Prog metal can be a difficult beast, its complex song structures and lengthy tracks putting off a great many listeners before they even start. It’s testament to their ability as songwriters then that BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME have managed to create not only their best ever work with Coma Ecliptic, but also an album that may change people’s perceptions of prog-metal.
Lyrically, it’s another concept album from the Raleigh quintet – following the story of a comatose man reliving his past lives. Described as ‘Twilight Zone-esque” by the band themselves, it’s fairly standard storytelling for the genre, and yet BTBAM have managed to produce a strikingly interesting album with Coma Ecliptic.
Opening track Node is a quiet, acoustic affair best described as the calm before the storm – vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers showing off the lighter side to his vocal range. Intricate guitar licks soon appear as the band launch into The Coma Machine, which mixes metal with classic prog stylings more akin to bands like Rush or Yes.
First single Famine Wolf remains as exciting as when it was debuted, and contains some of Coma Ecliptic’s most impressive guitar work, almost neoclassical in places, with elements of The Devin Townsend Project thrown in for good measure. Its mid-section takes a sudden turn into a much heavier sound, with distorted guitars and Rogers’ guttural vocals creating a much more jarring, but equally enjoyable change of pace.
The sheer scope of the band’s sound really comes to the forefront on King Redeem – Queen Serene, where the band throw even more into their melting pot of ideas – going as far as adding jazz-sounding moments and haunting piano melodies to the chaotic metal. On paper, it sounds too crazy to work, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Memory Palace meanwhile, is everything you could want in a prog-metal song. At almost ten minutes, it’s the longest track on the album, and takes the listener on a multi-faceted journey for its entirety. Virtuoso guitars from Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring create an immense soundscape, which goes from relatively calm and serene, to vicious and heavy at the drop of a hat.
The almost duality of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME’S songwriting is even more apparent on closing track Life in Velvet. Beginning as basically a piano-only ballad, it eventually kicks into one final salvo of melodic duelling guitars, before coming to an abrupt halt. It’s an unexpectedly powerful way to end an album, and one that works very well on Coma Ecliptic.
With Coma Ecliptic, it really seems like BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME have found a sweet spot in their songwriting. Despite the enormous range of styles and tempo changes across its eleven tracks, the album never once feels like it has any filler or weak moments. Creating a meld of the heavy and the melodic has long been this band’s specialty, but Coma Ecliptic really steps things up – creating what could be the best prog-metal album of the year as a result.