Album Review: Coma Ecliptic by Between the Buried and Me
Excellent, Based on 5 Critics
The Guardian - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Given the regurgitative, mash-up culture of the modern age, Between the Buried and Me’s passionate ethos of cross-pollination should have no trouble turning heads. And yet Coma Ecliptic’s conceptual sprawl is so ingenious and bursting with colour that it often feels too potent, too enthralling, to belong amid the empty, transient squall of the present day. From the rock opera crescendos of the opening Node onwards, the album dares to be both a quintessentially prog-rock experience and a timely act of modern metal derring-do.
With the release of its sixth LP, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (the sequel to the Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP), in 2012, American progressive metal quintet Between the Buried and Me set a new benchmark for its genre. Sure, both 2007’s Colors and 2009’s The Great Misdirect are incredible records (the former was a breakthrough in terms of both approach and commercial appeal, while the latter was more polished, accessible, and vibrant), but Parallax II took the epic-suite-broken-into-sections format Colors introduced and perfected it. With its dramatic chronicle, seamless flow, hypnotic singing, inventive instrumentation, and self-referential continuity, it easily ranked not only as BTBAM’s best effort to date, but as one of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time.
The past four years for Between the Buried and Me, since making the jump to Metal Blade Records, have revolved around their two-part concept record series The Parallax, with both instalments refining the Raleigh outfit's undeniable skill for genre blending and arranging. Right when we thought their progressive metal couldn't become any more ambitious, there's Coma Ecliptic, a full-scale concept record concerned with what happens inside one man's brain during prolonged unconsciousness. That they've billed this as a full-blown rock opera should come as no surprise, based on the group's known admiration of their art-rock forefathers; BTBAM have covered works by Pink Floyd, Queen and King Crimson in the past.
Integration and expansion have always been the trademarks of North Carolina's Between the Buried & Me. This lineup, which has been together since the early 2000s, has leaned ever more toward prog with each successive release since 2007's Colors, and seemingly culminated in the two-chapter Parallax releases in 2011 and 2012. Those records utilized not only the math rock and technical death metal from the band's history, but also touched on jazz rock in a meld of sophisticated musical compositions.
What happens inside the mind of a coma patient, when one’s brain is reduced to minimal activity? Scientists have hypothesized that there’s not enough blood flow to even dream, while some patients report vivid hallucinations or nightmarish disconnected images more affecting than the trauma that triggered the coma in the first place. “It was one ongoing nightmare that I couldn’t awake from,” wrote Biconderopus, a commenter on a Scientific American piece about medically induced comas. “It took me much longer to heal from the imagery in that coma than it did from the physical injuries.