With an intensely satisfying marriage of instrumental technicality with adventurous compositions, Automata I is the latest iteration of the ever-shifting sound of Between the Buried and Me, showcasing the group at its most experimental yet simultaneously at its most cohesive.
Existing for years as a technical punk-metal band, Between the Buried and Me saw their sound change drastically with the introduction of bassist Daniel Briggs and members of the deathcore band Glass Casket; rhythm guitarist Dusty Waring and drummer Blake Richardson.
Each member brought drastically different influences to the table, introducing elements of jazz fusion, black metal and most prominently, progressive rock to the band’s sound. The first record released with the new line-up was ‘Alaska’ in 2005, an ambitious release that ground disparate genres together with dissonant and ever-changing riff passages.
However, the group’s sound remained heavily rooted in their ‘metalcore’ beginnings, with a focus on syncopated breakdown passages and a violent onslaught of banshee shrieks and guttural growls courtesy of vocalist and keyboard player Thomas Giles.
The odysseys presented by songs like the eight-minute Backwards Marathon set the stage for the group’s sonic re-invention with the release of ‘Colors’ in 2007. The album was presented as a conceptual whole, with labyrinthine compositions flowing in and out of each other for a full uninterrupted hour.
This leap into wildly experimental territory cemented the group’s position as masters of intricate, through-composed progressive metal.
‘Colors’ was Between the Buried and Me’s statement of defiance towards a music scene they felt was growing stale and complacent. This change was most notably felt with Giles, who expanded his range to incorporate heavily-layered, Queen-esque vocal passages.
The record has an undeniable sense of urgency, an artistic statement that was crying out to be made. As Giles roars during the album’s closer White Walls: “This is all we have when we die/We will be remembered for this.”
With Automata I, Between the Buried and Me rose to the occasion, delivering a remarkably confident album that embraces both the raw aggression of their earlier work and the theatricality and electronic influences of previous record Coma Ecliptic.
Just as a well-crafted dance music track breathes new life into the older songs it samples and loops, Between the Buried and Me have iterated on the lessons learnt from over a dozen years of experimentation and genre-mashups, creating an unmistakable and distinct sound that soars above the sum of its influences.
Album opener; Condemned to the Gallows, acts as a prelude to the madness that lies ahead, painting vivid sonic brushstrokes to introduce the listener to the world of Automata I. While the song jumps through an album’s worth of ideas, each section flows into the next seamlessly.
In the intro, a syncopated acoustic guitar leads into ominous synth arpeggios. In the mid-section, guitar and bass play a rapid series of triplets harmonized over a triumphant fanfare, before suddenly descending into a crushing breakdown.
Finally, the song comes full circle as Giles quotes the synth melody of the introduction, neatly book-ending this six-minute musical journey.
On paper these transitions sound jarring, but each member locks into the overall sound like cogs into a machine, smoothly guiding the listener through the intricacies of each composition before gracefully leading into the next.
The longer tracks present the listener with intoxicating, free-flowing onslaughts of musical ideas.
Yellow Eyes is a highlight of this style of through-composition, letting the instrumentalists loose to create a series of aggressive riffs, continuously building tension before resolving with a groovy interlude more reminiscent of a jazz club house band than a metal band.
Unlike previous records, the album focuses on conveying single emotions through shorter tracks with the same degree of intensity applied to the longer epics; the album’s standout track, Millions, masterfully conveys a powerful sense of awe in the listener.
Automata I begins and ends with power, imbued with a sense of extreme confidence that will, hopefully, be maintained in the second part of this double-album. They certainly have a job to do.