rev_e's recent request for new music -- particularly gritty new music -- has been puttering around in the back of my mind, so i thought i'd take a little time to share this one.
My brother M recently introduced me to the album Colors by the group Between The Buried And Me. Despite needing to take a couple of listens before i fully acclimated to it, the album has actually turned out to be something of an earworm (and believe me, it's is not due some kind of irresistible pop sensibility). This group's actually one of the most interesting i've heard in awhile because of how precisely they combine a particular set of styles.
A group that spans modern progressive rock (a la Ecolyn) and prog-art-jazz-fusion (a la Miriodor) isn't such a stretch; those genres are fairly closely related in the grand scheme of things. A group that then throws in more traditional progressive rock elements -- such as classical melodic influences, rich background synth pads, and/or moments of soaring vocal harmonies (a la Marillion, perhaps?) -- might be a bit more rare, but still not outside of expectation given the correlations involved.
Between The Buried And Me tags all of these on this record, and even the occasional quote of other styles (bluegrass-esque banjo makes an appearance, complete with requisite jangly 6-string and swung country bassline), all from an unquestionably central musical style i would not expect: demonic speed metal.
First, let me explain that term. We know metal, and we even know speed metal. "Demonic", as i'm using it here, is how i describe a vocal style that then defines a particular sub-genre thereof fairly distinctly. It has nothing to do with satanism, lyrical content, or diminished fifths, but entirely with the ultra-low-register growling scream through which the lead vocals are delivered, often in a near-pitchless sprechstimme style. For me personally, this was the "acclimation" step, as this isn't a style i've listened to a lot (yet). Much like when one is learning a new language, it takes a little time for the ear to pick up on the nuances that define the structure of something so unfamiliar.
Even in my more limited musical travels of late, i've heard this sub-sub-genre of metal pumped out by more than a couple of groups, some with some impressive instrumental virtuosity (local group Stockton is one example). The surprise for me was hearing a group so firmly rooted in this hardcore aggressive style (at least half of album, minute for minute, falls within the genre) stride so boldly and unhesitantly into the far cleaner and more subtle styles above, staking a very legitimate claim to the territory.
To be sure, the technical skill required to perform speed metal is likely to correlate with an interest in the technical aspects of styles like progressive rock, fusion, and even classical music. In this regard, finding artists with a love for all of these styles isn't a surprise in and of itself, even with the "demonic" vocal twist thrown in. However, to see this particular brand of semi-diversity shamelessly splashed liberally and somewhat homogeneously across some 60 minutes of powerful concept LP was not only something of a shock, but also one hell of a ride.
I don't believe that anything short of hearing this album at least twice in its entirety can truly get its value across, but the opening two-track suite (via an interesting fan video) might lend a clue of what one is in for. (Oh, and break out the headphones or a quality sound system for that link, because computer speakers will not allow you to fully appreciate what's going on here.) I think anyone with a fairly open musical mind may want to check this album out, especially those that enjoy extremely tight performance ability, complex phrasal structures, careful production, and/or sheer unadulterated speed.
- rev_e: This wont be your new favorite band or anything, but i believe your life will be richer for having heard it, and you might find a few tidbits you really like.
- mrgeddylee: I plan to buy this record and will gladly lend it to you if you think you'd give it those couple of listens, because it might really impress you.
- jeff_elbel: If you haven't heard these guys yet, you should at least know they're out there.
- multiplexer: Ditto.
- ... and this is by no means a complete list; there are at least half a dozen others on my flist who might dig this.
Thanks to M for putting me hip to this unique album. I'm looking forward to checking out more.
More info: betweentheburiedandme.com