Continuing from where they left off last year on The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, their Metal Blade Records debut, Between the Buried and Me have returned this year with The Parallax II: Future Sequence. While Future Sequence does expand the lyrical concepts and musical themes set forth by Hypersleep Dialogues, it also highly improves on them.
The band opens Future Sequence with the Pink Floyd-esque “Goodbye to Everything,” which sounds like it might be from lead singer Tommy Rogers’ solo album Pulse. The song introduces themes specific to this album and gently leads the listener into “Astral Body,” the single happiest sounding song the band has ever written. And for all that positivity it sacrifices nothing when it comes to being heavy. The relationship of these two songs is like that of “Mirrors” and “Obfuscation” off The Great Misdirect, with the first song being mellower while the second hits the unsuspecting listener with riff after powerful riff.
After the third track, “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest,” which features some great bass work by Dan Briggs and is also one of my personal favorites on the album, comes “Autumn.” “Autumn” is one of two interludes found on Future Sequence, along with the track “Parallax.” The latter at least features a monologue that expands the story that drives the album’s lyrics, but the former is fairly pointless.
In Future Sequence, Tommy Rogers seems to focus more on his clean singing which has somehow improved yet again. I believe this makes it so the heavier parts of their songs sound even heavier. Sometimes on past releases it seems as if the heavy parts of songs were written because they were expected to be there. That isn’t true on their newest release; Between the Buried and Me have not sounded this passionate or this ferocious in years. Take the song “Telos” for example. This was the first song released by the band before the album dropped and it is probably the most aggressive on the album. When I first heard the song, I wasn’t a huge fan. I did like the song, but only after the first three minutes. What I didn’t realize was how good it would sound in the context of the album. The track before it, “The Black Box,” is a two-minute song that builds up until the very end and cries for the beginning riff of “Telos” to follow it. The songs together are perfect and this demonstrates the importance of listening to Future Sequence in order. Not only are the lyrics telling a story, but the songs were placed where they are for a reason.
Between the Buried and Me have always had songs that contained odd parts to them (see “Informal Gluttony” off Colors), but for the first time they’ve stretched one of those parts out and written an entire odd song. That song is “Bloom.” It’s very well written, but very strange; it flows directly into “Melting City,” which might be the pinnacle of the band’s songwriting on this album. Everything fits together so perfectly. The next track is the epic “Silent Flight Parliament.” This is not only the last full song on the album, it is the longest too at just over fifteen minutes. It is reminiscent of the band’s song “White Walls” and overall is a great song, with one of my favorite solos on the album. My one complaint with “Silent Flight Parliament” is that it just doesn’t seem to know when to end. It feels like it will be over multiple times but there are still minutes left each time.
The Parallax II: Future Sequence is the band’s most cohesive album to date. The themes presented in Hypersleep Dialouges and in the beginning of this album are woven intricately throughout. For the most part, the mashing together of multiple genres doesn’t seem as random as it did on some past albums. Musically the band is just as strong as ever and Tommy Rogers in particular has stepped up his game. And while the space theme has been definitely overdone in progressive music, Between the Buried and Me have found ways to stay unique, write more memorable songs, and impress us mere earthlings.