Evolution in music is inevitable. As time plods on, what once was on the cutting edge of a genre can become stagnant and anything that was not revolutionary retreats into obscurity. For a band to conquer the ever-changing landscape of music, they must draw inspiration from new creative springs and experiment with new concepts. This is especially difficult in progressive metal, a genre that specializes in said conceptual experimentation and places a large emphasis on time signature changes and complex rhythm sections.
For North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me, progressive metal has always come easily. What makes them stand out as a leader in prog metal is their bravery to experiment with new ideas for their music and the massive talent and versatility that every member of the band possesses. Over the last fifteen years, Between the Buried and Me have been carving out their legacy in prog metal by incorporating traces of metalcore, death, and thrash metal as well as siphoning jazz influences into storied discography. 2007’s opus Colors and their recent spacey Parallax albums demonstrate the sheer magnitude to which they can execute progressive brilliance.
In Between the Buried and Me’s next great act, they’re venturing into uncharted waters in the form of a rock opera. Coma Ecliptic, which arrives this week courtesy of Metal Blade Records, is a ‘Twilight Zone’-inspired, episodic concept album about a man who goes into a self-induced coma to explore all of his past lives to try and find a better one to live. In the end, the man learns that none of the past lives are any better than the one he had been living. The episodic layout of the album differs from previous releases like Colors and The Parallax II: Future Sequence, each of which could almost be mistaken for one hour-plus long song. This is a welcomed contrast to the band’s body of work and illustrates their ability to change up album formulas.
Overall, Coma Ecliptic is an incredible album. The effort and assiduity put forth by each member of the band ensures that anything Between the Buried and Me releases is nothing short of genius, but with Coma Ecliptic they have found a higher gear. Every riff, every drum hit is calculated and executed with immaculate precision. Tommy Rogers’ vocal range far surpasses anything he has done on any record. He effortlessly bounces between clean, crisp singing on songs like “Node” and “King Redeem/Queen Serene” to harsh, guttural vocals on “The Coma Machine” and to what can only be described as Freddie Mercury-esque vocals on “Famine Wolf” and “The Ectopic Stroll”. Paul Waggoner shines on “Turn on the Darkness”, contributing not only mind-melting guitar riffs but his voice to the track. The guitars from Paul, Dustie Waring, and Dan Briggs (bass) are spectacular. Their individual works are all exemplary and compliment each other very well. Blake Richardson brings some of his most complicated drum patterns to Coma Ecliptic as well, laying a strong foundation for the guitars, keyboard, and vocals to soar across.
Coma Ecliptic represents the pinnacle in Between the Buried and Me’s illustrious fifteen-year journey and an example of what higher minds can achieve when there is a persistent effort to always be better. Their newest album is a bold statement and a genre-defining success that solidifies their position as one of the most revolutionary and trailblazing progressive metal bands in history. Coma Ecliptic officially comes out this Friday, do yourself the favor and do not pass on the opportunity to own a piece of musical history.