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Album Review: Between the Buried and Me – The Great Misdirect

Between the Buried and Me are a relatively new band on the prog scene, having seen a huge spike in their prog-popularity after they appeared on the 2008 Progressive Nation tour. Of course with a name like ‘Between the Buried and Me’ you’d expect some kind of teenage hardcore or scremo group. It was this prejudice that actually kept me from giving the band a chance for their first few albums. It’s hard enough being a prog fan when you have to deal with band names like “The Flower Kings” (note: I love The Flower Kings), so I didn’t want to add to my portfolio of bands with names that would get my ass laughed at. Yet eventually the buzz around BTBAM became too great for me to resist, and I gave their most recent album at the time, Colors, a honest listen.

While some of my fears were confirmed with Colors, I found myself understanding quite clearly why BTBAM was generating so much prog-hype. The vocals were just as I feared, cookie monster growling along with some clean vocals from someone who sounded like they were 16. The song writing was also a little disjointed, which is more of a critique I have towards various metal genres in general and isn’t specific to BTBAM. However the musicianship was stellar, and when the band hadn’t randomly generating their phrasing the tracks they created were amazing and easily some of the best new prog in the second half of the decade. It was almost like two different bands, a horrible stereotypical teenage death metal band whenever someone was singing, and then an amazing prog metal band whenever vocals weren’t needed. In the end I decided I liked the overall product and would at least continue listening to their stuff whenever they provided new material.

So here I am now listening to their latest offering, The Great Misdirect. I think this album represents a huge step forward for the band and an significant progression (ha!) in their sound. The excellent prog-metal band seems to have taken the reigns on this album, as the song writing has become much more fluid and phrases are much more distinct. Instead of just random thrashing and crazy finger-twisting guitar dueling we actually have passages that stick in your memory and contribute to the feel of each track. On Colors I felt only the ending track, “White Walls“, had any kind of real identity that kept it distinguishable from the other tracks on the album. With The Great Misdirect I find myself identifying passages and songs much more easily. Even the clean vocal sections seem to have evolved beyond what they were on Colors. They still sound like the vocalist needs to finish puberty at times, but at least the music supporting said vocals has improved.

Once again the musicianship is top notch. It’s not the kind of stereotypical prog musicianship where you find your jaw on the floor after a particularly technical section, but it’s still present enough to be appreciated. The intro to “Swim to the Moon” is about as face-melting as the guitar parts get (if you don’t understand the concept of face-melting, look it up). One compliment I can pay the album as a whole is that, especially for a band that is still so young, they understand how to balance all of the instruments during the song writing process and create layers of sound instead of just writing multiple solos and telling the engineer to “Pro Tools the bitch”. Also, if I could give an award to a band for having a keyboard player while still maintaining an extremely brutal metal texture to their songs, BTBAM would win it every year. That goes for their albums before The Great Misdirect as well, in fact I was very surprised when I watched a clip of these guys on youtube and saw a keyboard player on stage.

The crappy death metal band hasn’t been kicked out of the studio completely, and whenever the growling vocals kick in the melodies once again become completely interchangeable with each other. However that’s part of the band’s sound and I can accept that for what it is. In fact I’m absolutely sure this is part of the reason that the band has become so popular, especially with younger prog fans. Whether I like it or not this aspect of their music is something that speaks to people outside of the progressive genre, and because of that I foresee BTBAM continuing to grow and exist as a band fans of metal and prog can connect to each other over.

Hopefully BTBAM can continue to build and progress (ha again!) their sound in this direction. Other reviews of the album I’ve read have been disappointed because it’s not as straightforward and metal as their previous efforts, but I personally view this as a good thing for the development of the band. This is a great album to listen to if you’re just getting into the band for the first time, and I wish I had it available to me before I listened to their older stuff. As with most death-prog-metal (yeah, that’s some over genre classifying there, deal with it), if you can handle the vocals then you’ll enjoy what is on the whole a really sick album.

Grade: B+

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