If you’ve paid any attention to my reviews on this site, you’ll know that I’m a huge nerd for progressive metal, and as such I’m incredibly psyched about a new album from North Carolina masters Between The Buried And Me. Last year, they released an EP titled The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, which effectively set the stage for their new full-length, The Parallax II: Future Sequence, and I thought the new, old-school-prog sound they had embraced was an exciting new direction after The Great Misdirect, which I found a little underwhelming. (After Colors, though, who wouldn’t be?) I’m glad to report, though, that Parallax II successfully builds on the momentum of its prequel EP and stands as a worthy entry into the BTBAM discography.
If you’re at all familiar with BTBAM from Alaska forward, you already have an idea of what to expect from a new record – their signature style of controlled chaos and dazzling technicality is on full display – but what makes this record interesting is watching what the band can accomplish when constructing a concept album. This works to their advantage, as it gives Parallax II some of the seamless flow that made Colors such a classic. It’s not the only advantage, either – when they have so much strange, interesting ground to cover lyrically, leave it to the BTBAM boys to come up with music to match. Take “Astral Body”, whose intro riff is doubled by banjo as the band unpredictably writhes around and builds on it before Tommy Rogers’ doubled clean and harsh vocals lead us over the tumbling terrain of a typical BTBAM song.
The album is mainly split between a handful of shorter pieces punctuating longer, 10- to 15-minute compositions, and while the longer songs see some of the most mind-blowing, how-did-they-do-that wizardry BTBAM have become known for, the shorter songs often feature a more experimental verve. Sure, “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” features a circus-like shuffle with a topsy-turvy lead guitar line, but even that would be hard-pressed to match “Bloom”, featuring a surf rock interlude, slide whistles and more. It’s refreshing to see that even this far into their career, even when I think I have this band figured out, they still manage to toss curveballs at me. Sometimes these curveballs are even familiar – “Extremophile Elite” has a reprisal of one of my favorite vocal lines from the previous EP, and it makes me smile when bands can pull off little callbacks like that in their music.
If there’s something you should take away from this review, it’s that BTBAM have done it again. This is their best release since Colors – the strengths of that landmark album, like the continuous runtime, have returned, which is a clear improvement over the fractured nature that, in my opinion, held back The Great Misdirect. BTBAM are at their strongest when they’re concentrating on an album as a whole instead of trying to write a series of shorter tracks, and as a multi-release concept series, Parallax represents the largest scale they’ve explored yet. The only question is, where can they go next to keep it up?