On their new album, Coma Ecliptic, North Carolinian proggers Between the Buried and Me pull off a couple of pretty significant coups. There’s the obvious one, of course: that the band delivers nearly 70 minutes of some of the most engaging, consistent music they’ve put out in several years. But that they’re able to do so while exploring, admittedly, a pretty out-there concept—comatose time travel??—is even more impressive. All told, Coma Ecliptic comes together pretty nicely, and ends up being one of their more captivating listens to date.
Anyone wondering whether the band would ever again reach the dizzying heights of Alaska or Colors can rest assured: they’ve done it here on Coma Ecliptic. While the band’s regression in quality during The Great Misdirect and the two Parallax releases may occasionally be a bit exaggerated, there’s no denying that album number seven represents a big leap forward from those predecessors. The band no longer feels like they’re trying to kick our asses; instead, they’re just doing it.
The underlying story behind Coma Ecliptic is interesting, but it’s also exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a progressive metal concept album in this day and age. Essentially, a comatose man subconsciously revisits his past lives in search of his true ideal, forced to choose at each destination whether to stay or continue on the journey. Ooooookay then. Sure thing.
Whether or not that’s the kind of tale you can get onboard with, the music more than covers for it. It’s virtuosic, yet not annoyingly so. It’s diverse, yet all ties in thematically. And it all sounds incredible. Once again, the band chose producer Jamie King to helm this thing, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Whether getting lost in electronic-influenced sections (“Dim Ignition”) or ripping intently through arpeggio-based shred parts (“Famine Wolf”), the band sounds as crisp and polished as ever. It’s simply a joy to listen to.
But even the simple act of listening becomes an interesting one here, too. As the album unfolds, it’s all too easy to find yourself focusing not on a particular song here or there, but on particular moments within them all. Look at the mid-album combination of “Turn on the Darkness” and “The Ectopic Stroll,” for example. Taken as whole works, the two make for probably the best one-two punch on all of Coma Ecliptic. But consider their individual parts—the ridiculously catchy descending passage in the middle of the former, the polyrhythmic, piano-driven opening to the latter, etc.—and they become far more impressive still.
Between the Buried and Me have always explored a full range of styles—in fact, one might say they’ve let their imaginations run a bit too wild on albums past—yet it still feels like they’ve found ways to test new limits here on Coma Ecliptic. They’ll give a nod to past heroes like Yes or Genesis one moment, then bring the contemporary influences back in the next, yet the combinations always sound effortless.
As Coma Ecliptic wraps up, it’s hard not to turn your thoughts back to “The Ectopic Stroll”—specifically, to its singalong refrain of ‘let’s all start over / let’s begin our lives.’ Sure, these eight words are, ostensibly, just part of the comatose man’s storyline. But on a different level, they’re also the perfect reflection of the new trajectory the band’s created for themselves with this album. The band’s followed their own instructions on Coma Ecliptic, and what a new beginning it is.
Keep it heavy,