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).
Ghost Cult’s chief editor Keefy caught up with Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me recently to discuss their upcoming remastered and remixed version of their debut album, due out on May 15th via Craft Recordings. We chatted with Tommy about the formation of the band, the post-hardcore, metalcore, and Death Metal scene the band came from in Raleigh North Carolina in their previous band Prayer for Cleansing and peers such as Code 7, Undying, Day of Suffering, recording with Jamie King on his first significant release and Jamie’s impact on the band, how the debut telegraphs elements of music the band would incorporate later, the process of remixing and remastering, what shaped Tommy as a singer and lyricist on the first album, taking “creative risks” as an artist, how the lineup change for the Alaska release shaped the future, how the band looked like nerds in their first photos, being a “keyboard” act in heavy music, his favorite song now from back then, and much more. You can order the album in several different bundles here https://found.ee/btbam-st-r and listen to our chat now.
In their fifteen year existence, Raleigh, North Carolina quintet Between the Buried and Me has resisted all attempts at categorisation largely by the ever-changing nature of their music. Breakthrough record Alaska in 2005 saw them being lumped in with the ascendant metalcore scene largely by virtue of their choice of record label and haircuts, despite that critically acclaimed release being very different in content to anything post-Killswitch.
Further records such as Colors in 2007 and The Great Misdirect two years later (all Victory) saw the band flirting with death metal and grind yet the overarching theme was that of fully-fledged progressive metal, something that has now come to fruition on Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade) a bona-fide rock opera that was always in the works, yet few thought would ever be quite so glorious.
With a concept detailing a coma patient’s self-induced exploration of his past lives, facing the choice to either stay or move on to parts unknown and the strange, arcane machine which enables him to do this, none could accuse Between the Buried and Me of lacking a sense of the grandiose. However it is the music that matters and on this record the band has wandered further into the lands of bewildering, arcane prog than ever before, while thankfully still in touch with their metal safety ground. Bands such as Genesis, Queen and Pink Floyd are notable reference points here, with BTBAM seeking to emulate the sense of wonder and freedom those noted acts managed to achieve with their seminal records back in the 70s.
The guitars on Coma Ecliptic are more interested in swirling leads and deft licks than common-or-garden heads down riffing, with rhythm largely left over to the solid, yet often playful bass guitar. This is apparent from the first time the axes make an appearance; with a brief yet histrionic solo which closes the soulful, piano-led opening track ‘Node’. Of course, this is still a metal album at heart and most tracks feature basic one/two chugs during the verses, although the attention will mostly be focused on the ever-present spiralling leadwork. A prime example of this is ‘The Coma Machine’, which develops the themes of the opening track into a surreal yet wholly engaging journey of bewildering prog rhythms, fluid guitar acrobatics and soaring, mysterious keyboards. It’s one hell of an impressive start to a record and things only get better from there.
Whether it’s the Zombi style 80s synth of ‘Dim Ignition’ complete with buzzing vocal effects which pitches the listener straight into a John Carpenter action film, the absurdly fun Vaudevillian stomp of ‘The Ectopic Stroll’ which Faith No More would have killed to have included on their recent comeback album or the emotionally devastating ‘King Redeem – Queen Serene’ which flits between soulful acoustic introspection to searing melodic death metal with a few maniacal prog flourishes thrown in for good measure, it’s utterly impossible to get bored. This is a record that you could listen to over twenty times and still find surprises waiting for you at every turn.
Each member of the band has come on leaps and bounds since the early days with Paul Waggoner surely staking a claim for one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation and the man Dream Theater should be keeping a close eye on when they next suffer a crisis in the ranks. But it is mainman Tommy Rogers who deserves most of the plaudits. His soulful croon will tug at your heartstrings on ‘Rapid Calm’ during the wondrous guitar solo-used-as-verse, but will instantly switch to feral death growl without breaking sweat, and crucially without ever sounding contrived.
The record that they were always promising to make but you weren’t sure was possible, on Coma Ecliptic Between the Buried and Me have exceeded all expectations and delivered not only the album of their careers but one of the most monumental ambitious rock concept pieces this side of Operation Mindcrime (EMI).
How they will ever top this remains the only sticking point.
Abiotic is streaming a video showing how to play the guest solo on “The Absence of Purity” by Between the Buried and Me’s Paul Waggoner, here. The song is off of their new album Casuistry, out April 21, 2015 via Metal Blade Records.
The band will be hitting the road in April on a North American tour with Boris The Blade, Alterbeast and more.
For 25 years, Meshuggah has been terrorizing the ears and cortices of the music world, and so it was only natural that they’d bring along their apprentice masters of the mindfuck in Between the Buried and Me along for the ride. And what a ride, indeed. They could open a carnival of progressive wonders, where musical rules are meticulously followed and simultaneously twisted to Eldritch proportions. But enough of this posh music academy drivel, this is metal.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve caught Between The Buried and Me since their tour in 2009 with In Flames, but we’ll just settle for ‘a lot’. And having seen them a lot, one gets used to the Colors closing masterpiece, ‘White Walls’ being used as a closer rather than an opening. And one also gets used to the suspense in waiting for perhaps one, maybe even two gems pre-Alaska (Victory). What with the success of Colors (Victory) and having released three space-exploration reports since, they’ve obviously got a lot of material to choose from, and their priority seems to be the latter half of their career. Essentially, we can look forward to hearing mainly post-Alaska tunes as they played this night. Though keep your fingers crossed for their upcoming 15th anniversary.
This was one of those odd sets where BtBaM played mainly their longer songs, thus making Paul Waggoner’s statement to interviewers all-too-real. Perhaps we can stop waiting for them to bust out ‘Mordecai’ or ‘Naked By The Computer’ when they’re wrist-deep into ‘Lay Your Ghosts To Rest’, immediately followed by ‘Fossil Genera’ to cap off another amazing set. They’re changing, and we’re being taken with them as listeners and watchers. Keep writing/keep dreaming.
Meshuggah and BtBaM contrasted in a way that honestly took me off guard even though anyone with a working ear can see it immediately in their music. I refer to the aura created not only by 7-string guitars that make the sound of super-astronauts punching asteroids into other ones, but also their stage presence and light show. BtBaM was rather conservative this time, with no fancy screens, just stage lighting that undulated chromatically with the music, and kept their beards in sight. Meshuggah on the other hand was strobe hell, with lights that must be programmed by acid wizards for all of the meticulous timing. And no, you couldn’t see any of Jens Kidman’s faces from the floor unless you wanted to risk blinding yourself. Polyrhythms and infectious grooves were the name of the game. They even used the disco ball during ‘Gods of Rapture’. I don’t even remember the last artist who I’ve seen use that, if ever. Maybe The Roots?
This being their 25th anniversary, they played the “hits”, if you will, opening up with the caustic ‘Future Breed Machine’, an industrial hellride banger that never fails to incite mechanised violence. Plenty of material from their debut album, Contradictions Collapse (Nuclear Blast), including the robotic thrash of ‘Greed’ and the earlier mentioned ‘Gods of Rapture’. Choice tracks from Chaosphere, one being the mighty ‘New Millennium Cyanide Christ’, and quite heavy on the Koloss. ‘Straws Pulled At Random’ was my favourite of the night, though I wish they had found room for ‘Spasm’ as well, while they were doing Nothing.
Encoring with Riddler-esque green lights and a back-to-back delivery of ‘In Death – Is Life’ and ‘In Life – Is Death’ from Catch ThirtyThree, I can say they’ve officially won me over. Nevermore will I be ambivalent about Meshuggah, as they put on a killer show, even if their crowd doesn’t know the physics of how a circle-pit should work. During the fast parts, people.
Meshuggah Set List
Future Breed Machine
The Hurt that Finds You First
Do Not Look Down
Gods of Rapture
New Millennium Cyanide Christ
Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion
Straws Pulled at Random
In Death – Is Life
In Death – Is Death
WORDS: SEAN PIERRE-ANTOINE