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01. All Bodies
03. Croakies and Boatshoes
04. Selkies: The Endless Obsession
05. Breathe In, Breathe Out
07. Backwards Marathon
08. Medicine Wheel
09. The Primer
11. Laser Speed
Reviewed by: Cory
// Published: 9/3/2005
Between The Buried And Me have become one of the best known bands in the "metalcore" genre over the last four years and I feel they owe that success to their ability to constantly reinvent themselves. On their Lifeforce Records debut, they set a high standard for bands to follow and with their Victory Records follow-up, The Silent Circus, they turned their own music on its ear, incorporating tech/math bits into modern grind and progressive metal. On Alaska, their most recent album, Between The Buried And Me have taken that philosophy one step further, transforming yet again and producing an interesting, creatively challenging metal record.
The disc opens with "All Bodies," which starts as a fairly straight-forward death/thrash metal number before jumping back and forth into mid-tempo prog bits, and incorporates a brief barbershop moment and triumphantly catchy power metal chorus. One of the only sour bits of this song, and the record as a whole, is the incorporation of keyboards into many of the songs. You would think they would have learned their lesson from Giles, the awful electronic side-project of lead singer Tommy Rogers. These guys don't belong anywhere near a keyboard. The guitars in songs like the title track out-do legitimate Swedish metal in their fret-board acrobatics, but refuse to linger there, instead floating effortlessly across genres, proving their prowess without seeming like show-offs. While one has to wonder if a band that can do everything fairly well might not be better off picking one style and sticking to it, these guys are obviously interested in pushing their songwriting abilities and I can respect that.
"Croakies and Boatshoes" deconstructs Meshuggah's fury into a slow, doomy dirge beforeblasting into one of the disc's stranger tracks, "Selkies: The Endless Obsession." An excessive intro leads into a morose melodic bit before finally exploding into full-on death metal; and that's all in the first two minutes of this seven minute odyssey. Again, electronic bits endanger the song's power throughout, but the melodic acoustic bits surprisingly tie the song together well, aside from some incredibly lame Joe Satriani-esque wankery near the middle. Most importantly, what Between The Buried And Me do in these songs is create recurring musical themes that justify these less heavy interludes. I'm not sure how this idea had escaped so many bands that came before them, but I have rarely heard a band blend the heavier and lighter portions of their music this successfully. Just when you think you've got a handle on this record though, "Roboturner" grinds its way right down your throat and delivers on every gurgle and blastbeat for a few minutes before it evolves into a funk-laced bit of tech and back again.
Snorefest "Medicine Wheel" will lull most listeners to sleep before the disc's final three tracks make the listener glad they stuck around. "The Primer" features the disc's only successful implementation of keyboards as well as the band's foray into black metal. Somehow it all comes together in a moment of classicaly-inspired brilliance that would make Andrew WK smile. "Autodidact" contains a few of the disc's most predictable breakdowns, but being that they are surrounded by pure metallic fury and technical bravado, they become entirely forgivable. Closing the disc out is "Laser Speed," a confusingly relaxed bit of elevator music that lasts just a bit too long.
The problem with this record is also its strongest point: it is a challenging listen. Between The Buried And Me are undoubtedly becoming more comfortable with their place as the chameleons of the metalcore community, but certain portions of the songs still feel out-of-place and self-indulgent. I personally would have rather seen two four-minute songs than one eight minute song that loses itself half-way through. Five of the disc's eleven tracks clock in at over well over five minutes, something few bands of this sort are talented enough to pull off. Between The Buried And Me do an admirable job, but I think these tracks would benefit from being shorter and more focused. For example, the "Backwards Marathon" has portions that resemble the Mars Volta and Silent Drive that could have been omitted in the recording process, as they don't particularly fit into the song.
Bottom Line: Fans of Between The Buried And Me will hopefully appreciate the band's latest evolution and welcome the band's growth. For those who were previously unfamiliar or not fans, you may want to give Alaska a listen. This is definitely a case where the record has something for anyone willing to listen, there just might not be enough of certain parts for everyone.
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