By Ben Apatoff
Call it "Deeper Colors." Approximately two years after BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME leapt into headliner status on Colors, they've plunged further into each direction they took on that album. The Great Misdirect raises the Colors bar in every way that BTBAM previously did in following up Alaska, showcasing a grasp of melody, brutality and tempo shifts that sounds both natural and idiosyncratic. Extended doses of death metal intensity? Check. Relaxed, lounge-rock detours that slip in and out like lucid dreams? Beautifully emotive shredding from guitarists who are clearly talented enough to show off but don't? Check. Genres? Never heard of them.
More than any possibly any recent metal band, Between the Buried and Me are masters of mood. The Great Misdirect kicks off by evoking CYNIC on the beach in the spacey "Mirrors," before preview track "Obfuscation" pulls a quick one. Not many nine-minute songs can be realistically called "quick," but "Obfuscation" moves like a whirlwind, taking a hatchet to every stereotype of yawn-inducing prog rock. It's grandiose and unpredictable, and it sounds like it was recorded with several guitarists, two singers, one indomitable drummer and a rare metal keyboardist who doesn't sound excessive. The barrelhouse piano movement that opens "Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain" reaches an astronomical level of math-metal chaos before climaxing with a sweeping, perfectly-composed movie score ending. Along the way, each progression runs swiftly in the hands of musicians who'd rather write a death metal symphony than symphonic death metal.
Six songs over 60 minutes reads like a daunting listen for anyone who doesn't enjoy free jazz or PHISH, but Between the Buried and Me have nailed a task that often derails lesser bands. Too many metal acts toil over making their "epic album," usually resulting in self-consciously lengthy songs that go on at least three minutes too long. But on The Great Misdirect, my only concern was that the band wouldn't be able to fit everything they had to say into a CD's worth of space. They manage by ending "Swim to the Moon" somewhat abruptly, capping an 18-minute sonic adventure (and the album) with the promise of something more. Bring it on–if there's something these guys can't excel at, then I've yet to hear it.
Rating: 4 notches in Victory Records' metal cred out of 5