opus magnificus from Between The Buried And Me is perhaps a pointless exercise. I’m almost certainly going to love it. I own everything they have ever released and pre-ordered a large bundle pack for this album the second it became available. I booked tickets for more than one date on their UK tour the day they went on sale and the evening the promo copy of this landed in my inbox I was, genuinely, wearing my Great Misdirect shirt. So, I quite like them.
But I have favourites and not-so-favourites in their back catalogue and have listened to their output so much that I’d like to think I can cast a critical eye over any release and aim to be objective.
So, as a reviewer rather than a fanboy, objectively – this album is incredible and you must buy it now.
Is that enough words for this review? Can I go back to listening to it and air-drumming now? No?
Ok…here’s some more detail, unfashionably broken down into a track by track description:
Opener ‘Node’ blossoms gently into life like a bud greeting the sunshine and setting the scene for the vast expanse of magnificence to follow. A gentle and brief amuse bouche to prime you for the main event.
‘The Coma Machine’ was previewed on various sites and so may be familiar to you already but is a fine way to launch into the real meat and bones of this album. Anyone who listened to the wonderful smorgasbord of material on offer on their covers album (“The Anatomy Of…”) and pored over the liner notes will know they are Queen fans. Although many of their songs don’t have that flavour explicitly, the arrangements and key changes have clear May and Mercury DNA. This is no exception; a building, twisting, schizophrenic rhapsody with layers of piano, guitar and vocals spinning into infinity and keeping the gruff vocals at bay until the very end
Segueing seamlessly into the electronic pulse of ‘Dim Ignition’, BTBAM are a fine reminder that the oft-used 2 minute link track on modern rock albums is not always a dull throwaway, but can be neatly presented like this. Rather than the all too common “this is one idea stretched to 2 minutes” this is a cracking song with all the fat trimmed off.They are frequently capable of 10 minute epics but they don’t stretch ideas out beyond their natural span. Whether it’s a behemoth or a quick punch, there is an overflowing well of ideas and ingenuity in every track.
‘Famine Wolf’ ups the ante and hits harder than the first 3, but still gives Tommy plenty of room to lace melody (both vocally and with keys) across this piece. Paul and Dustie trade licks in true metal hero style here and the uplifting harmonies abound as it speeds on towards its creepy conclusion.
‘King Redeem – Queen Serene’ is moody and calls to mind Opeth and Porcupine Tree but with a real sense of drama and histrionics. One hopes this will make it into the live set for their upcoming tour.
‘Turn On The Darkness’ is the most schizophrenic track here and really demands several listens. I am still undecided as to whether it is a disjointed mish-mash of too many ideas that doesn’t quite work or a kaleidoscope of such brilliance that it’s not properly sunk in yet. I’m suspecting it will probably be a track that either grows into my favourite or gets skipped when I am listening in the future.
‘The Ectopic Stroll’ is tight power chords battling show-tune piano and some of the funkiest drumming Blake has ever laid down, with flourishes Bruford or Peart would be proud of. ‘Rapid Calm’ has the same pace and feel as ‘Coma Machine’ and ‘Famine Wolf’ but descends into more classic metal guitar duel territory as it closes.
‘Memory Palace’ swaggers like Dream Theater to begin with and is in some ways quite accessible yet retains the glorious complexity and aggression of the material that graced “Colors” and “Parallax I and II”.
‘Option Oblivion’ is another track where the keyboard interplay with the guitars is beautifully crafted and like so many of the songs it feels way more cohesive than on previous albums. The instruments don’t follow each other but joust and then embrace, rising into a movie score crescendo.
As the credits roll, ‘Life In Velvet’ strolls along with delicate meandering vocals and blooms into a full on chorus of celebratory power and jubilant chanting then finally dive bombs into a thundering scream and crunch like Korn on crystal meth.
“Coma Ecliptic” is progressive metal at its best – retaining a sense of melody whilst packing in heaps of visceral energy and brute force riffing. It is simple and elegant at times, with complexity and intricate arrangements at every turn. Never too clever for its own good or technical for the sake of it, this is an album that will satisfy long time fans but will provide a welcome entry point to anyone new to the band. More bands need to put this much effort into crafting an album. Reward these guys by actually getting a ticket and seeing them when they tour later this year.