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I can't shake the feeling that "metalcore" as a label implies something of a generic sound. The strongest early voices in the field, bands like Integrity, Corrin, and Overcast - despite having a permanent place in our hearts and being fine bands in their own right - lacked much in the way of originality and innovation. And those bands that Did possess these qualities, Converge to take the most obvious example, we called metalcore only after exhausting all other possible terms.
So why is it that bands keep popping up these days that clearly fall under the auspices of metalcore, but are so remarkably creative and interesting No one will ever doubt that Between the Buried and Me's new self-titled cd is diehard metalcore - it's on Lifeforce, for God's sake, the same label that puts out Caliban and Heaven Shall Burn - but I have trouble pinpointing any hardcore band that pulls so many different influences directly into their music and still maintains a solid, consistently hardcore sound throughout (as opposed to, say, Candiria, who have a more diverse sound but only get it by breaking completely outside hardcore). Furthermore, when we talk about hardcore that transcends barriers, we usually mean it takes a metal/punk core and rubs up against emo, indie rock, or hip hop. On this album, you will hear some things you have never heard before outside VH1. But so metalcore. Remember that: so, so very metalcore. BTBAM drops breakdowns like a fat southern sheriff dropping doughnut crumbs.
The gem of the album is "Aspirations," used as the demo track on their website for very good reason. It opens on good, solid metalcore riffing: neither particularly sludgy nor chaotic, with good crunch and a two-step rhythm. Vocals demonstrate a nice range, from shrieks to growls, always with a raw forced quality. BTBAM might best be described as having a full sound; all musical elements seem to blend together perfectly, giving all their songs the feel of direction.
Tempo changes are frequent, but unlike the spastic leaps of someone like Dillinger, these all feel meticulous and perfectly timed within a higher structure. Guitars switch from double-bass chugging to inspired high-end metal riffing, melodic at times, almost wistful. There are long stretches of purely instrumental music. Then, around halfway through the song, the vocals suddenly take a tremendously surprising turn, and though I don't want to give away too much, think Whitesnake or Twisted Sister and you might get the idea. If the band meant it otherwise, I feel bad for saying this, but it is some funny shit. Immediately after the wailing, the bottom drops into some double-bass play that feels like a breakdown but is just too disorganized and messy; then, just when you're ready to be disappointed, the real break drops out of nowhere and you're lucky not to spin kick your stereo. It's some of the best mosh I've heard in a long time. And then, when you're exhausted, the music goes through another dramatic shift into slow, beautiful chord-progression melody with harmonized singing. The best I can think to describe it is hardcore Enya. It'll stick in your head for days. Finally, the song rounds off with more great, solid high-end metal core.
All the songs on the album use some blend of the full-bodied metal riffing, the super-mosh-happy double bass, and the weird, almost spiritual, emotional spaces. As this never becomes formulaic, every song manages some distinct feel, and I can honestly say I never heard anything that struck me as bland or generic. Occasionally, some small elements sit strangely with me, such as the section in "Naked By the Computer" when the vocals change to singing over guitar that wouldn't be out of place in gothrock, or the occasional screwy slap-bass that brings bad memories of Korn to mind. But I'm just being picky here: overall, Between the Buried and Me has put out a tremendously powerful, well rounded, tough, emotional, excellently produced first full length - and at nearly 50 minutes it sits so well over the spate of 25 minute full lengths seen in recent days. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with this album. It's definitely worth a look.