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Between The Buried And Me - "Coma Ecliptic" (CD)

Between The Buried And Me - "Coma Ecliptic" CD cover image

"Coma Ecliptic" track listing:

1: Node
2: The Coma Machine
3: Dim Ignition
4: Famine Wolf
5: King Redeem - Queen Serene
6: Turn on the Darkness
7: The Ectopic Stroll
8: Rapid Calm
9: Memory Palace
10: Option Oblivion
11: Life in Velvet

Reviewed by on July 28, 2015

"Holy shit, this new Between The Buried And Me is phenomenal!"

Between The Buried And Me is a unique band, simply because no matter what the group does, the music always sounds like BTBAM. “Coma Ecliptic” is no different, despite best efforts to cover Dream Theater as closely as the group possibly can.

The interesting thing here is that the publicist write-up references King Crimson and Yes. Bassist Dan Briggs calls out “Quadrophenia” and “Operation Mindcrime,” Steven Sondheim, Lloyd Weber, Stravinsky. Sure, that’s all great. But put together that’s also Dream Theater. Even the theme and plot of the album – an anonymous man in a coma, reliving all of his past lives – sounds strikingly familiar. All you need is a ticking clock and soothing shrink soft-talking us into Dream (Theater) land. Sorry boys, somebody already beat you to this punch.

The music is straight from Dream Theater’s songbook. The swelling and receding, long interludes, intros, outros and bridges, eleven “songs” all enmeshing as one. Tommy Rogers really pulling off James LaBrie well. Same for Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring playing the role of Petrucci. If it weren’t for the (much reduced) harsh vocals from Rogers and more mechanical sound board work I’d have thought this was Dream Theater with Jordan Rudess on holiday.

And that’s the thing. Refer back to the first sentence – this still sounds unmistakably like Between The Buried And Me. Because it is. The fact is I didn’t think it was Dream Theater the first time it spun, instead saying out loud to the confusion of all around “holy shit, this new Between The Buried And Me is phenomenal!” (I had headphones on).

Rogers’ sparing use of harsh vocals makes them jarring when they do pop. And I’ve never heard him as confident with his clean singing. Waggoner and Waring have melded into one guitar wielding super beast. The songs heave with vitality. The music, despite the subject matter, is tenaciously positive. The production is oddly mechanical, which gives the music form and barriers, the lack of which has often been Between The Buried And Me’s weakness. The individual members’ virtuosity contributes to the whole as never before, with only a few spotlight moments acting as a detour from the main road. It was only after at least a half dozen spins that I started seeing the Dream Theater parallels.

The parallels are there but it doesn’t matter: the album is really quite good. I’m not sure it measures up to either “Parallax” album, but those are excellent, potentially career-defining, works. “Coma Ecliptic” is outside of Between The Buried And Me’s core competency, so on the raw isn’t as good, as the band left those worlds behind for something much different. With that context however, it’s fantastic. Even if that context is maybe the best prog rock group ever.

Highs: Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring have four arms, two legs, and play phenomenal guitar.

Lows: The last couple songs meander.

Bottom line: Concept album wanders directly into Dream Theater's territory, but it's still plenty good.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)