I should set one thing straight before getting into this review: I’m not a huge fan of metal. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say I dislike a good portion of metal. That being said, I enjoy The Great Misdirect by Between the Buried and Me.
Based on my previous claim, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I didn’t really care for BTBAM’s early material. While I understand the deep barks from frontman Tommy Giles Rogers were very powerful, it just wasn’t anything I ever held on to and enjoyed. That changed with The Great Misdirect.
From the beginning of the album, I was able to tell that this would be a different album from a band I previously had no love for. The progressive-leaning “Mirrors” features atmospheric production and almost Western-sounding guitar riffs. Combined with Rogers’ clean and soft vocals, it is a pairing that I thoroughly enjoy. While the following two songs, the Rock Band-featured “Obfuscation” and the grandiose “Disease, Injury, Madness,” feature a sound more based in metal and their previous sound, they are far more enjoyable than the comparable songs on previous albums.
The piano riff that begins “Fossil Genera – A Feed From Cloud Mountain” is a call-back to generations past and Rogers’ clean, doo-wop styled delivery further displays the band’s experimentation on The Great Misdirect. The song soon returns to a fairly straightforward metal sound which takes up the a majority of the duration of the 12-minute song, though the final four minutes feature an ambitious arrangement, ending the song on a good note. While many of these experimental elements appear on the band’s previous album, the critically lauded Colors, the way they are carried out on The Great Misdirect seems like a conscious effort to craft a fully realized sound.
“Desert of Song” is a rarity in that it begins with a simple guitar riff and vocals from someone other than Rogers – that someone being lead guitarist Paul Waggoner, whose voice is closer to Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains or an alt-country vocalist than anyone in metal. However, while the song is very good and a nice change of pace for the band, it sticks out like a sore thumb on the album and takes away from its flow.
The Great Misdirect is ended with the near-18 minute masterpiece “Swim to the Moon,” which features some of Waggoner and rhythm guitarist Dustie Waring’s most impressive guitar work to date. And after 15 or so minutes of fairly brutal metal, the album ends the way it began – soft and experimental, with some of Rogers’ best vocals to date.
While The Great Misdirect is a fairly polarizing effort for the majority of BTBAM’s fan base, it is by far my favorite. Despite a few missteps, the album shows a band breaking out of the box most metal is shoved into and experimenting with their sound.