In the spring Between the Buried and Me did something weird. They released half of an album, Automata I. The second half, Automata II, wasn’t released until now, mid-way through July. This separation made me hold off writing a review. I wanted to digest the album as a whole before sitting down at my keyboard. I read reviews online in the spring where the author shared my hesitation, however, they went forward with writing their articles.
If you ignore the bizarre release strategy, Automata, as a whole, is a fantastic album. As always, Between the Buried and Me has created a complex story with the assistance of face melting riffs. Automata is a blistering album, with a lot of depth. It will please metal fans and folks that enjoy a good concept album.
Automata is one of the best records I’ve listened to this year. Like with all of their music, Between the Buried and Me builds a beautifully intricate story with their lyrics and music.
While their story telling is always enjoyable to listen to, it can be frustrating to figure out. In an effort to understand the story, I spent time just listening to both of the records, trying to gather a feel for them. I wanted to understand the emotions running through the songs. Then, I spent some time copying-and-pasting the lyrics into different Word documents. I wanted to figure out which order they went in. However, I kept running into road blocks because, as the song “Glide” says, “Time is irrelevant”.
Nevertheless, the story is very intriguing. In an interview with Revolver Magazine vocalist Tommy Rogers outlines the concepts and inspirations for Automata. He also clears up some of the fuzzy areas of the story. After reading through this interview I was able to piece the story together and draw my own conclusions.
Strictly based on the music and sound, I prefer the second half of the record, “Automata II”. The music is much more flashy, in a style that all Between the Buried and Me fans have come to expect. While this wasn’t necessarily lacking in part one, it is much more abundant and over the top in part two.
If you just want to listen to a great progressive metal album, I would highly recommend Automata II. It’s a good record that showcases what the genre and the band have to offer. Naturally, if you enjoy concept albums or want a puzzle coated in a heavy metal shell, you should pick up both records. You need to listen to both parts (and study the lyrics) for the story to make sense.
Recommendations for Investigation
Off the cuff, “Blot” is probably my favorite song from the first half of the record, though now, after re-listening to the album a few times this may change. This is the longest track on Automata I, which gives the band time to do what they do best: take the listener on a ride through a variety of time signatures and emotions as they paint a section of the overall picture with their instruments. “Blot” feels closer to classic Between the Buried and Me than any other track on this half. In other words, the music is fancier and much more thrilling.
“The Proverbial Bellow” is a fantastic song. Of all the songs on the record, it feels the most like classic Between the Buried and Me. Its dynamic, heavy and has enough run time to transport the listener back and forth between a few places. The music alone is enjoyable. The lyrics add a layer of complexity that can obscure the beauty of the tune. As I mentioned, the lyrics are particularly troubling on this album. But, this should not put anyone off from enjoying this song.
“Voice of Trespass” is one of the snazziest songs I’ve heard in a long time. In a single song, the band combines jazz with metal in a very intuitive manner. It’s not forced, rather, it feels very natural. Plus, the song is from the antagonist’s point of view, the “snake-tongued devil” company, Voice of Trespass. Loudwire called this song “the metal equivalent of when evil Disney movie characters explain their diabolical intentions through song”. I found this to be a very accurate, and funny description of the tune.