What is there to say about Between the Buried and Me that hasn’t already been said? What is there to say about Colors that hasn’t already been said? Between the Buried and Me are one of those very special bands where everyone has a different favorite album by them. However, for the overwhelming majority, it’s Colors, which is pretty near universally beloved. How, and why, then, would the band ever try to put out an album like Colors II, one that at first glance might seem like a quick and easy way to cash in on something that they know will be a home run. Taking a deeper look, however, reveals this release as something much more important and much more personal.
The original Colors turns fourteen years old this year, which is not the kind of nice, round number that bands tend to mark with something special, but these past eighteen months and counting have kind of thrown the playbook out the window. More importantly, however, is the fact that circumstances being what they are have naturally led BTBAM back into the mindset that they were in when conceiving Colors. “Colors was very much our attempt at a do-or-die statement,” says lead guitarist Paul Waggoner. “We had to establish our identity and be who we really wanted to be in order to have a career. This time around, our industry was shut down for a year. Once tours were cancelled due to the Pandemic, we were like, ‘We’ve got to write a record, and it’s got to be good.’ We had to do something next level.” Adds vocalist Tommy Rogers: “Especially with 2020, we really wanted to give it all we could and show the world we’re still here. That’s part of the reason we named it Colors II. We were in a similar spot when we did the first Colors…we were wondering, ‘Where do we belong in this music scene?’ We still struggle with that. At both of these moments in our career, we decided to just be ourselves and write the best album we can.” Colors II is more than just an attempt to do something big in the face of an industry brought to a screeching halt; it’s also something more than just a way for BTBAM to claim a place in the sonic landscape: it’s a natural progression of everything that they have been working at for years now, and while it hearkens back to the “early” days of their career, this is not an album that is totally rooted in nostalgia. It is its own separate entity from its sister piece, one that represents where the band is going, not just where they have been.
Stylistically, Colors II bears an undeniable resemblance to Colors, more so than most other BTBAM albums (if you can believe it). Astute listeners might even recognize some direct callbacks to Colors in the forms of, ahem, familiar melodies and lyrics (I’ll leave you to find them yourself). Still, this is not just a rehashing of old ideas. There is natural progress from across what the band is capable of, and it sees the band blending more of their trademark disparate influences together to make something equal parts unexpected and familiar. Take, for example, the leadoff single “Fix The Error.” Rogers admits this song is an attempt at making a gospel song metal, and the end result is something that is the most punk rock in terms of music and lyrics that the band has ever gotten. Oh, and there’s also the trifecta of drum solos from guests Mike Portnoy, Navene Koperweis and Kevin Schalk. “Revolution in Limbo” sees the band come out swinging for the fences with a fury and fire that hearkens back to their early days, especially with the Latin jazz break in the middle. Colors II is a long album at over 80 minutes and twelve tracks, but it is very easy to get lost in the flow of things, and it is all the more enthralling that every single musician plays at the absolute top caliber they can. Dan Briggs is one of my favorite musicians of all time, and if you read any of what I write you’re probably wondering why it’s even taken me this long to mention his name. Simply put, the bass work on this album leaves me speechless, which is to say nothing of Waggoner’s soaring lead work, Dusty Waring’s ferocious riffs, Blake Richardson’s inhuman precision and feel and Roger’s immaculate voice, which shows no signs of letting up after all these years.
There is no other way for me to put it than this: Colors II is a triumph, the exact triumph the band set out for it to be. It goes beyond pulling from the things that made Colors a timeless album. It is a showcase of why BTBAM has been and always will be some of the most ruthlessly creative, wildly talented, technically proficient and unbelievably gifted songwriters of all time. It is easy to see why from pretty much day one of their 20+ year career they have been hailed as pioneers of progressive and technical metal, but their music has always transcended genre. It is just incredible music, bar none, and Colors II is the next exhibit in the case for their continued supremacy.