Album Review: Automata I - Between The Buried And Me

Artist: Between The Buried And Me

Album: Automata I

Genre: Progressive Metal

Label: Sumerian Records

Release Date: March 9th, 2018

Review by Steve Jenkins

For over 15 years now, North Carolina's Between The Buried And Me have been setting the bar for progressive metal ever since their debut self-titled album back in 2002. Straight away the metal world took notice of this extraordinary band that incorporated death metal elements mixed with proggy goodness. If you were to choose one word to describe BTBAM it would have to be, innovative. The band went on to release The Silent Circus which expanded their musicianship, adding even more styles to their repertoire. The rest is history, as BTBAM are now eight studio albums deep into their lustrous career, and Automata I continues their journey, whilst maintaining an untouchable legacy.

Things kick off with "Condemned To The Gallows" which was released week prior to the album launch, it's basically the perfect way to begin an album of this magnitude. The guitars sound thicker, muddier and heavier than previous efforts, with an overall darker tone. The track becomes more and more frenzied as it goes on, with vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers showcasing his magnificent transitions between clean vocals and brutal lows. This first track has an incredible feel, with soft and melodic keyboards in the background, the boys are back big time and it really does get you excited for whats to come.

We then go into the next song, "House Organ", which at 3:40 minutes, in what would normally be considered an average length for most bands, is in fact actually quite short for BTBAM. A heavy wave of guitars come crashing down with nicely paced mid-tempo drumming making things a more pleasurable experience. A bit more proggy and a bit more atmospheric, this track is a nice way to break things up a bit between the more lengthy songs.

“Yellow Eyes” comes next and not only do the vocals come in more aggressive and sharper, so do the other instruments. Things speed up a bit more, everything intensifies, with mind-blowing transitions from light to heavy, BTBAM continue to show their strengths. The bass tone is another highlight, it's funky and groovy (shout out to the 70's, peace man) and it compliments the chaotic guitars, breaking it down with more calming tones. The one thing I've learnt from BTBAM over the years is that they are the masters of mixing tempo and rhythm, they only prove that on this release. At the 4:18 mark, things start to sound a bit like Opeth, though I can't seem to put my finger on which exact song, but it's definitely there. But, that's just for a few seconds, the other 8 and a half minutes are quite obviously BTBAM at their very best.

These guys sure do cover a lot of ground with their sound, and they could fit into quite a number of different sub genres of metal. I've always considered them to be a modern day Dream Theater personally. Automata I is just a reminder that Between The Buried And Me are one of very few bands that can constantly evolve and grow, yet not lose any of their magic. Older fans are going to love this, and so are the newer fans, in fact I would even consider this their best work in 10 years. That's how good it is, and it's only part one! Can you imagine how excited I am about hearing what's next? This is a fantastic album from beginning to end and my only flaw is that it leaves you wanting more. Indeed there is a hole when you finish it, almost like a missing piece to a puzzle and I assume that's where Automata II comes in. A step in the right direction from the kings of progressive metal. They're back!

9.5 out of 10

Automata I is available now.

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