Overall Score: 8/10 Technical Proficiency : 10/10 Production: 10/10 Songwriting: 7/10 Pros: Between The Buried And Me still remember how to not care about rules and turn it into fantastic music Cons: It stumbles under the weight of the mighty expectations on its shoulders with the odd bit of directionless songwriting
What’s the best way to remind the world you exist? Well, if artistic expression is your tool then there are few statements clearer than Between The Buried And Me’s (BTBAM) Colors II; despite the band being beyond the need for any introduction. However, despite this being a continuation of one of progressive metal’s greatest triumphs of seemingly divine creation, the sequel’s inception reminds us of the quintet’s human nature as vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Rogers claims they still struggle to place themselves within this eclectic genre. To that dilemma, Colors II gives a firm answer. While it does not reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, it’s clear that BTBAM still belongs leagues above the rest.
Just how high above, however, may deflate those expecting the band’s new opus magnum. It was 2007’s Colors that helped liberate BTBAM from the restrictive grip of anonymity; having previously struggled to find a home between the camps of progressive metal and metalcore. In 63 minutes and 8 tracks it was clear the band no longer cared for such restrictive boundaries; in fact, ‘rules’ was a long-forgotten concept. Colors was everything from the most progressive guitar noodling, the most abrasive meat-grinder death metal to the smoothest of jazz in a seamless ‘single song’ structure that the world would never forget them for.
These are feats that, in 14 years and five albums, Tommy Rogers and co have never been able to match; the direct sequel is, unfortunately, no exception. With that said, Colors II is light years beyond a bad or mediocre record – and neither does it give the band’s position amongst the genre any less validity as they feared – but a combination of the odd spanner in the works and heightened expectations is enough to derail the hype train.
When in direct comparison to its behemoth of a bigger brother the reason why is clear; Colors II simply falls short on songwriting. Where Colors was a near immaculate serving of prog metal pantomime, the second act’s mid-section grinds the record to a halt for a less-than-perfect performance. Namely tracks Prehistory, Stare Into The Abyss, and The Future Is Behind Us, whilst wielding their own merits, simply fail to find footing in the 12-track runtime. Ordinarily, this would be no such bug to bear but when carrying this format of an album-spanning song there is little room for misfits especially when each of Colors‘ cogs each sat nicely ensconced in their own rivets. This does leave BTBAM’s latest offering feeling a little less complete and, with such great expectations, these minor errors come as a bitter blow.
However, no such critique can befall the record’s prevailing headbangers (or, more suitably, mind benders) as BTBAM proves that every ounce of their A-game was unleashed to protect their renowned integrity. Ushering listeners in comes Monochrome, picking up its rich keyboard-led intro from Colors’ finale White Walls, in a shockingly beautiful and timid display before peace is shattered by Roger’s signature growls. The Double Helix of Extinction and Revolution In Limbo follow as a hefty 15-minute 1-2 which keeps the momentum flowing with the band’s signature lack of consideration for neck pain as tempo shifts come thick and fast – and even a King Gizzard-styled interlude in the former – with the expected sonorous hooks to keep things from being for ‘display only’.
All-in-all, we come to expect the unexpected from the quintet and they deliver in surplus. It would be remiss to avoid mention of lead single Fix The Error, however. An LP highlight for sure, this five-minute morsel goes from wah-wah bass and carnival key fanfare to a ‘fist through the sky’ punk-revolution styled tirade in a manner of expertise and discipline that only BTBAM could achieve.
All of which, including the album’s weaker moments, is, of course, bolstered by immaculate performances and a production package that could rival almost any. As has been the case for many of the band’s albums, the sheer number of influences demands a diversified palette but Colors II in particular highlights just how brilliant each one is delicately catered for. Staccato chugs and malice fuelled growls crack and explode amongst glistening keyboards with their high sheen and bass notes warble and flow with one beat and harness tectonic powers the next; this is no one-size-fits-all package.
It may not equal a perfect pair from North Carolina’s progressive metal prodigies yet what is encouraging still is BTBAM’s commitment to working without compromise. Colors II is a worthy sequel yet and its napalm-charged twists and turns make for another epic odyssey of genre-bending mayhem – one that solidifies the band’s place amongst the top ranks and invites further insanity on their next great outing.