Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: Between the Boring And Me's Latest Album Put Me in a Coma

This guy's got the right idea. (zzZZZzz)

A lot of metal elitists dislike Between the Buried and Me. Typically, because all we need is a sentence-long band name and a few short haircuts to disregard a group forever, no matter how they might sound. It's a dumb rule, but a reliable one. The early aughts gave us a slew of deplorable, trendy bands that fell under these few vague guidelines (As I Lay Dying, It Dies Today); so if you as a group hit those places anywhere on our true metal flow chart, you were to be avoided like the plague. It was just around this time that BTBAM first hit the scene, and their original sound wasn't too far off from the other metalcore bands of the period. The fact that they debuted and released the majority of their albums on Victory Records, didn't help matters much for their reputation either.

With each new release, however, the band matured; molded themselves into something different. More progressive, more experimental. The band then found a new home with widely respected Metal Blade Records. Today, they are hailed on the internet as the darlings of progressive metal. They have become the new legends. BTBAM are now one of the preferred bands among a new batch of modern day musical elitists that believe their college attendance means they're adult enough to be real people with real opinions. The band's music has been deemed untouchable by any serious, educated criticism. Their fans simply disregard the critics as too low on the mental totem pole. We simply lack the nuance to contemplate the spectrum of musical genius that is totally present in the music, but lost on us and our monkey-level minds.

Between The Buried And Me's genre flipping, avant-garde, jazz fusion, mathcore mashing of musical complexity is perfect fodder for someone trying desperately to prove their intellectualism within their record collection. BTBAM fans are the types of people that operate under the guise that how enjoyable a band is to listen to is in direct correlation to how technical their instrumentation is. It's shattering of conventional music structure is specifically what makes it good to them. Whether or not the music is still actually listenable is completely irrelevant.

Because I'm also a worthless sad sack who desperately wants people to like me and think I'm smart, I've tried for years to get into BTBAM. I'm not kidding when I say I have listened to their entire studio discog from track to track, just for the sake of trying. Without the veil of satire, without the comedy of overblown elitism to shroud this opinion, I can just tell you straight off that I, as the real world dude writing this, never liked them. At all. I never even thought they were okay. I totally listen to all sorts of alternative metal that would easily get me expunged from The Hall were I to reveal it here, but I could never manage with these dudes. I've tried to keep an open mindbut never succeeded.

I also tried to Google a photo of the band, but I keep finding pictures of their fans instead.

BTBAM just never hit the right notes for me. And I mean that quite literally. These guys, with their playing, never hit the right musical notes. Every time they had a good groove, melody or riff going, something that could really make the hairs stand off the back of your neck; they would always fuck it up at the end. They would wank it off into somewhere unexpected at the last pivotal moment and fuck up your internal rhythm with the song. BTBAM as musicians were always one fret away from sounding good. Just enough to make you cringe. It's as if you were listening to a guy who's good enough at guitar just sitting there practicing. Noodling around, not really playing anything cohesive; just looking for inspiration to hit while aimlessly fretting notes that were too flat or too sharp to make sense with each other. Yet, instead of working more on making it sound right, the band just kept the guitar noodling and recorded it. That shit was just their song. Maybe that's the whole point behind BTBAM's music; maybe that sort of thing is done to challenge me as a listener? Maybe I'm just too stupid to like it? Whatever the reason, the band typically missed my approval with their music.

I say typically because it wasn't all bad. I never found myself liking the complete songs that BTBAM produced. But I would find myself liking parts of songs. For instance, I can tell you right off the bat I don't like the title track of Alaska. But I can tell you I liked the first 35 seconds of the song. The rest of that song, and the whole rest of the album can pretty much fuck off. I really like the part 10:44 into the song White Walls, and it's pretty cool until its conclusion at 14:13. The 10 minutes and 43 seconds prior to this moment however, can fuck right off with their rest of their tunes, (maybe the intro is okay). If you have time to load these songs up on YouTube or Spotify, you'll find why I like these small parts over the rest of the track. They're melodic. They're cohesive. They have a real groove, a real melody, they are music of substance. If BTBAM did that sort of thing all the time, they would all around be enjoyable to listen to. But they don't. So they're not.

The biggest plight of listening to BTBAM is that once you start a song, you're gonna be hearing several completely different songs by the end of the... song. Some of these pieces are so wildly different from one another, that it's easy to hate the first six minutes of a track, really enjoy the next minute and a half, and then be apathetic about the final two. With BTBAM, it was never about the destination, it was always about the journey. Anyone who's ever driven from Western Massachusetts to Nashville Tennessee can tell you that some journeys are long, back-aching bullshit where you never have anywhere to pull over and piss. Also you have a cruel, heartless, life-sucking sea hag waiting for you at the other end; one that you have to miserably live with, without a single moment of genuine joy, until you finally catch her cheating on Craig's List and you get the balls to do what you should have done 5 years fucking prior.

I think I'm getting off topic.

With all that said, I kind of liked Coma Ecliptic. It's a good album. Not great, not amazing, but good. It's a good album, but only because it's BTBAM's most conventional album musically. Back in my day, we used to call that shit "selling out". It's that thing bands like to explain away as them "maturing"; when really they're hurting for a little extra dough from the pockets of a little wider audience. Coma is BTBAM's most digestible album musically, and scaling their bullshit back is exactly what the band always needed to do. It confirms for me that for years BTBAM could always play good music, they just never wanted to. In this album, they see the melodies to fruition, they hit the right notes, they keep things cohesive.  They do switch it up with each track like they normally would, progressively speaking; but King Redeem - Queen Serene, the album's strongest track, actually has a verse. And a chorus. A fucking chorus. A chorus that allows itself to be repeated 3 complete fucking times. That's unheard of in the realm of BTBAM. It's completely ground breaking in the way that it's not ground breaking. Only these sons of bitches could blow your mind by trying to be less mind-blowing. Clever dicks.

Rapid Calm, another pretty solid track, still brings me back to the familiar frame of mind of enjoying one part of the song and not so much the rest. I dunno, I guess that fact should keep a lot of their fans happy. I found myself enjoying the groove at 6:25. Once I dissected why I found it enjoyable, however, I recognized that it sounded familiar. I realized it sounded familiar, because it sounded pretty Mötley Crüe. Then I stopped liking that... Then I stopped liking much else about the album. For in that moment, I realized what made this album the very best BTBAM album was because the band continuously teases the listener with how enjoyable pieces of pop music can be within the context of the over-complicated wankery that has always been BTBAM's music.

One last search... for GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS

You know, this review started off with me planning on a much higher score, and then got a lot lower as I worked my way through it to its conclusion. In that way, this album review is just like any BTBAM song. Some parts are positive. A lot of parts are negative. In the end, it's a fucking mess.

Coma Ecliptic might alienate some BTBAM fans in the way it acts more conventional musically, and at the same time -- despite some high points -- will still probably be too much to stomach for someone who wants to listen to a solid, musically conventional metal album. So in the end, nobody wins. Just like always. There are no more good albums. Stop trying.

2/5. No, 3/5. Well, wait 4 out of -- nope--nah, 2.5/5 I guess. 

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