If you cast your mind back to March of this year, you might remember the progressive metal juggernauts Between The Buried And Me releasing the first part of their Automata series, simply titled Automata I. Whilst Automata I was an all-round solid release, it proved to be a topical point of discussion within both the act’s fanbase and the wider progressive metal scene. In contrast to the act’s typically perceived persona, the release was rather conventional, tamed and restricted in nature. Whilst stating it caused an uproar within the respective community would be a brash overstatement, the record was met with some limped shrugs and lopsided pouts by those expecting something wilder and sprawling. Thankfully, it seems that the group was saving such eccentrics for the second part of the series, with Automata II being cocksure, idiosyncratic and wildly ambitious.
Whilst Automata II may only contain a total of four tracks, those praying and calling for the sprawling track durations of their halcyon days would be delighted to know that this release spans well over 30 minutes. Immediately, the glistening rollercoaster riffs of ‘The Proverbial Bellow’ stand as a mission statement for the release, affirming that such progressive sensibilities are not only the foundation of this act, yet are more concretive than ever. Such a track stands as a saga in itself, with wild and jovial progressive whirlwinds of guitar driving the track from segment to segment, slowly unpacking an arsenal of musical weaponry and instruments in the process. If anything, this only seems like foreshadowing for the events that are to follow, for Automata II truly pushes the already elasticated boundaries of progressive metal with the tracks to come.
Following such a metal orientated onslaught, we’re meted the gurdy pirate waltz of the interlude that is ‘Glide’. Considering the events that just followed and the tamed sensibilities of Automata I, it’s truly unprecedented and is abound to be a surprise for those expecting a repeat of the release that we were greeted with earlier this year. Yet, this only dresses the stage for ‘Voice Of Trespass’, which without a trace of exaggeration, may the most ambitious, eccentric and joyously fun material the group have conjured thus far.
Instantly, we’re greeted with a concoction of waltzy jazz, swing and innovative ambition. Those who grew up with for have a fondness for early Sonic The Hedgehog games may have wild scents of nostalgia, for this track honestly feels like the group have lifted the track from the casino level of Sonic and turned it into a progressive metal epic. It see’s the group firing on all cylinders whilst experimenting with an expanded musical palette, throwing in all manner of sounds and themes into the mix, prior to taking the track into more menacing territories. Whilst of all of this may indicate a sense of frenzied sloppiness, there’s a stark level of sophistication to be found, with the group evidently taking the time to create a sound that’s addictive, unpredictable and spontaneous in nature.
In essence, Automata II revels in a level of juxtaposition to a certain degree. Whilst the themes and motifs laid in part one of the saga are omnipresent, there’s an air of unpredictability soaring overhead. This comes evident with ‘The Grid’ which opens with a reprise of the melody featured within ‘Condemned To The Gallows’, only with synth leads being the driving force. Even here, such a track detours into territories both unknown and surprising, with a focus on emotional deliverance. It’s a beautiful conclusion that brings the blanketing concepts full circle. In all, Automata II see’s the group acknowledging the tempered sensibilities of part one of the saga before reintroducing and amplifying the beautiful eccentrics of their namesake to create a musical sequence that’s ambitious, jovial, emotional and above all, truly progressive.
Automata II is released July 13th via Sumerian Records