I’m going to do something I wouldn’t normally do, but I just won’t get around to reviewing if I don’t do it. Between the Buried and Me (BTBAM), released their newest album The Parallax II: Future Sequence on Oct 9, 2012. This was a mere five days ago, so I have not had sufficient time to absorb such a complicated album, but I’ll do this review anyway.
First, this album must be taken in context. An EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues preceded it. The two taken together (along with a few songs from even earlier albums) form a huge story arc. This is your classic prog metal concept album setup which brings me way back to Dream Theater’s Metropolis series.
Before discussing the music I’m going to make a rough guess at the storyline. It is difficult to interpret. Last Thursday night I even cleared away the 102 minutes (or whatever it is) needed to focus entirely on this task and still have barely a clue as to what goes on. I put the album on with the lyrics in front of me and concentrated on nothing but story.
There are two main characters, Prospect 1 and Prospect 2. They both made appearances on previous albums. In The Parallax we learn that these two characters are from distant worlds. One seems to try to kill himself in the ocean. As he floats there he enters “hypersleep.” The other character is on a journey to Earth to try to save it from the same fate as his home planet. Due to intergalactic travel, this character is also in “hypersleep.”
Throughout the EP they become aware of eachother in this other “astral plane.” During Parallax II the characters wake up and actually meet. It seems they end up actually deciding that the way to save the planet is to destroy it!? Maybe this isn’t right, but I think Earth gets destroyed by one or both of the Prospects. They say “goodbye to everything” and hence we learn the opening track is actually the end given at the beginning.
As you can probably tell, this is an extremely fun album to puzzle through. One of the biggest strengths that BTBAM have always had is that they incorporate such a diversity into their music. They quickly switch between traditional prog rock, beautiful clean singing, to hardcore death metal, to fun almost dance music, to laid back cool jazz sections, to everything in between.
In contrast with some other bands I praise for this same reason, BTBAM actually incorporate some other interesting things like orchestral arrangements (tuba and flute both make appearances!) and much more neo-classical influences (I have to laugh when I hear the minor key phrases end on the major chord … I didn’t think people did that after Mozart). To me BTBAM have had a pretty hard time pulling off the stylistic mashup. I don’t like how segmented it is. It has the feel that now we’re doing this, and now we’re doing this, and now we’re doing this, rather than incorporating the styles into one coherent unique sound.
On the other hand, this newest album does a better job at having a coherent picture. It is still rather segmented, but it doesn’t put me off as much as before. Another problem I have is that all of my favorite parts occur in the second half of the album, and for such a long album it feels like I’m slogging through the first half just to get to the second half.
I’m also glad I re-listened to The Parallax coming into this. There are lots of musical references and callbacks to the EP. It makes the album kind of exciting to connect the dots. As with most prog bands, the songs are through composed. I’m surprised at how much repetition there is despite this fact. I find this a little tedious. When the album goes on longer than 70 minutes, some of this repetition could definitely be trimmed.
Overall, I really love this album, but it also has some big downfalls for me. That’s why I’ll give it 8/10. I would not hesitate to recommend this to someone unfamiliar with metal as a starting point to see how varied, intricate, and dynamic metal music can be. Here’s my favorite track: