Audiences rarely witness the progression of a band in real time; there might be an album that reflects one style and the next is a strange departure and suddenly they return to form, as in the case of North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me: the fluidity of that progression has infused their sound and drove them in new directions gradually with every release since the solidification of their line up back in 2005. When an act drifts away from where they began, fans tend to take sides, but when you hear BTBAM's fans pine for their old sounds, it does not undermine their current displays of affection for the present day.
As the metalcore beginnings of the band slowly fade into memory and the more progressive elements of Pink Floyd, Queen or even early progressive metalers Cynic take over the direction of the band, the fruits of that progression are heard fully ripened on Coma Ecliptic. A concept record, detailing one man’s decent into a coma within a coma within a coma and his experiences with past lives within that slumber.
Coma Ecliptic culminates all that their last decade of writing could grow into, not simply in the story it conveys… musically this is one of the most expansive metal albums ever produced. Yet it feels strange to even call this a metal album; it transcends what modern metal even intellectualizes. It might look good on paper to some, but none come close to releasing something as realized as this.
There have been some interesting advances in the way those bands of the early century melded their metal into the varying styles of Yes and King Crimson, and BTBAM fleshed this out better than any have in recent years. That being said, many fans may not completely understand the destination where the band has landed.
When guitarist Paul Waggoner announced that they would not be playing much of their older material live again, the backlash exposed that many fans still craved their pre-Colors album music – at least the tunes that made them fall in love with the band – yet at the same time, the journey that BTBAM continues on garnered them even larger audiences, although it never seems that they are catering to a trend, rather setting them.
Coma Ecliptic is no exception. There may be many references to 70's prog rock, but in reality, never has an album like this been made, expansive yet introspective, brutal yet gentle, intricate and intelligent. I won’t delve into a track by track breakdown; Coma Ecliptic sits better as one piece of art, a sum of its parts but lacking without hearing the spectacle as a whole. Halfway through the year it may be safe to say Between the Buried and Me will release the best record of 2015, most definitely the finest achievement of their career.