Forever moving to the beat of their own drum, progressive metallers Between The Buried & Me have very rarely done anything in a conventional manner. Always renowned for their madcap blend of contrasting styles and structures, a previous announcement this year saw them choose to release their latest effort, Automata (Sumerian) as a double, split album individually released throughout the year. With Automata I seeing the light of day back in March, it was expected to have set the tone for its companion piece, Automata II; but once again, BTBAM do things their own way.
Where Part I was a fairly polarising release that, in some ways, harkened back to the likes of Colors (Victory) with its degree of refinement and sharper structures (in about as much as BTBAM do so), Automata II embraces brilliant excess in ways more akin to the Parallax and Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade) albums, and at times to an even greater degree.
Album opener ‘The Proverbial Bellow’ is the most overtly “Prog” sounding song the band has created to date, in terms of lengthy duration and mesmeric twists and turns, but also in its sense of theatrics throughout. ‘Voice Of Trespass’ takes heed from both jazz and big band ensemble-like grandeur, whilst the accordion and piano-led ‘Glide’ gives a brief bridge between the two. ‘The Grid’ is a suitably esoteric closer which brings both their aggressive and weirder sides together in a richly layered finale.
As the album veers through so many styles, the vocal performance of Tommy Rogers seems to astound further with each new release as he breaks more and more boundaries and new styles of delivery, particularly impressive on ‘The Proverbial Bellow’ where he ranges from Gentle Giant reminiscent harmonies to a towering and passioned chorus line.
As contrasting sides to the coin, Automata I and II do warrant their individual releases, arguably not necessarily complimenting one another, but certainly able to stand alone from one another and hold up. As I did initially, II will surely prove divisive once again, but closes out this double release with some of their boldest and inventive works to date.
Where some may have seen I as being played a little safe, II is the band unshackled and unlimited, and its results are, at times, astounding.