Between The Buried And Me – ‘Automata I’

By Liam Knowles

Between The Buried And Me started out as a tech metal band with prog-rock elements, but in the fifteen (!) years since their breakthrough album ‘The Silent Circus’ that balance has shifted and these days they have more in common with Rush and Dream Theatre than they do with The Dillinger Escape Plan or The Red Chord. Their latest offering ‘Automata I’ is part one of a two part project exploring the concept of broadcasting dreams as entertainment, and the implications of this for both the dreamer and the audience. An ambitious reach, yes, but progressive music is all about ambition.

It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one that musically, this album is stunning. Opener ‘Condemned To The Gallows’ starts the record straightforward enough, with clean guitar picking leading in to a post-metal wall of driving guitars and synth lines before things become more jagged with the introduction of Tommy Rodgers’ ferocious vocals. Whilst ‘Automata I’ may not be as technically showy as the band’s previous efforts, it doesn’t feel any worse off for it. Both the guitarists are at the absolute top of their game and the rhythm section locks in perfectly behind them. Closing track ‘Blot’ showcases that Between The Buried And Me are still more than capable of creating mind-bending riffs that you’d need an engineering degree to properly understand, and these are even more effective when not over-used.

The only thing that lets this album down is the vocal performance. Tommy Rodgers’ screams and growls are strong, but his cleans are lacklustre. He sounds like Korn vocalist Jonathan Davies at times and once you hear this it’s very difficult to un-hear, making the overall experience less immersive. There’s also a segment of ‘Yellow Eyes’ where he utilises middle ground between singing and growling, but it sounds pained. Between The Buried And Me could benefit from someone who can really belt it out, giving the cleanly-sung sections as much clout as the harsh vocal sections, and bringing the overall vocal performance up to the same standard as the stellar musicianship.

This album will almost definitely please the bands’ existing fanbase, and help further cement them as one of the prog/tech genre’s defining bands, but a cynic would ask why on earth Between The Buried And Me have split this project into two releases. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, ‘Automata I’ feels like it’s over far too quickly. Most fans of progressive music are used to (and thrive on) long run times, so if this album was 60-90 minutes long that would likely be seen as a strong point rather than a detrimental one. Maybe the whole thing will make more sense when the second part is released but unfortunately ‘Automata I’, whilst technically excellent, feels more like a filler record than a real monument in the band’s otherwise impressive discography.

LIAM KNOWLES

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