BTBAMMy most recent encounter with Between the Buried and Me was via a guest appearance by the vocalist Tommy Rogers on Abnormal Thought Patterns’s latest album. That didn’t work for me but the thing with this band, whose seventh album this is, is that they’ll send you in every direction with their “grandiose, dynamic, heavy, melodic and technically challenging brand of metal”. The test is what you feel like when you come out on the other side of this avant-garde extravaganza.

After the touching and gloomy opener “Node”, which has a strong air of Porcupine Tree about it, the spectacle really began for me with “The Coma Machine”. Here are the mocking harmonies of the Beatles but they are mixed in with harshness, a structure which doesn’t seem like a structure but is, and a strong sense of adventure and climax. Dark and heavy techno follows. It’s mixed up with expansive vocals and flamboyant guitar work. The atmosphere darkens. It’s hard to put my finger on what I was listening to as it works into technically charged death metal, but I’m ok with that. It’s irregular but this is carefully crafted intrigue. The eccentric and extrovert drama rolls on. It’s like Haken +. Energy and technicality are in abundance. I like the way there’s no pausing for breath as one scene changes into another. Vocally adept finery is accompanied by a cascading keyboard on “King Redeem – Queen Serene”, which takes a progressive twist before plunging into deathly growls and controlled fury. I thought at this point there was an over-indulgence in a chaotically anarchic scene. It marked for me the band’s entry into its experimental side after a very promising and original opening sequence.

“Turn on the Darkness” returns to the dripping tap and discomforting slow vocals – very Porcupine Tree – before racing off into a multitude of directions in search of … what, I don’t know. Technical metal, death and harmonies all operate on different levels. It’s brain-mashing. I liked the harmonies and the deeper atmospheres but taken as a whole it’s like listening to three albums at once. “The Ectopic Stroll” features a playful fairground section, which reeks a bit of techno – strong reminders of Haken here – and there’s real fun and energy as well as heavy deathliness and extravagant guitar. I like it. You don’t know what’s coming next. I didn’t like the ending, which smacked of prog for the sake of itself. Yet “Rapid Calm” is delightful with its deep bass underscore and dreamy songmanship, at least for the first four or five minutes, before heavier elements enter the equation and disturb the mix. My reaction, not for the first time, was “what was that all about?” “Memory Palace” starts brightly and breezily, if a little like a retro US tv cop drama. Again it’s three for the price of one with its technical riff, heavy element and hanging prog. The Pink Floyd side of Between Buried and Me comes out, but in the strange context of technical metalcore. The vocalist roars and reflects, as the rhythm sounds like gun fire. It’s exciting for a while, then it’s back to the haunting side of Pink Floyd before a further return to prog technicality which marks the start of “Option Oblivion”. The bewildering multitude of styles and patterns prevails once more. It’s almost unsettling as the sinister vocals are superimposed on this increasingly kaleidoscopically incomprehensible scene. The ending is definitive and suggests a meaning which I couldn’t find. This is the cue for the dark introduction of “Live in Velvet”, which could have come from Sergeant Pepper.  In accordance with the tradition, the direction changes. The track livens up and we’re allowed one final blast of harshness before it all ends and frankly I’m none the wiser.

You can’t fault Between the Buried and Me for scattergun imagination. “Coma Ecliptic” isn’t an easy listen, and some of its patterns are gravity-defying. I admit that I struggled with it.

(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)