(I know this has absolutely nothing to do with cars, but I feel like sharing some of my musical tastes as well. Bear with me if you're curious about wanktacularly awesome prog metal.)
2012 was a surprisingly good year for music, at least for me. Both Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt got together to unveil their dark side project, Storm Corrosion, Baroness released their awesome double album, Yellow & Green, Enslaved surprised me with the impressive RIITIIR, among many other releases (I still haven't listened to Rush's acclaimed album, Clockwork Angels, even!). And yet, Between the Buried and Me's release, The Parallax II: Future Sequence stood out to me the most.
The more I think about how to explain how their music sounds, the more my developing BTBAM obsession makes sense. Their first two albums were much more grounded in the genre of metalcore; they are still good, but now they stand as outliers. From Alaska onwards, they began to embrace progressive elements more and more, and there begins my interpretation. Musically, they seem to share a lot with Dream Theater (whether or not this is intentional, I don't know, but they did tour together for the first Prog Nation tour). I could imagine, in an alternative timeline in which Dream Theater drops James Labrie before Scenes From a Memory and decides to adopt death growls, a band that would sound very similar to Between the Buried and Me. And while Dream Theater have been somewhat lacking (in comparison to the '90s), BTBAM has been on the ball all the way.
Back to the album itself. It is a sci-fi concept album, telling the story of two men of a similar mind — one of which who has the choice to destroy the planet and one who lives on that same planet. My interpretation may not be completely on the ball, as this is an album that is somewhat hard to follow. It doesn't begin with this album, first of all (hence the "II"); the EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, as well as the songs "Lost Perfection: Coulrophobia" and "Swim To The Moon". Even with these, the non-linear story progression will keep you on your toes. Yes, it has something to do with death vocals, but even if you listen to it with the lyric sheet in hand (which is rewarding due to the beautiful album imagery), you will still get lost. The internet has figured it out, if you don't want to put the work in. Fear not though, as the storyline is not the most rewarding part of this album.
Musically, this album does not miss a beat. For those not used to longer plays, it does require a bit of patience, clocking in at 72 and a half minutes long, but the experience is rewarding. The album does not have a blindingly fast pace; sure, songs such as "Lay Your Ghosts to Rest" and "Telos" take every opportunity they get to crunch your ears into a fine powder (best described by the line in "Telos": Built to destroy/Born to dominate), but the album has a wide variety of styles and emotions as well. "Astral Body", for example, is a beautifully uplifting song, and even with the growling yells, even sounds happy. The intro to "Extremephile Elite" is awesomely melodic. "Bloom" is a very light-hearted and very fun song both musically and vocally, giving Tommy Rogers (the lead vocalist) some chance to show off his clean vocal range. Both "Parallax" and "The Black Box" are slower and somber, giving you a bit of time to relax, and to finish it off, they hit you with the epic 15 minute finale, "Silent Flight Parliament".
The Parallax II definitely comes out as my favourite album of 2012. It may be my favourite of Between the Buried and Me's collection as well. Even for someone new to death metal, the growls aren't so overpowering that it turns you off of the album, and it is so musically rewarding that I can't do anything but recommend it.