If the noticeable lack of death metal on Between the Buried and Me's last album, Coma Ecliptic, was a turnoff for long-time listeners, their latest offering, Automata I, should be a welcome return. Jammed full of the unusual musical twists and turns the progressive metal giants have become known for, the band's latest is the first part of a double album epic about a futuristic world where a company is broadcasting a person's dreams for the world's entertainment without them knowing what is real and what isn't.
Opening track, "Condemned to the Gallows," begins with the robotic space prog Between the Buried and Me have perfected over the course of their career, before launching into an onslaught of extremity. Vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers uses his full vocal range right out of the gate, shifting between eerie, melodic cleans and his brutal death metal growls. The band move to jazzier territory on the dream-like "House Organ," which features incredibly intricate drum work alongside spooky atmospheric tones.
Automata I cherry-picks from some of the best elements of previous Between the Buried and Me records, while injecting their masterful sense of musicianship and structure. Closing track "Blot" calls back to the Middle Eastern and polka elements found on Colors, and the technical shred and spacey synths frequently incorporated since Parallax, yet the song never feels like the band is copying themselves. Add to that the heavy-hitting organs on "Yellow Eyes" and the demented indie-rock feel of "Millions"; Between the Buried and Me are far from done with experimenting.
Although the album shows Between the Buried and Me pushing their sound into new territories while holding on to the things that made them great, Automata I is left on a disappointing and unnecessary cliffhanger. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic record that will surely feel more complete with the release of its second part. (Sumerian)