Between The Buried And Me (BTBAM) is a band I first encountered through their cover album "The Anatomy Of" (2006) on which they played songs by the bands they were most influenced by such as Metallica, Sepultura, Queen, The Smashing Pumpkins or Soundgarden, to name but a few. I was very impressed by it and assumed that these guys could play just about anything and make it all sound good to boot. Next up, then, was "Alaska" (2005), their 3rd full length, which made them one of my favorite metalcore bands, followed by "Colors" (2007) which showed them as masters of progressive metal even if the metalcore roots were still showing. Consequently, I purchased and thoroughly enjoyed every single BTBAM album and they became one of my all time favorites. Fourteen years and five albums after that landmark masterpiece they decided for their tenth album to be a sequel and simply called it "Colors II", an album which shows them outclassing not only the original "Colors" in variety, creativity and execution, to say nothing of fantastic, highly nuanced production, but showing them finally largely shedding much of the metalcore stylings from their proggressive metal palette for one of the best albums in their discography, if not the best in their entire career.

BTBAM, Native North Carolinians, are and have always remarkably been just those five men: Tommy Giles Rogers Jr. (lead vocals, keyboards), Paul Waggoner (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dustie Waring (rhythm guitar, lead guitar), Dan Briggs (bass, keyboards), Blake Richardson (drums) who had already showed signs of "we’re not just your average metalcore act" on their 2002 self-titled debut and they only had strengthened that resolve on "The Silent Circus" (2003) and the aforementioned "Alaska" with "Colors" the record where they began to pull away from metalcore to the benefit of incorporating more influences from increasingly different and challenging genres of metal and rock as well as jazz and even country. Latter works, such as "The Great Misdirect" (2009), "The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues" EP (2011) and, especially "The Parallax II: Future Sequence" (2012) showed some wear and tear, but the 2015 universally acclaimed "Coma Eliptic" brought back the surprise, the variety and boundless bravery in creativity which is why the two-part "Automata" (2018) was such a let down to me. This, in turn, is why "Colors II" is such a welcome surprise.

To describe BTBAM 2021 in short I would not use the word "metalcore" anymore but simply progressive thrash/death metal with black metal influences. All of the above have, of course, been present in the past but never before were they so true to the respective genres. I mean the progressive sounds like the classics of the genre such as Dream Theater or Pink Floyd, the thrash sounds like Death Angel, Machine Head and Megadeth had a party and the death like Revocation, Obscura and latter Death formed a spiritual entity. Then there’s the what-the-hell part where Queen meets Tool, Incubus (the alternative one), Soundarden, Alice In Chains and Opeth on the way to Devin Townsend’s mansion. Meanwhile, there’s metalcore, TOO, rather than dominant, Trivium, God Forbid and Lamb Of God in their best preppy outfits. And the best part is, for the first time BTBAM uses significant, chorus-like repetition for the best and the catchiest moments so these 11 tracks (plus a short intermentalTM) sound like genuine songs while never deviating from the highly complex, chaotic yet perfectly meticulously structured progressive web. The art of paradox?

While no tracks dare to fall below 4.5 mark, a few are excellent and two are absolutely perfect. Of the former kind are "The Double Helix of Extinction" for the Death Angel thrashmaniacs, the video single "Fix the Error", featuring drum solos from an ironclad trifecta of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Navene Koperweis (Animals As Leaders), and Ken Schalk (ex-Candiria) atop the best Megadeth riffs since "Endgame" and the metalcorish etiude "Never Seen / Future Shock". Speaking of Candiria, the force of "The Process Of Self-Development" and "300 Percent Density" is very strong with that last one, "The Future Is Behind Us" and the perfect closer "Human Is Hell (Another One with Love)" in which Captain Rogers perfectly mimics Nicholas Arthur Holmes (Paradise Lost) croons a’la "Draconian Times", while the other perfect movement, the old In Flamesian melodeathster "Bad Habits" may be one of the most original and catchiest numbers in this band’s career and, for that reason is a personal favorite.

Flaws, outside of the varied quality of tracks are really few and far between. While the "Colors" had a delicate, effective intro which exploded into an insane blackcore, "Colors II" short "Monochrome" is a strange choice for an opener with its midpaced hard rocking vibe, something augmented towards its end with sharp riffing right before the explosive "The Double Helix Of Extinction". Finally, occasionally, BTBAM still seems to meander or almost force the transitions aiming for them before a track is done. I have to say the transitioning and the mood changes are sometimes not as smooth and seamless as fourteen years ago.

For a band who had a prehistoric Soth Carolinian 68 mln. old starfish named after them (Latin: Amphilimna intersepultosetme) Between The Buried And Me 2021 sound very modern, innovative and highly infectious. They aimed for the next level and that is precisely what they have delivered with "Colors II" despite the flaws enumerated afore. Highly recommended stuff and, if you are long time fan, this is what you’ve waited for for fourteen years.