Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Record Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Between the Buried and Me always push the envelope. They always keep us guessing, even when we think they might keep themselves in the same realm sonically as they move from album to album. But with the band’s music post-The Great Misdirect, whether it be for the sake of The Parallax’s story or a dabble in exaggerated theatrics, there is a noted fluency of wonder and tension as the band puts a bit of a wrap on the orbital story of these characters. That aside though, The Parallax II: Future Sequence finds the band at perhaps some of their most daring and ridiculous shifting of timbres, from the parlaying of Queen to an almost Zappa like instrumentation at times. But even as the band continues to play their hand right into the expectations of both expansion of their sound and the expectation of their fans, the often quirky tones and well-meshed songwriting of Parallax II is sure to leave even the most finicky of BTBAM fans in awe.
In roughly 74 minutes of tentacled percussion and ethereal melodies from all fronts, Between the Buried and Me truly hit a stride in fully expanding the themes and ideas of the The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues they unleashed last year. From the spanning strums and eerie undertone of opener “Goodbye to Everything” to the whimsical plucking of “Astral Body”, the band does enough in the first couple tracks to truly set a bar for this disc. The bombardment of melodies in the former at one point is truly enough to make you lose your mind, but in a good way. Rather than brash us with constant hammering of distortion and noodly guitars, the musicianship seemingly comes in waves without watering it down on this track. But just like that, we’re submerged into the gritty realm this band seems most known for, as our first trip into ten-minute track-land on Parallax II occurs with the very polyrhythmic opening of “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest”. But on a dime, the band halts the mayhem for a pomp break that harkens vaudevillian cues and a mysterious tone that pokes up through the record. “Black Box” does almost as much though in about a fifth of the time. A slower tempo and melodic grandeur furthers that mind-wandering tone for a couple minutes worth of subtle storytelling, as the haunting line of ‘You’re in danger from our creations’ sways perfectly over the creeping tension of the guitars and punching percussion.
As far as those shifts go, the band seems much more in tune with making the switch from aggression to acrobatics – and back again – more fluidly. “Telos” is a prime example, again showing the maniacally heavy side of the band before giving us one of the truly weirder moments of the record in the form of a spacey interlude humming with synth and jazzy drumming that really taps that space context of the story. That sway makes the oddball “Bloom” a bit less jarring, though in all honesty there’s not much to prepare you for the pulsing pianos and cavalcade of instrumentation tapped on this one. I would be willing to say it is the strangest, yet arguably most intriguing track the band has put on record. Anywhere else, possibly even on this record, “Bloom” would be a total mindfuck of a song. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but considering it’s placement in the lyrical context, it makes a little more sense. Musically though, it acts as the moment of confused tension and paranoia that climaxes into the slightly more reined in “Melting City”.
And that control of the psyche and how Parallax II is perceived is where this record truly shines. Even when the band is bouncing back and forth between new ideas and re-introduction of particular elements (“Extremeophile Elite”), this album intrigues in songwriting while wowing with an excellent presentation and presence from the rhythm section, even by BTBAM’s standards. While there are moments throughout to point to for such blatantly jaw-dropping musicianship and structuring (“Astral Body”, “Telos”, etc.), “Silent Flight Parliament” is the slowly, but surely climactic movement of the disc – and rightfully so. While others have their place in the storyline or in the sonic definition of the band, this track kind of really steals the show in terms of tensive catharsis and musical realization. Everything just punches itself into the mix here, whether it be upper register vocal pulls, rhythmic wizardry or just plain good jamming. Tie in the fact that it pushes the fifteen minute mark while really dialing in that long-run songwriting Between the Buried and Me have been showing for album upon album, and you’re in for what ends up being a convincing finishing blow to the buildup – not only through this song but across the entire album. Reprising with the introduction to complete the album is a nice touch though, making this disc really feel like a complete arcing piece of work, even if it is divided by tracks.
From start to finish, The Parallax II: Future Sequence is both what you would and wouldn’t expect from Between the Buried and Me. While there’s plenty to get into for the metalheads with frantic rhythms and shredding galore, there’s a side of the band rooted in experimentalism tied to grand arrangements and big stage theatrics that is more exposed than it ever has been. And in all honesty, what else would we have expected from these guys six full-lengths in? Both daring and down right difficult to turn away, consider this among the band's finest work of their career thus far.