“When you don’t push yourself you will never know what the outcome is”, says Between the Buried and Me vocalist Tommy Rogers, “The outcome is Coma Ecliptic.”
Very few words can accurately describe Between the Buried and Me’s albums that combine the perfect mixture of dynamic precision and technical aptitude. The band have established themselves as not only competent songwriters who push the very boundaries of progressive, technical death metal, metalcore, rock and everything in between. But they have also firmly cemented their legacy as being one of the finest at concept storytelling, using music to create visually captivating themes and standing among the greatest entirely original progressive-themed bands such as Meshuggah, Devin Townsend and Mastodon.
Perhaps it’s fitting to class their genre as nothing other than “Between the Buried and Me”. That is certainly the case with new album Coma Ecliptic which features the very zenith of albums past and recent whilst embarking on a different aesthetic altogether. Back in September, the band cryptically just tweeted; “It has begun! #rockopera” and thus the hype for Coma Ecliptic was born. Then followed their announcement of tours along with the video for “Memory Palace”, which served to act as a mere appetiser for the whole album.
What Coma Ecliptic is, at first glance, is a concept album about a man in a coma. He encounters, throughout his time stuck in said coma, visualisations of his past lives and disturbing, frightening happenstances that serve to take the man deeper within his subconscious. Reflecting on the dark nature of the story, Between the Buried and Me take the listener on each vibrant story within the man’s mind and paint a vivid, brooding picture with their apt musical abilities.
The instrumental portions retain their technical edge and prowess, where Blake Richardson’s intensity behind the kit create a polyrhythmic dominance to take the heavier sections of the album up a notch. At the same time, the guitar exploration is never ending, between Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring crafting perfectly timed sweeps and crushing riffs (“Famine Wolf”), before jumping to hypnotic and haunting passages (“Turn On The Darkness”). Whatever BTBAM are playing to perfection, the depth is given a significant boost with faultless bass precision from Dan Briggs, and thus fans of technical metal both pure and experimental will be thoroughly impressed. It was going to be difficult to match the technicality of The Parallax duo, but the four have completely outdone themselves once again.
But another big talking point of the album is the performance from vocalist Tommy Rogers. He channels an inner Freddie Mercury at full pelt and cuts an intimidating, powerful presence. His vocals are predominantly sung, but sung in a way that combines more passion, energy and control than ever before. The guttural death growls are still on display, but in lesser quantities than in The Parallax, and it is quite refreshing to hear those vitriolic BTBAM segments with a soaring singing piece rather than a growl. Rogers’ vocals here are quite extraordinary. We expected nothing less, but the listener will more than likely have underestimated his approach to these new songs.
Each song has its varying qualities of samples and non-conventional instruments within the realms of metal – even though BTBAM fans are hardly not used to piano from both Briggs and Rogers that serve to give Coma Ecliptic that trademarked sound of the band. But Coma Ecliptic really does push it to the next level, with a musical creativity and progressiveness that really does not feel repetitive or overused. Very few bands can command this level of musical knowledge and skill, and it’s hard to imagine how they can possible outdo themselves next.
If you have read the above review and do not feel even slightly intrigued by this album, then you might possibly be made of stone. It’s a foregone conclusion that sometimes getting into BTBAM is very hard, as it is very difficult to find a song that really personifies where they are in terms of the metal spectrum. But Coma Ecliptic really is that perfect demonstration. It may be challenging for new fans, but it really is the most recommended choice of listen to get the full flavour of the band.
As for longer-term fans of the band, this is another thoroughly evocative listen that bears resemblance to the better parts of The Parallax series as well as touches of Colors and The Great Misdirect, with a very different vocal dynamic.
2. The Coma Machine
3. Dim Ignition
4. Famine Wolf
5. King Redeem – Queen Serene
6. Turn On The Darkness
7. The Ectopic Stroll
8. Rapid Calm
9. Memory Palace
10. Option Oblivion
11. Life In Velvet
Between the Buried and Me are:
Tommy Rogers – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Paul Waggoner – Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dustie Waring – Rhythm/Lead Guitar
Dan Briggs – Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Blake Richardson – Drums