Grandiose, dynamic, heavy, melodic, technically challenging: these are all words that fall equally short when trying to describe Between the Buried and Me's sonic offerings. When tasked with explaining the band's previous effort, The Parallax II: Future Sequence, Decibel Magazine claimed that the album "offers more substance than most bands put forth in entire careers" and Metal Hammer simply stated that it was "utterly captivating." Where does a burgeoning progressive act go from there? The answer is found in their seventh full-length album, Coma Ecliptic. Spanning just over an hour, the album stands as a significant step in the evolution for the group as a whole, as well as the individual musicians: vocalist / keyboardist Tommy Rogers, guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs, and drummer Blake Richardson.
Tommy Rogers posits: "Coma Ecliptic is a new life for BTBAM. Throughout the process we worked harder than we ever have and really pushed the BTBAM sound to a new identity. In a world of repetition, I'm very proud to be a part of something that is extremely rewarding, as well as frightening. When you don't push yourself you will never know what the outcome is. The outcome is Coma Ecliptic."
What is Coma Ecliptic? It can be interpreted as a modern rock opera, and another ambitious concept album from a band that has completely mastered that format. Dan Briggs comments: "Spending the last year immersed in a world of Quadrophenia, Operation Mindcrime, The Wall- as well as Sondheim and Lloyd Webber musicals, Stravinsky and Mussorgsky symphonic suites; writing an over the top, dramatic and forward thinking rock opera was the most natural thing to do." The story follows the wanderings of an unidentified man, stuck in a coma, as he journeys through his past lives. Each song is its own episode in a modern day, sort of The Twilight Zone-esque fashion. The unidentified man enters each world and is offered a choice: stay, or move on to the next in search of something better, something more "perfect." The man does find his ideal life, but then is offered the ultimate choice of life or death. He chooses life and wakes up to his own actual reality. It's at that moment he realizes that he had been in a coma - everything that happened had been dreams and false memories. After awakening, we find the man outside finally experiencing reality, and he sees what he has been missing: the world is beautiful, the air is fresh, and the people appear to be happy, and then he falls over dead. The take away from this is to make the best of your life. People are constantly searching for something better without taking the time to appreciate the things they have. What we need may already be here, and is hopefully real. We may all be in a coma in another life.
Musically, Coma Ecliptic boasts a series of emotive peaks and valleys that drive the narrative along with the lyrics. Tracks such as "Memory Palace", while sounding wholly unique, clearly have a distinct BTBAM flavor to which fans have grown so attached. "The Coma Machine" brings to mind prog in the most classic sense; think YES and King Crimson passages with the added layer of modern metal heaviness. "Dim Ignition" highlights Rogers' continuing development as a keyboardist, but don't fret, there's still plenty of speed, technically challenging guitar, bass, and drum runs, and quirkiness throughout. What makes these parts work is the interplay of the heavy and technical with the simpler, almost cinematic, soft passages; that is the power of Coma Ecliptic. The listening experience is a journey, and when "Life in Velvet" brings the album to a sudden, triumphant end, fans will surely be reaching for the replay button. But what does the band think? Rogers adds: "If you asked me what this record sounds like, I would tell you BTBAM. With every listen I still find new exciting moments that each member has put into these songs. After all these years we still push each other to try new things and push our individual skills to the next level. It is an absolute thrill to write with such an inspiring group of people." Briggs continues: "Writing with a focus on storytelling and just crushing melodic themes set the tone early on before we were even in the rehearsal room together. Put your velvet capes on and get ready for a journey!"
Coma Ecliptic was recorded in January and February of 2015 with longtime Between the Buried and Me producer Jamie King at the Basement Recordings in North Carolina. Drums and piano were recorded with King and Kris Hilbert at the Fidelitorium. Final mixing and mastering was placed in the capable hands of Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Amon Amarth, Devin Townsend) at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden.
Between the Buried and Me began their journey in the year 2000 in North Carolina. Over the past 15 years, they have released seven full-length albums, an EP, a live album, a covers album, and a blu-ray/DVD. Their current lineup has been consistent since 2005, and they have taken full advantage of a stable and productive group of musicians. Each of their albums since that year have debuted on the Billboard Top 200 chart: Alaska (2005) at #121, The Anatomy Of (2006) at #151, Colors (2007) at #57, The Great Misdirect (2009) at #36, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP (2011) at #54, and The Parallax: Future Sequence (2012) at #22. Additionally, the band's first-ever Blu-ray release, Future Sequence: Live at the Fidelitorium debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top Music Video Charts, impressively ahead of video releases from progressive legends Dream Theater and YES. Consistency and growth in an epoch of shrinking music sales is indicative of the supreme impact the band has had across the heavy and progressive music landscapes.