Released 9 March 2018
BTBAM have moved to a new label and issued part one of a double progressive metal album. Automata I poses the question, what if dreams could be broadcast for the purposes of entertainment? Louder than war’s Neil Johnson rolls up his sleeves and embraces some progressive metal.
Progressive Metal is a strange term to me. When I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, prog meant unnecessarily tedious and probably twice as long as it should be. Metal, however, now that was loud and exciting, full of drama and spandex and pointy guitars, probably flames too. Why would anyone cross these two genres? In my mind as a spotty fifteen-year-old, this would have been like crossing chess and cage fighting, something I almost certainly didn’t need in my life and therein lay the foundation of twenty-five years of avoiding anything with prog in the title.
So, imagine my surprise when I caught Between The Buried and Me supporting The Dillinger Escape Plan. They not only impressed with their live show but also opened up an entirely new genre to me. It has to be said that Coma Ecliptic as an album never quite managed to become a firm favourite in my collection, but there were a few tracks that did, such as Famine Wolf and Dim Ignition. I did dig through their back catalog and can’t think of another band that has changed quite so much with every release, although it does feel like they have settled down into a groove with the last couple of releases.
The new record Automata I feels very similar to their last release. If you weren’t a fan of Coma Ecliptic this is unlikely to change your mind about Between the Buried and Me. There is some welcome development here though, the sound is slightly thicker and darker in tone, Tommy Giles Rogers Jr’s growls used more and I think to greater effect.
Automata I as an album feels better thought through than Coma Ecliptic, there is a better flow between the songs. I love how Condemned to the Gallows starts, almost teases you in gently, before being assaulted with brutally heavy guitar work from Paul Waggoner. House Organ on the other hand just smashes it from the get-go, stunning complexity and driving rhythm, definitely one of my favourites from this record. Yellow Eyes has some great sections but doesn’t quite seem to fit together as well as some of the other tracks, it’s not a bad track, but a little disjointed. It does have a bit of a Korn vibe thrown in just for good measure though, which I quite enjoyed. Millions is a haunting swirl of different sounds that carries you through four and a half minutes effortlessly. Gold Distance brings back some of the synth sounds from previous records, a lovely instrumental piece but seems a little short and never quite manages to reach its potential. Blot, on the other hand, is a ten-minute epic, that manages to captivate from the outset with a rollercoaster of sitar, synths and driving metal riffs. Blot is the high point on Automata and probably my favourite track from BTBAM to date, it really is pretty stunning and shows just how far BTBAM have progressed on this record. Then you are left with silence, wondering where the last thirty-five or so minutes disappeared.
In summary, Automata I is a great metal record with some exceptional tracks that also works really well together as an album. It feels darker, heavier and yet also more accessible than their previous releases. It serves to set them even further ahead of their peers, their constant development is leaving the other prog metal bands in their wake. My only reservation is that it’s a little short? Hopefully, Automata II will be a little longer.
The Between The Buried and Me website is here