Throwback Thursday: The Great Misdirect from BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME is an Evolved and Brilliant Sonic Wonderland
Welcome back to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. For this week's 23rd edition of this series, we're looking at a piece of modern progression and experimentation from a band that shows no signs of stopping. Known for being heavy, boundary-pushing, and technical, Between the Buried and Me strike a masterful balance in their underappreciated gem:
BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME'S The Great Misdirect
Release Date: October 2009
Record Label: Victory
On the heels of yesterday's unexpected announcement from Between the Buried and Me about their new two-part album (and tour), now is the perfect time to reflect on their largely under appreciated 2009 release The Great Misdirect. It seems that fans supported and enjoyed the album more than the majority of major music news outlets (except for us, of course, because we know what's up). Between the Buried and Me has evolved over their 18-year career from raw, grandiose and sporadically ultra heavy-handed metalcore to something much more melodic, thoughtful, fluid and progressive. Supportive fans have been on board for their evolution and seem to enjoy both styles of albums pretty equally. Conversely, The Great Misdirect was met with largely milquetoast reviews citing issues such as "lack of repetitiveness" and "too ambitious". Frankly, that could describe many (if not all) of Between the Buried and Me's discography. The band is not afraid to carve out a non-repeating 10-minute song like an ocean liner parts layers of pristine sea ice.
I understand how alienating that might be for the casual metal lover. Their music has never been accused of being easy to listen to. If that's what you're looking for, catchy and steady metal, Between the Buried and Me might not be the band for you.
HOWEVER, I hope that like a work of great art, revisiting The Great Misdirect after some time will inspire fans, non-fans, reviewers, and critics to reevaluate and enjoy the album with fresh, more accepting minds. The beauty of The Great Misdirect transcends their earlier efforts in a way that feels like the music came to a new, comfortable nesting ground. The nuances of this album effectively highlight the iconic ripping vocals of lead singer Tommy Rodgers, making their relentless aggression feel like a captain at a ship's wheel. This record balances the unbridled talent of each band member: Paul Waggoner on insane, noodly lead guitar; Dan Briggs on bass, Dustie Waring on crunchy rhythm guitar, and Blake Richardson on an impressive and technical percussion performance. Richardson's drumming changes the mood more effectively than the segments with clean vocals and guitar. He is masterful at his job, as they all are. It's amazing to listen to the group focus their creative energies to create something like The Great Misdirect. There is a magnitude of talent packed into each minute of each song; and still, throughout The Great Misdirect is a sense of humor from band who could very easily take themselves too seriously. Track "Obfuscation" sings with brilliant moments that highlight each band member (like the bass moment at 9:15):
The Great Misdirect takes every jarring mood transition (signature of Between the Buried and Me) and irons out the kinks. In albums such as Alaska and even on Colors (a sister album sonically to The Great Misdirect), we hear changes from hard to soft as abrupt to the ears as an auditory fall off of a cliff. The evolution in The Great Misdirect to smoother heavy/light transitions comes from more mid-tempo, jammy interludes. The result of this change creates a sophisticated, elegant metal album that houses, in my opinion, some of their absolute best work. Track "Disease, Injury, Madness" opens as heavy as they've ever been and eventually bleeds into a stunning, theatrical, slightly diabolical jam:
The album is so masterfully produced by Jamie King, that I don't miss the raw quality of their earlier work; I'm too busy enjoying the journey of each song. The technicality and thoughtfulness of The Great Misdirect has the grace of a comedic actor playing a dramatic role. The slower moments are far less syrupy than those on The Silent Circus and convey a contemplative apathy and maturity. Track "Fossil Genera (A Feed From Cloud Mountain)" is expectedly dramatic, but stays carefully deliberate:
My favorite track on the album is the last track- "Swim to the Moon". This 17 minute and 53-second track combines elements of Between the Buried and Me from their entire career – thrash, careful soundscaping, keyboards, soft moments, and rhapsodic, sweeping everything. It is a kitchen sink of songs – and yet I don't find the journey exhaustive or contrived. It is brilliantly woven together with a chorus that is (get ready critics) – catchy. And, it repeats. Okay, so the chorus is introduced around minute 5 and doesn't repeat until around minutes 9 and 16 – but still, it repeats. C'mon, cut these guys a break. In fact, in waiting for the repeat, you'll find a magnificent story. It's hard to believe that almost 18 minutes flies by when the song ends:
The interlude that starts around minute 10 is straight-up groovy. It's simply a stunning song I don't tire of.
Across the board, Between the Buried and Me has been a truly great band. Alaska is a fan favorite, Colors is a huge, brave step forward, and The Silent Circus was bananas at the time it came out (and reminds me of my early metal-loving days). Through all of their experimentation, I wouldn't call a single album from their entire catalog a dud. I personally cannot wait until March for their new album. They'll also be on tour. Having caught these guys in concert for their hugely-popular Coma Ecliptic album, I can tell you that they're definitely worth seeing. Though not the biggest 'movers' on stage, seeing them perform is deeply moving in another way; It is so technical and gripping that it is quite an experience. They're one of my favorite bands, and this album is easily in my top 20 of all time. If you haven't checked it out, or maybe you're not the biggest fan, give The Great Misdirect a chance (or another chance) and try to appreciate the artful, freeing journey rather than focusing on the 'music major that stuffs a bunch of crap into 10 minutes' stigma some paint onto them.