I had a friend once. I hailed from the Indianapolis hardcore (capitol H) scene of the early aughts, whatever that was. He subscribed to the melodic constructions of metal (capitol M), whatever that was. We clashed. Was metal more honest than hardcore?
He turned me. Eventually. We would watch the silence of Lon Chaney\’s Phantom of the Opera with Between the Buried and Me\’s The Great Misdirect on tiny laptop speakers over whiskey and ponder the approximate haunted-ness of the album against the Phantom\’s misunderstood pain. And all us monsters, for that matter. Shot for shot.
I avoided BTBAM after he died. I missed the Parallax completely. I ignored the past records I loved because they reminded me of a time I was happily crass enough to discern genre from genre. So when Reggie sent me Coma Ecliptic (out 7 July), I was thrilled and horrified. I owed it to myself to revisit the discography, to acquaint myself with Parallax, to review this album.
It turns out that Between the Buried and Me left Victory after Misdirect and signed with Metal Blade. Since Colors, it appeared to me that BTBAM was striving toward one long song: an opera of metal and energy and emotion. The Parallax sequence, a conceptual EP and LP, was a natural progression following their marriage with a new label. The sound took a sci-fi turn for the better. While Parallax blended piano with looming metal well, Coma\’s spaceship synths inform a narrative.
Coma Ecliptic is a concept album. A man in a coma faces lucid memories and decides whether or not he wants to live. Each song promises a “Twilight Zone-esque” episodic experience. This is true. However, the one long song – which I personally loved – begins to fragment.
Piano and guitar and vocal tracks on “The Coma Machine” is so much like Dream Theater, I question how present the originality that prog rock demands really is. The transitions are thrilling. This second song does much to establish the paradoxes within the music and within their character.
“Famine Wolf” is as hard as it gets on this album. It is a relentless and energetic example of a band who, for some reason, seems to want to leave metal behind. The hook reminds me of Rush. That is another difference with this album: BTBAM is suddenly relying on hooks to hold their songs together, rather than breaking them apart and building them again (a la “Backwards Marathon” or the entire Alaska album, for that matter).
Coma has its elements of surprise and experimentation, but I fret to report that those two songs are the crowing examples of an album that begins to feel redundant and derivative. BTBAM took the safe course here. You could still watch a film on silent and pit the arc of this album against it, just don\’t expect it to add atmosphere.