With a fair few number of quite stunning releases this year choosing the Best Of Year album was destined to prove something near on impossible but North Carolina metallers Between The Buried and Me have just made it a very simple decision with the unleashing of their intoxicating and immense The Parallax II- Future Sequence. The band has never settled into anything less than being wholly imaginative with an ongoing exploration of their experimental sound and ideas to stretch the limits of metal and rock. Arguably they have found variations of success for some though never offering anything less than compulsive and intriguing listening but it is probably fair to say previous album The Great Misdirect left many unsure if their acclaimed Colors was to be the band at their finest hour. The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP suggested maybe not, though as impressive as it was in hindsight it was a mere whisper of what was to come with this stunning and glorious new album.
The release continues the story of two characters, Prospect I and Prospect II, who live in different planes of existence separated by millions of light years, each in ignorance of the other yet confronting similar personal issues and intrinsically connected by a shared soul, which ultimately brings them together. Vocalist Tommy Rogers explains more… Both men exist in isolation, one because he runs away from the life that is his and the other when he leaves his dying planet in the hope of creating new life elsewhere, through the planting of souls. As the story progresses you realize they are actually the same person, and at the end of the journey they’re responsible for destroying all life as they know it, reinforcing the idea that humanity is a destructive species, and that there’s some kind of innate flaw about us that causes us to destroy everything we touch.”
Every second of the album, is a feast of drama, unpredictability, and the richest of craft and musical adventure possible, not to mention aural poetry to saturate the emotions and senses with beauty and inspiring imagination. The Parallax II: Future Sequence is an evolving beast along its expansive journey and individual epic soundscapes, no matter their lengths. The concept of the story is vast and open to personal reflection and connection but each song can also stand alone just as powerfully and impressively too. The real adventure and experience comes from taking the journey in its complete form from the opening Goodbye To Everything to its final reprise to end it all. With simple guitar and imperious harmonies the first track lifts one up on a cloud of melodic warmth to begin the passage of emotive enterprise. Its ambience builds as shadowed skies wrap around the impending flight of the album and narrative. It instantly transform into the incendiary presence of Astral Bodies, a track which is pure glory in sound, invention, and presence. As the guitars of Dustie Waring and Paul Waggoner send spears and shards of sonic mastery across its skies, the vocals of Rogers, clean and growling, fire up the engines of adventure, aided by the barracking rhythms of drummer Blake Richardson and prowling lines of bassist Dan Briggs. The song is perpetually growling and snapping at the ear or caressing it into a mesmeric bliss, very often both at the same time such the quality of songwriting and its realisation.
It is a stunning start matched by the following aggressive and pulsating Lay Your Ghosts To Rest. The track immediately snaps the head back like a man trap taking its bite, the corrosive energies and thumping riffs and beats a vicious confrontation. The flaying riffs continue to do damage whilst the melodic fires scorch the flesh but suddenly things drop into a hypnotic and mellow melodic kiss on the ear, the vocals and keys offering dare one say moments of Yes like tones before bursting into sonic flames of beautifully structured elegance and further brutal bruising. The whole thing is breathtaking and across its ten minutes leaves the jaws of adoration and inspiration open wide.
As the album as a whole, the track is continually shifting and evolving so that it is impossible to clearly represent what is on offer in words, only one to one attention can do that. The outstanding and extraordinary Extremophile Elite and the equally staggering Telos, with their infectious and driven passion raise the temperature further. The latter is a furious tempest of relentlessly rampaging riffs and an intensity which smothers with harsh shadows until allowing rays of sonic majesty to light up its corners midway.
The highest peak of the album comes with the quite brilliant Bloom, a ten out of ten composition and a towering piece of genius. It can only be described as 6:33 meets Faith No More in a jazz club with 12 Stone Toddler, the burlesque carnivale like aural tease a magnetic en suite of progressive mischief and imagination seamlessly and organically placed within the dramatic flight of the album.
There is so much more to tell and hear within The Parallax II- Future Sequence but that is for you to find out. Produced by Between the Buried and Me alongside Jamie King and released through Metal Blade Records, this is one quite simply magnificent album you really do need to share your time with.
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