Anyone who regularly reads this site knows that I’m a massive fan of the North Carolina-based progressive metal group Between the Buried and Me. This band has actually been my favorite band for quite a few years, and they have changed my entire perspective in regards to musical boundaries and the metal genre, as well as being responsible for shaping my music taste towards the progressive and challenging. It seems odd that it took this long for me to tackle the band in this light, but better late than never!
My awareness for Between the Buried and Me came about in 2007 around the release of their fourth album (fifth if you count their cover album The Anatomy Of), Colors. At that time, my taste was more aligned with bands like In Flames, Trivium, All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, and Slipknot. I was in a perpetual journey to find more music, and I knew I was getting deeper into the genre’s more norm-challenging acts. I had discovered The Dillinger Escape Plan that year as well, with Ire Works being in constant rotation. With my rising interest in mathcore and my enjoyment of melodic metalcore, I had began hearing a lot of hype surrounding BTBAM’s new album Colors. Reviews were raving it as the album of the year left and right, and I recall my friend Mitch (who posts here from time to time under the alias Dethcaek) at the time had been blown away by it. All this hype is hard to ignore, so I downloaded the album and listened. I was definitely not prepared for what I was hearing.
Despite being tagged as a metalcore record, it didn’t have the staples of the genre that I had expected. Clean singing was fairly rare, the songs were long, and the music was far from straightforward. I can honestly say that I did not understand this record, and I didn’t actually appreciate what I was hearing beyond being amused by the album’s more avant-garde and progressive elements — polka and bluegrass on a metal record (‘Prequel to the Sequel’ and ‘Ants of the Sky‘ respectively); how ridiculous! I hate to say it, I was mostly bored by it on first listen. I just didn’t get it at the time.
It wasn’t until a year later when I rediscovered Colors. My taste had developed a bit further, being a full-fledged Dillinger fanatic at that point, as well as discovering Protest the Hero via Fortress in 2008. I came across BTBAM once again when trying to find music that was progressive and different; my enjoyment of the straightforward metalcore sound was waning fast, and I was soaking up new music from all directions, and not much stuck. I was in a musical rut until I made the effort to revisit Colors, and it took watching the band’s new live DVD Colors_LIVE that I began appreciating the band as extremely talented and versatile musicians.
I had never seen a band perform a full record in one set before, and to watch them flawlessly perform the hour-long album Colors without pause was a sight to behold. From the Queen inspired intro of ‘Foam Born A: The Backtrack‘ all the way through to the epic climax, crushing breakdown, and powerful solos of ‘White Walls,‘ I was in complete awe. This was a performance; this was art.
Colors is now my favorite album of all time, responsible for shaping my idea of what is possible for musicians to accomplish, while completely destroying any sort of mental genre boundaries I’ve formed over the years. Colors is responsible for how I now listen to and perceive music. The art of creating real ALBUMS as a single cohesive piece of work was alive and well. Songs can be longer than 5 minutes and not be boring. Bands can be technical while still maintaining musical importance and merit. Colors is without a doubt already a classic, and we’re already starting to see its influence on the genre.
Tommy sang it best during the album’s chilling climax in ‘White Walls’,
“This is all we have when we die. This is what’s left of us when we die. We will be remembered for this.”
While not intended to me self-referencing, it really does hold true; Between the Buried and Me will be remembered for creating one of the best metal albums of the last decade with their opus Colors.