Progressive metal albums are always a challenge to review because there are so many layers and sounds to them that sometimes it takes a long while to properly digest and pick them apart, especially when they are done by some of the best in the business. This is pretty much the case with “Colors II,” the new offering by Grammy Award-nominated band BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, and the sequel to their influential album “Colors” (2007). The highly anticipated album was released on August 20, 2021, through Sumerian Records.
As we have seen with movies, a good sequel is a rare happening, and the same is also true when it comes to music. For example, QUEENSRŸCHE’s “Operation: Mindcrime II” (2006) is not exactly a fan favorite, as opposed to the band’s iconic 1988 album. However, BTBAM has proven that they are capable of doing excellent sequel albums with both “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” (2012) and “Automata II” (2018), so the hype is real when it comes to “Colors II.” Mixing metalcore elements with the intricacies of progressive metal has been their recipe to success and it still holds up years later. With this new album, the band plays around with their signature sound, offering heaviness and aggression to the listeners, but also some softer moments and colorful instrumental passages. One thing is for sure: BTBAM have really let loose on this album.
Opener “Monochrome,” with its light keys and melodic vocals, is like the calm before the storm. Still, the storm is brewing and getting ever closer with every groove and crashing riff, until it finally explodes in harsh vocals and blast-beats that bleed into “The Double Helix of Extinction.” This second track is turbulent and relentless with a nasty breakdown and a technical death metal approach to both the guitars and drums. Up next, “Revolution in Limbo” sees frontman Tommy Rogers shifting between growls and clean singing, including a Latino-sounding mid-section, while the instrumental section is running rampant on all cylinders. JINJER is not the only band that can switch genres mid-song and still make everything sound cohesive. Lead single “Fix the Error” is a fast-tempo affair that features three drum solos from some big names (including Mike Portnoy) and showcases some of the crazier things you can get away with in progressive metal. “Never Seen / Future Shock” is a lengthier and equally erratic number with mood swings and abrasive vocals that eventually make way for some clean singing and more easy-going instrumental.
Just like “Monochrome,” “Stare into the Abyss” represents a calmer moment within the turmoil of this album, with its cinematic vibe and build-up in tension. “Prehistory” is quirky and wacky with some cartoonish sounds running through it, which makes me wonder what is its place on this record. The rest of the album pretty much offers the same – a whirlwind of heavy instrumentals that pull the music in various directions, capped off by Tommy Rogers’ vocal performance that sometimes adds a bit of melody to the songs. If I enjoyed the first few cuts, it soon became clear that there would be no major deviations from the norm on the following tracks, just more of the same. In the long run (and 80 minutes is pretty long), this aspect makes the album as a whole feel somewhat repetitive, and the lack of musical restraint just takes its toll after a while. It’s hard to be sure if it’s a gimmick or overindulgence, but the overall playability of “Colors II” would have benefited from a shorter runtime and more variation within the tracks.
All-in-all, “Colors II” is just as experimental as its predecessor, with random ideas that apparently don’t fit well together, but as always there’s a method to the madness. It does take a rather long time to digest and fully appreciate its intricacies, while also being a bit overwhelming and unappealing to the casual listener. With “Colors II,” BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME offers a barrage of chaotic heaviness that nods to their 2007 opus and is a worthy addition to their discography.
Written by Andrea Crow
02. The Double Helix of Extinction
03. Revolution In Limbo
04. Fix The Error
05. Never Seen/Future Shock
06. Stare Into The Abyss
08. Bad Habits
09. The Future Is Behind Us
12. Human Is Hell (Another One with Love)
- Tommy Rogers – Lead Vocals Keyboards
- Paul Waggoner – Lead and Rhythm Guitar Backing and Lead Vocals
- Dustie Waring – Rhythm and Lead Guitar
- Blake Richardson – Drums
- Dan Briggs – Bass, Keyboards