Between the Buried and Me
The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
posted on 6/2011 By:
Instead of rehashing the history of Between the Buried and Me for the 10,294th time, I’ll begin this review with a simple explanation of my particular views on the band, so that those wishing to argue their asses off will at least understand my perspective.
1. Unlike much of their passionate fan base, I do not view the band as some sort of Goliath of progressive metal or metalcore. They are no more the saviors of prog than Lamb of God were the saviors of thrash.
2. That said, I found both Colors and The Great Misdirect to be excellent examples of genre-blending technicality. Neither is in the league of their muses – not quite Lazarus Bird or Scenes From a Memory, for example -- but both are quite accomplished in their own right.
3. I am not a fan of their early material. Deal with it.
There be the parameters, on to the critique…
The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is a new three-track EP that will eventually make up the first part of a longer concept album—the second part to be released on the band’s forthcoming sixth full-length. For the most part, it continues the path trod by the last two releases: a convergence of progressive metalcore with heaps of Dream Theater influence and the usual left-field antics. The tone is more Colors than The Great Misdirect, while infusing more of the death metal heft of Alaska. The overall result is a perfect example of how bands use the EP format the wrong way: one spectacular track and two that would never make the cut for a full-length.
After a quick overture, “Specular Reflection” hits full strength with an ultra aggressive verse and one of the most head-turning zipper riffs the band has ever penned. From the well-constructed theme variations to the band’s signature stylistic shifts, this track shows exactly how great BTBAM can be when they are all-in. The mid-song drop-and-build does a particularly nice job of extending the song over rhythm-focused work that is as interesting as it is appropriate. And that word “appropriate” is the big ol’ key to these proceedings. All of the various elements of this track bind together to form a whole. Even when a vocal melody sounds a bit too much like Porcupine Tree or when those inexplicable tangents show up, it still works.
And that is about as far as the good gets. The other two songs, “Augment of Rebirth” and “Lunar Wilderness,” are exactly what happen when the BTBAM approach becomes overly formulaic and derivative. The faults are numerous: predictable clean choruses, Tommy Rogers’ empty-as-fuck harsh vocals pushed to the front of “Augment of Rebirth,” lead guitar that isn’t as smooth as it thinks it is (John Petrucci these guys are not), and unrelated sections that exist in vacuous silos. As opposed to moving the band forward as “Specular Reflections” did, both of these songs instead seem like the weaker material on Alaska attempting to fit in on Colors. To be fair, neither song is exactly bad, and there is certainly some good-to-great material within each, but just because “Magic Carpet Ride” had a great chorus doesn’t mean it wasn’t a festering mess of a track.
The intent of an EP should never be to fill space just so that one really exciting song can reach the public ear, but that is very much what The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues does. Fans will undoubtedly eat up the first track and convince themselves that they enjoy the other two, but repeated listens will prove that this is a shadow of what BTBAM are capable of writing.
Oh well, at least they’re not on Victory anymore.
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