Between the Buried and Me’s ‘Automata II’ Completes Magnificent Work + Awful Release Strategy – Album Review
Last we left off with Between the Buried and Me, they had released the brilliant, yet problematic Automata I back in March. Having compared splitting up a BTBAM epic to hanging half a Picasso on your wall, we waited patiently for the release of Automata II, pondering if the conceptual album’s completion would raise BTBAM’s latest effort to the ranks of Colors or The Parallax II. We now know the answer.
First off, don’t even think about listening to Automata II before fully indulging in Automata I. Listening to the final 33 minutes of Automata just doesn’t make any sense, neither conceptually nor casually. To longtime Between the Buried and Me fans, “The Proverbial Below” will feel much more like the arc of a story rather than its opening paragraphs. Though “Below” is a solid piece of the puzzle, Automata I’s “Condemned to the Gallows” is a far more satisfying introduction, offering that trademark BTBAM swell into a magnificent launch.
Automata II serves up the most Colors-like arrangements since BTBAM's pivotal 2007 album. Following the lush ending of “The Proverbial Bellow,” things get beautifully strange with “Glide.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen… the accordion has returned ala “Prequel to the Sequel.” BTBAM use the instrument as the centerpiece for the quick “may-I-have-this-dance” transition, adding some old-timey piano varnish for an extra lustrous sheen.
“Voice of Trespass” is by far the most bizarre and theatrical track throughout Automata. Acting as the anthem for the corporation which broadcasts their subjects’ dreams for the purpose of entertainment, “Voice of Trespass” is the metal equivalent of when evil Disney movie characters explain their diabolical intentions through song. It’s cheesy and bad-ass simultaneously, and will leave even the biggest BTBAM nut scratching their head with enthusiastic bewilderment.
Finishing off their four-song album with “The Grid,” the cut is a solid enough conclusion to BTBAM’s storytelling prowess, weaving together big choruses and silky guitar moments throughout. “The Grid” doesn’t go out with fireworks like “White Walls” or even “Swim to the Moon.” It’s far more reminiscent of the “Goodbye to Everything Reprise” ending to The Parallax II, waving goodbye for a gentle sendoff as Paul Waggoner expresses his inner David Gilmour.
As a singular piece, Automata certainly meets the towering standards BTBAM have set for the past 16 years, besting efforts like Coma Ecliptic and perhaps even The Great Misdirect. So why split 68 minutes of music into two albums? Was it a business decision? A contractual one? Or was it a more cinematic experiment? We don’t have the answer, but making fans wait more than three months for Automata II was a mistake.
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