Sound — 7
Since the career-defining "Colors" some half a decade ago, likable North Carolinians Between The Buried And Me have been shuffling awkwardly across the floor from aggressive, dissonant metalcore to expansive, cinematic hybridity. It's strange to think that this is their first attempt at the concept album but perhaps up to now they've felt restrained in what they can do as a band. Consider those restraints lifted.
"The Parallax II: Future Sequence" runs at a gratuitous 72 minutes, offering lengthy compositions of metallic riffing, Queen-esque vocal harmony and the rhythmic oddity of Botch, Burst or Dream Theater. The keyboard is a more important element than ever, transforming would-be brutality to glee with ease, often with a simple arpeggio or scale run. The sweatpatch prog of "Bloom" is as far afield from their discordant metalcore roots as the band have ever been, but there are plenty of opportunities to bang your head throughout. In particular, the impressive, guitar-driven "Telos" maintains genuine intensity in tandem with the virtuoso playing demonstrated elsewhere on the album.
Lyrics — 7
"The Parallax" is an ambitious concept as you'd expect when a spacesuit comes with the preorder bundle but it's less an artistic statement and more the warm embrace of a nerdy tendency. The story, which started last year with the "Hypersleep Dialogues" EP, concerns two characters named Prospect I and Prospect II - two men who live at opposite ends of the universe but share a soul, and are ultimately brought together over the course of the album to bring about the end of all things. Calls of "rad" and "bada-s" doubtless sounded at the storyboard stage.
The sci-fi weirdness is an acquired taste, the stuff of dreams for a section of fans, but vocalist Tommy Rogers also uses the first person narratives to dip into philosophy and personal reflection, avoiding complex language for large parts of the album. This is a virtue; for those who want to read fully into the concept, the vocals are accessible and the text itself is perfectly accommodating.
Overall Impression — 6
With the band having admitted to leaving nothing off the record ("if we came up with an idea we thought was cool we did it" says guitarist Paul Waggoner) it's fair to say that this is an album of excess. They've never been keen on brevity but this is a real stream of consciousness, twisting and turning with all the trimmings and leaving plenty of room for seconds. Even "Colors", an hour of continuous music, had more restraint than this.
What this means in practice is that "Future Sequence" is a feast for the converted, total nirvana for gluttons hungry for riff after riff who, for all the band's purported experimentation, know exactly what to expect. The time signatures are familiar, the guitar tones identical intense and ambitious but ultimately rather naïve. Instead of moving forward the band have moved outwards, taking on too many ideas and failing to organise them effectively. BTBAM junkies will be fully satisfied by this generous provision of music but a major overhaul may be needed soon to stave off the smell of stagnation.