Colors is heavy metal’s Rubik’s Cube: a vibrant puzzle so mind-bending that it’s addictive. It was formulated by a band who loved jazz and the avant-garde as much as they did Cannibal Corpse. After five years of feeling too experimental for headbangers and too rowdy for prog, Between The Buried And Me declared, “Fuck it!”, composing the most indulgent maximalism they could. The result was ambitious to the point that no one has emulated it since, cramming innumerable harmonies, death metal blasts and ebullient melodies into 64 minutes. Not even its creators have recreated such magic – although this sequel comes tantalisingly close.
Colors II is a mirror of the original, exploring the same spectrum in sequence. Monochrome commences with vaudevillian piano pop à la its opening predecessor, Foam Born..., then The Double Helix Of Extinction screeches to life in a tech-death fury. Prehistory is just as head-scratching as Sun Of Nothing, incorporating banjos while samples span from Saturday-morning cartoons to Yello’s Oh Yeah. Finally, Human Is Hell (Another One With Love) stands in for White Walls: a quarter-hour of erraticism concluding with flurrying guitar leads.
The skeleton may stay unchanged but, like before, it’s the marriage of confusion and charm that makes Colors II so replayable. By the time you’ve asked, “How does Fix The Error smoothly switch from bass-led jazz to a Mike Portnoy-style drum solo?”, Never Seen/ Future Shock has already ensnared you. The centrepiece sees virtuosity dissipate into a rare, accessible refrain, rocketed to triumph by Tommy Rogers’ soaring voice.
In being so loyal to the structure of what’s come before, Colors II doesn’t reinvent progressive metal like its predecessor, but by all other metrics, it lives up to its lineage. It’s the only album to ever recapture Colors’ brand of restlessness, reaffirming that BTBAM are once-in-a-lifetime masterminds.
Colors II is out August 20 via Sumerian.