Album Review – Automata I by Between the Buried and Me (Sumerian Records)

American progressive metal quintet, Between the Buried and Me, have released the first part of their futuristic concept album, Automata I. Released on the 9th of March via Sumerian Records, Automata I should further cement Between the Buried and Me’s reputation as one of the more adventurous bands out there.

With the second part due in June this year, called Automata II, Between the Buried and Me are looking to tell us a story. The story follows a man who’s dreams are broadcast for entertainment by a futuristic broadcaster called Voice of Trespass. The record takes place within that dream but, like the dreams you and I have, for the man, it is all very real.

Guitarist Paul Wagonner added a bit more meat to the concept, and how it is also relevant to today, by explaining: ” 

Automata

Alongside Paul Waggoner on lead guitar,Between the Buried and Me are Tommy Giles Rogers Jr on vocals and keyboards and Dustie Waring on rhythm guitar. Blake Richardson is on drums and Dan Briggs is on bass.

Automata I, being “part one” isn’t the longest album you are going to hear at just 6 tracks but it does still weigh in at over 35 minutes long. That is plenty to get your teeth into. What you get is an intriguing piece of work that cleverly mixes sombre brutality with catchy rhythms and occasionally uplifting passages. All of this is tethered to an interesting science fiction story. Like all good sci-fi stories, it is rooted in something that is applicable to modern day concerns while also being, at least a little, plausible.

It actually quite reminds me of Scar Symmetry’s Neohumanity release, though maybe a bit more mellow and blended. The album opens up with Condemned to the Gallows. A gentle guitar melody mixed with soothing keys set us off before a few background effects add a bit of vibrancy. It kicks in quickly with a solid riff backed by futuristic sounding keys.

A steady paced drum beat suddenly explodes into life and the vicious vocals join in. As the track continues it moves through many different phases musically and vocally. There are heavy sections with crunching beats weaved with intricate melodies. Clean vocals appear briefly, a guitar solo and then we turn back to the gentle intro for a second. When the track kicks back in, it is with a rousing chorus with loads of backing and big guitars. A great start.

House Organ is a bit more full on starting straight off with a bass heavy riff and disjointed beat. Aggressive vocals join in as the song sets out destructively. A really neat guitar line backed by keys gives the song a future feel again as it barrels along. A sorrowfully song clean section comes in half way through. It stays morose and deep throughout before some added effects and the guitars raise the song in pitch and purpose a bit.

Yellow Eyes has a technical start with a bassy riff and intricate drum beat. Vocals are spat angrily as the song kicks up the speed and power a notch or two with blazing drum speed and delicate but crunchy guitar lines. Yellow Eyes is a long song and by the time it has ended it has moved through so many phases it is hard to keep up. Fast sections, melodic sections, clean singing, gang vocals, industrial keyboard tones. You name it, it is probably in here. Millions comes next and again brings that mix of vocal styles and masterful switches in the tone and aggression before ending on a morbid, dream like melodic rhythm.

The final two tracks are Gold Distance and Blot. Gold Distance is a 1 minute precursor to the big ending. It just sets the scene with some ominous effects before Blot takes over. Blot is the longest song on the album at well over ten minutes long. It has a bit of an oriental vibe to it’s start but quickly settles into a groove. Once again we move through all manner of styles and emotions. Riff heavy sections lead into melodic, morose sections. The chorus is a little lighter and almost uplifting, especially with the jam packed but well blended synth backing to the guitars.

Most impressive though is how seamlessly each switch takes place. It always feels natural. This is helped massively by the impressive range of vocals on offer by Tommy Giles Rogers. He has a huge range and uses it all. Blake Richardson on the drums is equally impressive, especially considering how much switching up there is in each song. He seems to have no problem going from blistering beats to off tempo rhythms to gentle tapping at any time. While this takes place across the whole album, it really stands out on this final track. As the track ends, the power and aggression pick up once more before suddenly stopping. I assume Automata II will carry on directly from here, explaining the sudden close.

Automata

Automata I is a superbly inventive album. It oozes creativity and progression. Two things BTBAM are well renowned for. In that case, while still very, very good, it is also pretty much exactly what was expected. That isn’t a negative really, it is just the fact that they have set a bar on being creative and progressive so we naturally expect them to continue to do so and be so. Essentially they are an oxymoron in that they are predictably creative.

In Automata I we have in intriguing story brought to life by a wide range of emotive music. From crunching death to mellow rock from sombre tones to uplifting arrangements, this album really does pack it all in and make Automata II one of the most eagerly anticipated of the year. Partly for the creative and intriguing songs that it will bring but also to finish off the story.

You can grab a copy of Automata I from many channels, all that can be found here. You can also pick up it, and more from the band at the Amazon links below. Find out more on Between the Buried and Me at their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or website.

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Automata I by Between the Buried and Me (Sumerian Records)
  • 8.5/10
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