It’s October 2012. A quiet, unassuming morning; birds chirp, people yawn over charred toast. And then, like a prog metal meteorite crashing into this feeble planet, Between The Buried And Me release their sixth album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence. On first listen, it sounds good. Really good. But later, it feels like the quintet’s magnum opus, its clever maelstrom of musicianship and melody a fizzing cauldron of pyrotechnics and prog pizzazz.
But it all led to one pertinent question: what the hell was next for the North Carolina lads? It truly was that ‘difficult seventh album syndrome’. Three years and another solo record from singer Tommy Rogers later, we have the answer. Coma Ecliptic is still Between The Buried And Me, but its music is fine-tuned and focused.
Previously inclined to indulge in runaway blitzkrieg battery, the group are – at times – more reined in, but without dropping much of their intrinsic intensity. Node opens this 11-track concept album in now typical style – delicate, anticipating what’s about to come. It’s a first glimpse at the aural influence Rogers’ solo work has seemingly had on this band, sharing its keyboard-driven sound that teeters on the edge of the dark side.
Metal fans needn’t worry – Coma Ecliptic does go guttural. After toying with a fist-gnawingly catchy hook in the excellent, multicoloured The Coma Machine and the Muse-ish Dim Ignition, Famine Wolf rattles your headphones with whirlwind lead guitar work and gung-ho drumming.
Some of the band’s most impressive moments to date.
The blurb says this is a fresh start for Between The Buried And Me; a rock opera concept album with a ‘focus on storytelling’. The plot involves a man stuck in a coma, journeying through past lives – its prog credentials are already pretty resolute. Musically, the record is perhaps the band’s most exploratory yet. There’s added electronica, and an unleashed Rogers dials down the death growls, as well as theatrically altering his projection. There’s also cap-doffing to Floyd and Crimson amid musical gymnastics unafraid to shift into more melodic passages. At its best, Coma Ecliptic holds some of this band’s most impressive moments to date.
Soon after demonic dancefloor oddball The Ectopic Stroll, the record concludes with Life In Velvet, which pivots on a piano revisit to an earlier motif. It feels like an eternity away from their death-heavy tunes of the early 2000s, but that certainly ain’t no bad thing,
The jam-packed Coma Ecliptic shows that Between The Buried And Me continue to be one of the most engaging and forward-thinking prog metal bands around.