Release Date: 20th August 2021
Record Label: Sumerian Records
For Fans Of: Protest The Hero, SikTh, Pain Of Salvation
Sequels have always sparked fierce debate. The most common response would involve accusations of laziness and a desire to play it safe, regarding some as a quickfire way to guarantee an audience. While this certainly can be true, there are numerous examples where sequels match or even exceed the quality of the original. If we look at the world of cinema, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Godfather pt. II and Aliens are but a few examples which prove that sequels are not inherently subpar, with the aforementioned films regularly being ranked as some of the greatest ever made.
While sequels in the world of music are much less commonplace, they do crop up from time to time (albeit more often than not back to back, such as Use Your Illusion I and II, or The 20/20 Experience for the Justin Timberlake fans out there). As such, can the same accusations be made for musicians? Are album sequels lazy, relying on loyal fans of the original material, or are they valid pieces of art in their own merit, complimenting an already existing piece of work?
Seeing the acclaim Between The Buried And Me received from their fourth album Colors, cynics may approach the sequel album Colors II with suspicions that the band’s collective pool of creativity has dried up, and are attempting to return to the glory days of their genre changing magnum opus. This however, would belittle the phenomenal work they have been releasing since 2007. With each subsequent album receiving high praise, the band’s sound has developed and changed over the years. Whether that be toning down the metal elements for a more progressive rock sound found on Coma Ecliptic, or incorporating sci-fi elements into The Parallax releases, it is unjust to say the progressive metalcore act are short of ideas.
With Colors II, Between The Buried And Me are revisiting similar musical themes to the album’s predecessor. While there may be nods and throwbacks to the original album for the keen eared listener, such moments are in no way forced, and considering how much content there is crammed into Colors II, a lot of the easter eggs may fly by unnoticed. Regardless, Colors II is in no way dependent on an existing love of Colors. Not only does it stand up on its own, but it is a phenomenal creation of modern progressive metal.
Opening with a slow and simple piano chord progression, ‘Monochrome’ acts as an overture to the record, mirroring ‘Foam Born: The Backtrack’. As Tommy Rogers’ clean vocals enter, joined by a washed out percussive keyboard, the track introduces the rest of the band, gradually ramping up the intensity from Muse-like rock to no holds barred prog metal. The calculator-requiring rhythms morph into blast beats and mind bending, atonal melodies that will have music students racing to find their theory books in an attempt to rationalise what is unfurling before them.
To say the album continues in a similar vein would be selling Colors II short. Of course there are countless moments that will leave listeners wide-eyed with astonishment at the bizarre compositions, but this would not be a true Colors sequel if there was no vast array of genre bending. (Can it be considered genre bending if you switch from epic prog metal to a reggaetón groove at the drop of a hat?) Not to mention all the crazy circus music moments that burst through the compositions, providing a balance of fun to an often unnecessarily serious genre, while also demonstrating the band’s vast knowledge of disparate genres.
Yet despite all the wackiness present on the album – wah bass solos accompanied by rock organ, trading drum solo cameos (including Mike Portnoy), sitar licks – and this is all in one track – the musicianship is mind-blowing. The meticulous detail in the songs’ arrangement is beyond impressive, with synchronised band stabs punctuating the most incredibly intricate passages across the record. The role of keys has developed far beyond that of piano and kooky noises to provide spacey textures that evoke the sounds of 70s prog rock, providing the perfect expansive bed underneath the more sparse guitar moments. The song-writing is so refined that some of the most harsh juxtapositions work effortlessly, and listeners will traverse moments that are downright silly (most notably a sample from ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello) to ethereal passages that tug at the heartstrings. On top of all this, Between The Buried And Me have crafted an album that perfectly balances the heaviness of extreme metal with the bombastic theatricality of bands like Queen, a feat that many metal bands have attempted but few have achieved.
With a running time of 80 minutes, this is not an album for the faint-hearted. While there is no shortage of content or intrigue – which is an incredible achievement, for such a long running time – new listeners may be daunted by such a lengthy record. Loyal BTBAM fans will relish having such a weighty new record into which they can sink their teeth, and one that will result in new discoveries upon repeated listening. With so much ground covered, it is impossible to come out of experiencing this record feeling bored or wanting for something more. This is the album that certain progressive metal bands wish they could make, and has set a new standard for the genre that BTBAM have already helped develop so much.
Are sequels lazy? Maybe. Are Between The Buried And Me for making Colors II? Absolutely not.
Recommended Tracks: ‘The Double Helix Of Extinction’, ‘Revolution In Limbo’, ‘Human Is Hell (Another One With Love)’
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