Automata I

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aec.sumr401830.2 3/9/18 New
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Review

Review Text Over the course of nearly 20 years, North Carolina's Between the Buried and Me have challenged fans. Since the technical thrashing on their 2002 self-titled debut, stylistic shifts, panoramic production aesthetics, and musical evolution have succeeded in placing them alongside Opeth, Dream Theater, and Symphony X as prog metal innovators. Automata I is the first volume in a two-part concept album; the second followed a few months later. Keyboardist/vocalist Tommy Rogers explained the concept as centered around "…a protagonist whose dreams are used as entertainment, broadcasted by a company called Voice of Trespass. Most of the record takes place within that dream. thinks it's all real." Since we only get half the story here, it's impossible to evaluate how the entire story line comes together as a whole. This leaves the primary evaluation weight on the music and lyrics of the individual songs. Also, given the lengthy proceedings of titles in their catalog, Automata I's running time -- 35 minutes -- might be an issue for some: It is only two minutes longer than 2011's The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP. The music here steps away some from the overt King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Steven Wilson influences threaded throughout 2015's brilliant Coma Ecliptic, though they haven't disappeared. The intro to single "Condemned to the Gallows" spends its first minute on the Wilson-esque fingerpicked guitars' rich, dark, synth atmospherics. When the tune gains momentum, keyboards hover behind Blake Richardson's tom-tom-heavy drums as guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring turn on the over-amped churn and chug with angular riffing and soaring dual leads. Richardson uses his dirty vocals a lot on this album. He shifts between them and his melodic clean singing seamlessly here. "House Organ" is a crushing three-minute setup for "Yellow Eyes," a showcase for Rogers' strange, alternately dissonant, harmonic, and cinematic keyboards, and Dan Briggs' bass thrum, which drives the hell out of the tune's second half. The interplay between guitarists is twisted and intricate, and perfectly underscores the emotional poignancy in the narrative -- especially in its hooky refrain. "Millions" commences with a limpid, whimsical dreaminess in intro, verse, and melody, but its full-turn-on-a-dime heavier elements -- introduced by Richardson's kit -- add elements of disorder; they're carried out with relish by the guitarists and Briggs. Closer "Blot" is a true BTBAM journey through the prog metal labyrinth. Almost 11 minutes long, it serves as the closer here, and as the hingepiece between volumes. It's a mini-suite complete with manic keyboard and bass flourishes, sitar and tabla effects, a wide dynamic range, and galloping guitars balanced by alternately syncopated and hard-grooving drums. Its bridge sounds like a tribute to David Bowie's glam era. Automata I is excellent on its own; its writing, production, and performances are all top flight. Additionally, it whets the appetite of anticipation for part two. ~ Thom Jurek

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Condemned to the Gallows - 7:34
  2. 2. House Organ - 4:41
  3. 3. Yellow Eyes - 9:44
  4. 4. Millions - 5:43
  5. 5. Gold Distance - 1:01
  6. 6. Blot - 11:31

Product Details

Release Date
3/9/18 

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