Automata I, the first half of Between the Buried and Me’s double album that was released earlier this year, was a fine listen. Nothing revolutionary, a couple of excellent tracks mixed in with few less than memorable tracks, but a fun listen nonetheless. More than anything, it felt like it was hurt by the unconventional release structure of the record, with the first half dropping back in March and second half in early July. While I enjoyed Automata I, it felt incomplete. Thematically it felt incomplete, musically it felt incomplete, and story-wise you were left hanging at the end.
On Automata II, Between the Buried and Me bring everything full circle, wrapping up the double record on a much stronger note than they started it off on. While Automata I had multiple tracks that struck me as nothing more than filler, every minute of Automata II feels integral to the album. After my first few listens to Part 1, I’ve only revisited “Condemned to the Gallows” and “Blot” while skipping over the rest of the album. Part 2, on the other hand, is best consumed as a whole, the musical flow of each song leading seamlessly into the next. Even the lone sub-8 minute track, “Glide”, serves as a wonderful appetizer to the highlight of the album, “Voice of Trespass”.
Since the album stretches across just four songs, here’s a track-by-track review of Automata II:
TRACK 1: “The Proverbial Bellow”
The longest track on the album at a brisk 13 minutes and 18 seconds, “The Proverbial Bellow” is a proggy journey through all that makes Between the Buried and Me great. The band jumps effortlessly between styles and time signatures, starting the song off with a two and a half minute instrumental introduction, then moving onto a spacier, more atmospheric section before bringing in the heaviness around the six and a half minute mark. The song would have fit in nicely with the rest of the tracks on Coma Ecliptic, although the band (in a trend that continues throughout this album) focus in a bit more on their heavier side than they have in a LONG time.
While the track does lose a little bit of steam during the extended instrumental outro that occupies most of the last 2-plus minutes of the song, it doesn’t go out with a whimper, instead sending the listener off with a guitar solo that would make Slash proud. Overall, an excellent start to the album, and an excellent preview of what’s to come.
TRACK 2: “Glide”
Far and away the shortest song on the record, “Glide” mostly serves as an extended lead-in to the third track. But even with that being said, it is still a fun listen, with a carnival-like atmosphere backed up by the best accordion work I’ve ever heard on a metal track. “Glide” sets an uneasy and off-the-wall mood that will only be thrown into high gear once “Voice of Trespass” kicks in. The brief moment of swing that comes in for the final 15 seconds is the perfect precursor to…
TRACK 3: “Voice of Trespass”
WHAT. A. FUCKING. SONG. For a band that has become famous for their ability to incorporate any and all music genres into their own sound, this has to take the cake for their most ambitious work yet. From the soaring big-band and jazz-inspired instrumentation to the carnival-barker vocals, this song is one giant “What the Fuck?” wrapped up in a delightfully fun package.
For all the efforts that the band has made in recent years to embrace their melodic side, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Tommy Rogers sounds angrier than he does during the chorus on this track, which sounds even heavier when contrasted with the fucking SCATTING that he does right afterwards (god I love how bizarre this song is). Were you hoping for a Xylophone solo? Well guess what!?!? YOU GET ONE! By the time the refrain kicks in for the last two minutes of the song, I fucking dare you to not be singing along. More than anything, this track is FUN. You can bank on this one showing up on my end of the year lists.
TRACK 4: “The Grid”
It would be nearly impossible to adequately follow up the intensity, craziness and downright fun of “Voice of Trespass” …and “The Grid” doesn’t. But it’s still a solid track, with a slightly muted chorus reminiscent of Automata I counterbalanced by some pretty impressive aggression during the verses. While this is probably the weakest track on Automata II, it far outpaces the weaker links on Automata I and provides a satisfying-enough close to the record (or records, if you’re willing to consider both albums as one work).
So there you have it. Automata II is comprised of one of Between the Buried and Me’s all-time greatest songs, and excellent song, one great intro track, and one song that is fine. For a four-track album, that’s not too bad! The biggest issue with Automata II isn’t the music itself, but how it should be judged in relation to Automata I. I know that the band considers this a double record, but due to the staggered release and the vastly different styling between the two I have a very hard time doing that. Had they been released together I likely would have been able to digest them both as one work (and if I’m being honest, they both would have been bumped up in my book on their respective strengths playing off each other), but I’m not able to do that.
With that being said, Automata II is easily the stronger of the two albums, showcasing what Between the Buried in Me is trying to become while playing more off their past than what they did on Coma Ecliptic. It’s another solid progression of their sound, but an acknowledgment that they won’t abandon what got them to where they are today.
“Voice of Trespass”