CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Between the Buried and Me – Alaska 

I assume it’s easy to look back at the aughts and be dismissive of the entire decade particularly from the perspective of metal or punk fan. Nu-Metal was slowly being phased out as any goodwill from the previous decade had eroded and acts like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte made everyone realize that maybe the idea of Pop-Punk was a mistake. But those who kept their ear close to the ground knew better than to become jaded. Hard rock was alive and well and young bands were doing very exciting things. Young bands like Between the Buried and Me with their seminal Alaska (Victory Records 2005/Craft Recordings 2020).

And revisiting Alaska now in its shiny 2020 Remix/Remaster state it’s not difficult to understand why it’s one of the more accomplished heavy releases of its day. Just blasting the title-track through my speakers takes me back to 2005 and catch the music video for the first-time late night on MTV2. In just over a minute Dustie Waring and Paul Waggoner hit you with a cascade of guitars that can only be interpreted as a Rush tune seen through the lens of Dying Fetus. And on top of all that Tommy Rogers is barking like a mad dog while Dan Briggs and Blake Richardson conduct a rhythm section circuit workout. As an eighteen-year-old, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly had transpired but I knew I needed more. 

For those like myself looking for another fix, the remainder of Alaska had what you needed. Between the Buried and Me had already shown signs of greatness on predecessor The Silent Circus, but everything got the Imax treatment on Alaska. ‘Selkies: The Endless Obsession’ still had brutal rhythms and Richardson obliterating his drum kit but packed in Proggy keyboards and lead guitar work that made you want to show it to your guitar teacher. ‘Roboturner’ swings its weight around and proudly declares itself as one of the best Death Metal tracks of the last twenty years and it gets topped off with the meatiest of breakdowns. ‘Backwards Marathon’ keeps the death metal flowing, but about halfway in they pump the brakes and we’re neck-deep in prog-town again. More surprisingly it turns into a showcase for Rogers’ vocal range as he’s doing his damndest to channel some of that Freddie Mercury energy.     

Since we’re on the subject of Between the Buried and Me’s prog-rock leanings we have to address how this fearless jump into that pool kicked down the doors for others to come. In retrospect, I am not one bit surprised that Sumerian Records wanted in on the Between the Buried and Me business and released Automata I and II a couple of years back. How could they not? It was albums like Alaska and Colors catching on that set the stage for Sumerian talent like Periphery, Veil of Maya, Animals as Leaders, and The Faceless. Much like with Cynic’s Focus and Opeth’s Blackwater Park before it, an album like Alaska made it cool to mix progressive and Jazz ideas with extreme metal. 

If the naysayers and detractors want to paint the first decade of the 2000s as irrelevant, they simply weren’t willing to try. Are we talking about the same decade that produced work like The Red Chord’s Clients, The Black Dahlia Murder’s Miasma, Mastodon’s Remission, Converge’s Jane Doe, A Life Once Lost’s Hunter, and Alaska? That decade seemed pretty good to me. 

Alaska Remixed and Remasted is being released in a deluxe vinyl edition via craft Recordings. Purchase at this link:https://found.ee/btbam-alaska-r

HANS LOPEZ