Ever since my interest in tech death began to expand, I had always heard about Burial In The Sky (Burial), but I never thought to actually listen to any of their music because I was too enamored by what other bands were doing to pay attention. However, once my interest grew and I opted to expand my tech death palette, I finally decided to jump in and see what I had been missing this entire time. It suffices to say that The Consumed Self, the band’s third album, is a cohesive tour de force that makes Alustrium’s A Monument to Silence pale in comparison with how intricate its instrumentality is.
A note before we begin: this album was referred to me as a tech death album, but, if we are being honest, The Consumed Self falls squarely in the prog death camp, and I am pleased that it does.
Right off the bat, The Consumed Self starts with a soft introduction that does not prepare for what is come. For one thing, the music in the introduction showcases clean vocals that seem to pull the listener into a feint, as lulling them into showing how a band’s sound can change since their last release. In hindsight, that introduction makes you think that the band has decided to go in a different direction altogether; then, the true beginning, “An Orphaned City,” begins and you are completely out of your depth. With this introduction, they have decided to go full progressive, showcasing this in the instrumentation rather than in the vocals. Usually, when a band decides to move from tech death to prog death, the first thing that changes is the vocals, as they become cleaner and more sonically intense. Here, however, the instrumentation and how the band manages to weave it into the structure of the record without missing a beat is rather impressive.
Throughout the first half of the album, you will hear everything they have to throw at you, from what sounds like heavy synth work to the instrument that launched a thousand comments: the sax. Here, they make full use of the sax backing, employing in the introduction of “Amaurosis Shroud” and as part of the bridge in “Wayfarer,” which highlights just how cohesive the sound is. Burial took the time to implement this rather complicated instrument into their music and it works: it doesn’t feel out of place in an album that shows both emotional depth and maturity. Sure, this album may not be Love Exchange Failure (where sax is also heavily used) or A Monument to Silence (its closest comparison), but it stands on its own just because of how cohesive the sound is. I could only sit there and hope that this cohesiveness was not going to falter in the second half of the album, because I was clearly invested and enthralled in what Burial was doing.
As it turns out, even with the fun first half, Burial made the wise decision to leave all of the interesting complexity of its music towards the latter half of the record, showing that, yes, you still have no idea what is happening in the record and you have to sit and listen to it. The intensity and complexity of what prog death can do is evident in the tracks “Mountains Pt. 1 – To Ascend” and “Mountains Pt. 2 – Empathy.” Here, they opt to show that they are capable of both creating a truly loud song that allows for instrumental intensity and thunderous vocals, while also shifting into something quieter and just as intense for the second song. On “Mountains Pt. 2,” Burial shows a capacity for restraint, which had not been heard at this point on the album, and it fully utilizes everything that the band has been working with to show what a brilliant album The Consumed Self is. Sure, “Anatomy of Us” – the album’s closer, clocking in at 12 minutes – may be the epic that most people will remember, but the “Mountains” duo are the songs that people will come back for.
All in all, The Consumed Self is an album that showcases Burial’s growth as a band and showcases their capacity to create a cohesive sound. Even though this is their third full-length, there is still a lot of capacity for growth and, perhaps, a new album will showcase that growth further down the line. As for me, The Consumed Self will be an album I will have to revisit as a contender for this year’s EOY list, because it is that good.