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.”