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(86 Reviews)

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  • So you might think I’m crazy, but this is my favorite album of 2005. It’s got everything I want/need in a band, and it gives you what you need. 2005 has had some really good cds like Ghost Reveries and Frances the Mute, but I like this more than those. I never had heard of these guys until about 2 weeks prior to the release of Alaska. I can’t remember where I heard of them, but I thank that place for showing me one of the most talented bands to grace my ears. Next to Mr Bungle, Dillinger Escape Plan and Opeth, BTBAM are the hardest band to categorize. While playing mostly death metal, they will throw in bits of jazz, prog, hardcore, and melodic metal. I didn’t really know what to expect from these guys, but they exceeded whatever it was and knocked me on my ass. Now I will inform on each and every one of the songs. Be warned, if you think these guys are soft and are fragile to loud, heavy music, don’t get this. Otherwise, buy this!!

    1. All Bodes – My favorite song, mainly thanks to the outro. Starts off with a heavy riff and breaks into their brand of death metal, which you will hear all throughout the album. A minute later, a nice breakdown comes in, followed by my one of the best melodies I’ve ever heard. Oh, and when these guys make a melody, they don’t just sing nice, they play nice/arpeggio lead lines over it. Then comes the amazing outro starting around 5:30 to the end. It starts with a `hey, hey’ chant, then breaks into that melody.

    2. Alaska – The first single/video from the album. The intro is what made me listen to the rest of the album. It starts with a progressive rhythm and a sweeping lead line. Then it goes into another death metal section. After the `verse’ comes the awesome, heavy, head banging `chorus’ which is basically one heavy palm muted riff with a random harmonic thrown in. The song actually sings about staying awake while driving at night, surprisingly.

    3. Croakies and Boatshoes – The shortest song at 2:24, and the most hardcore. Pretty much stays heavy all the way through and has some nice riffs here and there. Probably my least favorite, as it doesn’t change very much.

    4. Selkies: The Endless Obsession – This is probably tied with All Bodies for my favorite song. Starts with a keyboard riff, then breaks into a 1:30 harmonized guitar part. Then the singing comes in and the song goes pretty slow, but picks up within 15 sec. It stays heavy until the 3 ½ minute mark where it slows down, goes back to the intro guitar riff, then breaks into a nice, slow, jazzy part. First comes melodic singing, then a jazzy solo, then an amazing melodic solo filled with sweeping and great rhythm. Great way to end an awesome song.

    5. Breathe In, Breathe Out – First instrumental. Just a 1-minute slow song so you can catch your breath and prepare for some more chaos.

    6. Roboturner – While it has its moments, I don’t like this as much. It doesn’t drag on nor suck, but it’s one of my least favorite songs on the album.

    7. Backwards Marathon – The longest song at 8:29. Starts heavy, ends heavy. But for about 4 minutes, it’s soft in the middle. My favorite part in the song is the riff around the 2-min mark, just badass. Tommy says `it’s raining’ over and over until he hits a real high falsetto note, then it goes back to where it started.

    8. Medicine Wheel – The 2nd instrumental. This one’s longer (4:20) and it’s my 2nd fav of the 3 instrumentals. It’s pretty much the same line played over and over, but it’s really good and nice to relax to.

    9. The Primer – One of my original favorites. Maybe I’m a sucker for melody, but who cares, these guys can do it with style and it gets me every time. Starts with feedback then breaks into, wait for it…..MELODY. Then it does what they do too often, death metal. The lyrics are of 2005 and what we have become and what this world’s about (sex, drugs, etc). So after 2 ½ min comes a guitar line that leads you into my favorite part of the song. Whenever Tommy says “2005 welcome to perfection” I have to sing along and I just love it. And while this is going on, the intro is being played again.

    10. Autodidact – One of the heaviest songs on the album, but I don’t really like it as much. Sure it’s got a sweet heavy part near the end, but it’s not one of my favorites. The thing you will notice most about this song is the crazy use of harmonics throughout.

    11. Laser Speed – Great way to end a near-perfect album. Starts slow (who woulda thought?) then gradually gets faster until it goes into something I like, but can’t describe. Every time I hear it, I think of the weather channel for some reason.

    So that’s my basic review of this amazing album. If you don’t have it or haven’t heard (of) it, go listen to it now. This is the next generation of great metal with brains, so don’t miss out. If you liked this, go check out Dillinger Escape Plan’s “Miss Machine”.

    Posted on February 14, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I saw these guys open for Dillinger Escape Plan about a month ago, and they impressed me enough to pick this up. I knew they were good, but man was I in for a surprise.

    This band seems to love all the music I do. All the elements of my favorite music are combined into one kick ass metal album, the way they juxtapose all these styles can only be compared to Opeth. On this album you can hear nods to Emperor, In Flames, Opeth, various jazz, King Crimson, some metalcore and Morbid Angel among others. However, this band has most definitely got it’s own personality and style, and it comes not in the kind of riffs and melodies they play but more in how they put it together. This band has a VERY original composition style… so many little details, unexpected riff switches, so many sections to each song. It’s hard to make sense of at first, but these guys most definitely know what they’re doing and the way they put things together DOES make sense, it just requires some active listening (much like Meshuggah… speaking of which these guys can do the polyrhythm thing too).

    The production is fantastic, kind of Gothenburg guitar sound.

    1. All Bodies (9/10) A 3 part ‘mini-epic’ beginning with a heavy section that sort of loses its momentum in all of the tempo changes. However, the kick ass chorus melody really fixes things up. The second part ‘The Discovery’ is VERY Emperor, in other words it f**king rocks. The last part is a reprise of the fantastic chorus. Doesn’t flow as well as some of the other tracks, though. I think the song is about the hope that there is an afterlife and that our souls are not ‘mortal’.

    2. Alaska (8/10) VERY heavy and great for headbanging / moshing but not too much melodic value, aside from the intro. Very strange lyrics.

    3. Croakies and Boatshoes (10/10) A gloriously heavy number, the riffs are pure Trey Azagthoth… I’d say this is song is sort of a tribute to Morbid Angel. All heavy like Alaska, but I like it more since it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I think I’d like Morbid Angel more if they were produced this well.

    4. Selkies (10/10) Another more epic one, and pretty accurately sums up this band. Intro is stylistically like a lot of melodic death metal, transitions into an original and ominous clean vocal section. Followed by some thrashing parts and then a beautiful jazzy section complete with a blues solo. Think something from Opeth’s Damnation.

    5. Breathe In, Breathe Out (9/10) Short melodic intro to Roboturner, very relaxing and peaceful. Should have picked a less cliche title for it, although it does fit.

    6. Roboturner (10/10) Quite possibly my favorite song on here. The lyrics are heartfelt, tragic and pissed off as hell all at the same time, discussing the abuse of musicians by the industry and society they are a part of. They’re screamed over some of the most absolutely frantic and detailed heavy sections I’ve ever heard, and some truly haunting melodic riffs drive the point home. “We will find art again”.

    7. Backwards Marathon (10/10) Fantastic. Initial heavy part is quite good, but the song really gets going at the drawn out jazzy section. While Tommy repeats “It’s raining”, some plain gorgeous chords play over rain sounds. It builds in intensity until the fantastic melodic/heavy ending where the lines “Dreams they won’t let go, thoughts they will not change, I can’t watch this fly away” are repeated. I believe the song is about how he’s always dreamed of musical success, and now that he’s here it obscures the music itself and his enthusiasm for it, and that’s something that must be fixed. Another very heartfelt one.

    8. The Medicine Wheel (10/10) All clean instrumental. Peaceful and amazingly powerful, sometimes plays through my head.

    9. The Primer (9/10) Some great leads and such, but no really amazing standout section. Great lyrics again, sarcastic and slightly funny.

    10. Autodidact (10/10) Great leads again, complex heavy song. King Crimson-esque middle section, with all sorts of dissonance and prog timing. The ending riff is one of the simplest yet most mosh-worthy things I know of. I saw this firsthand.

    11. Laser Speed (8/10) On its own not an original or particularly interesting piece, kind of smooth jazz. However, it’s a fitting ending.

    Many fans seem to think this album’s a dissapointment coming off of Silent Circus, so maybe that one’s even better. I’ll find out soon. However, I know for certain that this is one of the most creative and interesting metal albums I’ve heard in a while.

    Posted on February 13, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Between The Buried And Me’s “Alaska” is probably one of the most anticipated metal releases of the year and for the most part satisfies the hype surrounded the follow up to the critically acclaimed “The Silent Circus” from 2003. So much so in fact that this really is a five start album throughout but there are a few areas that are a bit nagging.

    Simply put, my biggest gripe with this album is the fact that out of 11 tracks, 3 of them (Breathe In Breathe Out, Medicine Wheel, and Laser Speed) are complete instrumentals. Now, I love instrumentals and/or ambience when their technically impressive and/or fun to listen to but unfortunetly the instrumentals found on “Alaska” serve really no purpose in the advancement of the album which is really unfortunate because the other eight tracks are pure gold(although Backwards Marathon tends to be far to self indulgent and never really meshes cohesively to be a worthy listen all the way through).

    Because of the inclusion of the instrumentals and lengthier songwriting, “Alaska” is a challenging listen straight through at first (very much like their previous albums) but after a few times through the brilliance of the songwriting begins to shine through much like listening to an Opeth album, if you will. You pick up on a lot of interesting little things whether it be the subtle lead guitar melodies, synth work, the very quick almost barbershop quartet vocal layering in “All Bodies,” etc. BTBAM is quickly establishing themselves as being a band that does not stand still in its own sound, opting to constantly evolve their sound within a basic framework of their own style. A perfect example being the track “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” which sees BTBAM going through everything from a synth intro, synth-layered vocals, lengthy solos(ala Mordecai), a dabble of acoustic guitar work, clean vocals, gutteral growls, etc. It’s all over the place. Much like a lot of this album, which for some bands would be suicide, but BTBAM pulls it off damn well. “All Bodies” and “Alaska” even has hints (all be it small) of some power metal vocals from vocalist Tommy Rogers. “Croakies And Boatshoes” most likely serves as the albums heaviest (and shortest) track, experimenting a lot more with a more tech-influenced grind sound whereas “The Primer”(an album highlight) sees BTBAM dabbling in a more black metal sound complete with riffing never heard before from BTBAM. Overall, this album is heavier than “The Silent Circus”(no acoustic track this time around) and finds BTBAM using some melodic riffing and lead guitar work which BTBAM does so well and uniquely.

    This is a worthy purchase and is most likely a top 10 album of the year. It’s scary what to think what a brilliant album this could have been had they dumped a few of the instrumentals in exchange for a few more songs and worked on splitting “Backwards Marathon” in half, but these are minor complaints in the full scope of the album. Highlight tracks include “All Bodies,” “Selkies: The Endless Obsession,” and “The Primer.”

    Posted on February 13, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • For a lot of bands, being memorable means writing inoffensive, cookie-cutter hit singles with a few irresistible hooks and huge choruses that listeners can hum along with when they hear it playing from a local rock radio station. But North Carolina’s quintet, Between The Buried And Me, spit on that rule book, shred it, and throw its remains out the window, opting instead to be memorable the old-fashioned way — with brilliant songwriting, top-notch musicianship, and a sound all their own.

    BTBAM’s junior release, 2005’s “Alaska” (a second for Victory Records), is the ultimate style/genre blender, mixing together hardcore and metalcore, technical death metal, and grindcore with a heavy mathcore influence, and even a fair amount of progressive metal and free jazz elements. (In other words, imagine Dillinger Escape Plan, Necrophagist, Cephalic Carnage, Meshuggah, Dream Theater, and Neurosis all playing at once, and you’ll get the general idea.) Thus, this record isn’t a snug fit for any one genre, but every influence can be heard equally. It perfectly balances just the right amounts of harmony, dissonance, restrained tempos, off-the-wall lunacy, head-spinning technicality, crazy time signatures, turn-on-a-dime tempo changes, crushing heaviness, and infectious melody, making it one of the most colorful, complex, intricate, engrossing, well-balanced, and textured heavy music releases of recent memory.

    The album begins with one of its most meticulous and symphonic numbers, “All Bodies.” It starts with a forceful, deeply grooving rhythm made up of muscular, churning riffs, a gluey bass line, and pounding drums. The song gets noticeably more melodic as it progresses, first with a handful of nicely wailing guitar solos (sprinkled into the back of the mix), then with an extremely surprising (and brief) spot of soulful, operatic vocals and spiraling arpeggio guitars. Then, the title track opens with a winding, keyboard-sounding guitar solo before segueing into driving, jackhammer blast beats, and a fiery, crunching lead that plows over everything in sight. The grindcore influence is especially apparent on the brutal third track, “Croakies and Boatshoes,” which is highlighted by blasting drums and harsh, grindcore-worthy pig-squeal vocals.

    The mostly instrumental “Selkies: The Endless Obsession,” is the record’s crown jewel, and is worth the price of admission alone (heck, I’d even say it’s almost worth dying for!) It’s a VERY docile, ethereal, and mindblowing piece which utilizes fantastic harmonies and melodies throughout. The mazy synthesizers, light-as-a-feather acoustic strums, humming bass line, slow drum beat, and angelic singing at the beginning of the song eventually fade out, and two ultra-melodic and pristine solos become the song’s main highlight. The first solo is entrancing, dreamy, jazzy, and all-around amazing, and the second is a spectacular, jaw-dropping, five-string sweep solo that lasts for about a minute and evokes the glory days of Megadeth or Yngwie Malmsteen. These two guitar solos have got to be among the best ever recorded by any band, bar none!

    Following “Selkies,” “Breathe In, Breathe Out” is a pretty acoustic interlude that continues in the same heavenly melodic vein as that wonderful epic, but the next two bludgeoning tracks clearly show Between The Buried And Me’s grindcore influence coming into play. The immensely b-b-b-brutal “Roboturner,” scares the listener half to death (its manic guitar shredding, bouncy, walloping drums, and jarring, skin-crawling screams really pin your ears back); and the wild, off-the-map “Backwards Marathon,” is bursting with careening leads and positively maniacal vocals.

    Then, things briefly slow back down again for some more b-e-a-utiful ambience (“Medicine Wheel”), but tracks nine and ten, “The Primer” and “Autodidact,” furiously erupt into scorching, Swedish death metal-tinged onslaughts. Finally, the set closes with another acoustic ditty, “Laser Speed,” but this time a rhythmic, Brazilian-sounding drum beat also comes into the mix.

    Although several of these songs have a nice, propulsive groove, “Alaska” features too many weird tempos and breakneck rhythm shifts for the album (as a whole) to lock onto a catchy, cohesive groove. Thus, be warned that “Alaska” isn’t a typical extreme music album, so it will take several attentive listens to get used to, absorb, and appreciate fully. But don’t worry, your patience will surely pay off — “Alaska” is an exhilarating, captivating, and all-around excellent album with a wealth of contagious material that will stick with you for days. Also, this album proves Between The Buried And Me are definitely one of the best, smartest, and most innovative, realized, accomplished, interesting, and unique metal bands of this decade.

    Posted on February 13, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Being that I didn’t really enjoy The Silent Circus, I wasn’t even aware that Between the Buried and Me was coming out with a new album. And when I heard clips from a number of songs, and all of “Selkies”, I knew I had a tough decision to make. Should I fork over the loot to buy the album?

    This time, the money was well spent. First off, this band is heavier than any other I have heard on Victory Records; at times they drop into sludgy death marches more reminiscent of Morbid Angel than any band on their own label. Short, but oh so sweet, is one of my favorites, “Croakies and Boatshoes”, a song that would have fit very well on Domination.

    The longer tracks, “All Bodies”, “Selkies”, “Roboturner”, and “Backwards Marathon” are the ones that should have the entire metal world’s attention, though. “Selkies” begins with an almost Reroute to Remain feel, but this band is no In Flames clone. Over the next 6 minutes, the song weaves through increasingly intense passages with ever-changing tempos, inaudibly fast riffs, chilling death metal progressions, calm acoustic passages with clean singing, and epic power-progressive metal buildups. I have yet to hear a metal album this year that drags the listener so constantly through rapidly shifting extreme emotions.

    After this review is finished, I’m going to give The Silent Circus another listen. In my mad dash to find bands that remind me of bands I already know and love, I may have skipped over a band which exemplifies what I love about music: raw aggression, jaw-dropping musical ability, no fear of taking risks, and palpable emotion that spills forth from the speakers in a variety of melodic and downright brutal manifestations. And even if I find my original feelings towards the previous album to still be true, it could take nothing away from the brilliance of Alaska. I have an inkling that the anticipation of this and many other genuine metal releases from this year (Opeth, Nevermore, God Forbid, Meshuggah, etc.) bodes well for the current state and immediate future of metal. So take a voyage through the rugged, yet beautiful terrain of Alaska, and experience the best of what contemporary metal has to offer.

    Posted on February 13, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now