The first time I saw Between the Buried and Me live was at The Gramercy Theatre in New York City, during a tour for their then-newly released Colors(Victory Records) album; it was a pivotal period for the group who had, at that time, seen a series of lineup changes in short order. Five drummers, four guitarists, and three bassists later, the band was shaping their sound to dull the edges from the ever-aggressive Silent Circus (Victory Records) and Alaska (Victory Records) albums to an arguably more technically complex, albeit at times mellower, Jazzy era that would set the tone for the rest of their musical trajectory as we know it today.
Long-time fans of BTBAM were not likely surprised to see that significant shift brought on by Colors in 2007, however, as those seeds were first planted in their 2002 debut eponymous album. That year, at a time when new albums from a range of bands like Opeth, Agalloch and Killswitch Engage served to further entrench accepted divisions by delivering expected entries in their respective subgenres, BTBAM introduced provocative nuance and dynamic energy, massaging and outright challenging normative beliefs about what it means to be a Metal band.
Recorded 18 years ago over the span of five days, the album included reworked tracks from their 2001 three-song demo, ‘What We Have Become,’ ‘The Use of a Weapon’ and, a personal favorite, ‘More of Myself to Kill’—which plays with transitions between growl vocals and sorrowful melodies, and features the vocal performance of former drummer Will Goodyear. Along with seven additional tracks, including ‘Arsonist,’ that showcases lyrics pointed at the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, the extremely catchy ‘Aspirations,’ and ‘Shevanel Cut a Flip,’ which closes out the album with a 9-minute epic that lays the groundwork for many of the rich and immensely satisfying tracks BTBAM is now known for, the album is a surprisingly diverse sampler of the incredible range this band brings to each entry into their discog.
For this remaster (from Craft Recordings, purchase it here), BTBAM has brought back the album’s original producer, Jamie King, to breathe life back into the tracks. Owners of the original album may struggle to justify buying the album anew, but there is an appreciable difference in sound quality here worth noting. With a more robust sound that captures many of the low- to mid-range intricacies that were lost in the original recording, the remaster sounds richer, punchier, and fuller. Collectors will also want to pay attention: the remaster will be released on limited edition clear-colored vinyl, limited to 500 copies total.
For the last 20 years, Between the Buried and Me have been in a constant dialogue with their own history, defying labels in a genre that is obsessed with them. While the self-titled album lacks the staying power of The Silent Circus or other critical works in the discography, this entry is worth looking into. Fans of BTBAM will delight at the opportunity to revisit dusty memories, remastered the way it was intended to be heard; newcomers doing a deep dive into the band’s history may find a few gems worth latching on to.
7 / 10