Some of the most special acts in both the worlds of Prog and Metal are the ones that give a big middle finger to the idea of convention and instead choose to create something fresh and new. Along with these are the ones who reinvent themselves, to adapt and continuously move forward and challenge themselves, perhaps whilst confusing the fuck out of people and making them take notice. All of these can be attributed to musical alchemists Between The Buried And Me.
Signs of the band’s progressive streak has always been a part of the band’s sound, even if in the early days it was much less prevalent as bassist Dan Briggs comments from his time joining in 2004. “At that time of Alaska (Victory) we were so rooted in the hardcore scene, it took a while for the natural progression to kind of happen, and that’s how always how we have written music, we have always written it to happen naturally, nothing is forced and that’s just what’s most important.” Even so, the evolutionary steps they made from those days through to fan favourite Colors (both Victory) in 2007 through to the sheer mind-boggle of The Parallax II: Future Sequence is staggering.
Heading even further down the rabbit hole, new album Coma Ecliptic (both Metal Blade) sees a greater focus on the band’s melodic aspects, as a result there is a decrease in their death metal elements and growls (but still prevalent) and greater influx of their Prog Rock influences and of their quirky and downright weird side. “That element is at the forefront now, and if you look at the Parallax record, you could guess that was kind of going to happen. That’s when we have most fun, when we have can experiment, when we can bring out the banjo and do layering and fun stuff, more vocal harmonies, more character voices.”
“What we did with this album is we made sure the songs have a very defined core and center about them, and from there when the dynamic got to that point where it was going to reach a breaking point in terms of a heavy climax, or whatever, it was always within the context of the song and within the melodic focus of what was happening.”
In fact when discussing deeper influences in the album’s sound, Briggs points out his love for 80’s fun and oddball new wave acts such as Oingo Boingo, Talking Heads and Devo on ‘The Ectopic Stroll’ alongside their well-documented admiration for the likes of Mr Bungle. Stylistically in some sense it may be a departure from before everything at their core is still present. “That’s just all part of the kooky makeup for each member. We are still listening to the same stuff, we are still extreme weirdos; it’s just progression you know?”
The drift toward more a melodic formula is one that Briggs states was in the works for a number of years, but wasn’t necessarily a thought out decision, but one that happened organically: “The first song I remember writing was ‘Memory Palace’ and, I wish I could trace my timeline better but I think I was working on that a year ago. I know before we did our last tour on the Parallax I sent a handful of things to the guys. But right off the bat that set off a good start and a clear vision because a lot of those were full songs, so just right away it hit, and when Paul sent stuff a couple of months later he had that kind of focus, with ‘Famine Wolf’, and it was on the heavier spectrum but he was still hearing these vocal melodies, and when I dug in with him we got the chorus and a good flow for the song and it fit in perfectly, and these 5 songs had a really cool awesome flow.”
Instrumental in the greater focus on vocal melodies and new dimensions was frontman Tommy Rogers wanting to expand his delivery and venture down new avenues: “Tommy was wanting to explore things outside of screaming, and I think it was clear to us that our music was going to go in a different direction, less of a focus on death metal stuff, and I know he was wanting to find his voice and new ways of being intense without taking it to that full extreme of screaming. So I think it’s so cool, rather than just going between his scream and his soft voice, he found so much cool middle ground to work with and characters.”
With the decreasing of BTBAM’s extreme metal roots on Coma Ecliptic however there is of course the possibility of a small, narrow minded contingent decrying the decision, despite its seemingly natural path. When asked if he sees a possible backlash from some fans over this, and compared to Opeth who completely stripped their death metal elements, Briggs seems very positive and highlights the differences between the two situations.
“I don’t think so because it is still there. Mike kind of left the scream in the past, and for me what I think Opeth is doing totally fits.”
“Talking to Mikael (Akerfeldt) you can talk about the same kind of bands, obviously he loves King Crimson, he loves Yes, Genesis and you hear those influences, he just isn’t taking it to the extreme by screaming, and that’s ok”
Despite the clear differences between the two bands and the kind of extremes both have gone to in somewhat reshaping their sound, Briggs explains the difference, but sounds very thankful for an almost kindred spirit. “Its nice to see there is another band that’s an example as far as sticking to your guns. We never questioned like “should Tommy be screaming more” even back in Colors, is it weird having this big Rush kind of thing, no we are just doing it! But it’s nice to see others sticking to their guns.”