BTBAM, the progressive musical powerhouse that has people drooling over them and praising them anytime you hear or read about them. It doesn’t matter which website or news article covers them, the article is always massive worship for the 5 gentlemen from North Carolina. Well it must be far too progressive for my tastes because I’ve always listened to them after all of these recommendations and found it to be barely above average at best. It’s not the genre or the experimentation, I welcome those fresh new ideas in with open arms each and everytime. However, I’ve noticed this trend with myself and other fans since The Parallax I EP was released and everyone was swearing it was the best thing ever. When I listened to it I felt empty and not amused. I either just don’t get it or it’s just too much for my little brain to handle, as the elitists would say. Well I’ve come back to camp BTBAM to listen to The Parallax II: Future Sequence and while I did like this album a little more, it’s still just barely above average for me.
It’s not like The Parallax II is bad, that is far from the truth. This album is expansive, deep, fun to listen to and really well written. The album is even long, at 1.2 hours of progressive metal content, at times it likes to drag along and bore me. I really dig the intro, it almost tricks the listener into thinking the album will be mainly chill. Tommy Rogers is a fantastic singer and I think his more aggressive vocal approach is great as well. He has this Chino Moreno/Michael Lessard effect where he can pull off both styles flawlessly yet I’d rather hear him sing. His clean vocals are one of my favorite parts of the entire album! There are some parts of the album though where I wish he would have came in singing instead of screaming, as it just seems to not really fit in and feel forced over the music. Especially during his entrance to the song “Astral Body”, which is a great song but his vocal style over the first verses just didn’t work well with me.
Let’s discuss the writing and performance or the fretboard axe masters for a little bit. I must say, Paul Waggoner & Dustie Waring know how to write some of the best riffs and leads that make you expand your mind. They come together to write a very thick and layered album song after song. It doesn’t matter if it’s acoustic, clean or with the gain turned all the way up. Their ability to switch tempos and completely throw off the listener without losing a groove is quite impressive. I found all of their work, notes and writing absolutely necessary. Now to critique the bass playing of Mr. Dan Briggs…..it’s wonderful. I just got a double dose of him over this past week with this and Trioscapes and his style is phenomenal. If you truly pay attention to just him, he doesn’t just phone in his performance. He literally pushes the limits and adds so much more to the album, never just playing just to play. While Paul and Dustie play really well guitar, I feel as if Dan’s bass work just makes it all come together nicely.
Now behind the kit is one of my favorite recent drummers, I could watch him play all day. Blake Richardson adds charm to the album and powerful storm of percussion when the time is right. His ability to play along with the axemen with their tempo changes is something you can respect. I mean even as I type this both of my feet are going along to his bass drum (as best as I can) and I didn’t realize it til just now. It’s moving stuff, it’s fun to listen to and you’ll enjoy it as well.
Now let’s focus on some of the songs here: Astral Body was a good song except for that introduction with Tommy screaming, everything after that is good though. A nice little calm section in the middle and finishes off rather strong. The next song “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” is an instant headbanger as soon as it kicks in, this djenty goodness I like. Tommy’s voice sounds really good over this entire song and the music is just captivating and heavy. This song is the first song to really get you into it, even with the immediate change of pace at 1:29 when everything previously just stops and it goes into a sing filled carnival almost System of a Down type of breakdown. It’s just rather odd yet I couldn’t help but bob my head and tap my foot. The next 7 minutes after that is just solid song, filled with creative parts.
After that long track, we have a tiny break called “Autumn”, however they could have called it “Planet Zebes” or something because it sounds like something straight out of a Metroid OST. After that neat little ambient break, the album continues with the song “Extremophile Elite”, another long song that is just under the 10 minute mark. This song is more spastic and random than the previous tracks, offering more aggressive sections and less of the more calm parts. Featuring screams and blast beats, giving the listener a great chance to headbang. Following a sweet xylophone part at 4:22, the music picks it right back up imitating that previous section with the actual band. Lot’s of intricate guitar parts on this song, very thought out and fun to listen to.
Another more quiet break known as “Parallax” comes on next, following is a beautifully played and sung song by Tommy and the gang known as “The Black Box”. The song gets a little more dramatic at the 1:12 mark and the song ends loud and strong, the piano turning into a more sci-fi instrument and the band going full force. As soon as that’s over, “Telos” kicks in and this is their mosh section! Yes! You can feel it, it rushes in and takes over. Wonderfully hectic and heavy, this song is probably a must on their latest setlist when they perform, it’s ballsy and fierce. A very strong and headbang worthy track, Telos is definitely one of my favorites on the album. Even with a chill middle section, the song ends so strong that you would think it’s 3 different songs into one.
“Bloom” sounds like a damn Marble Madness level. You know I’m right. One weird track this one is. Taken from the pages of System, it features odd musical pieces and unorthodox singing. I’m really not sure how to feel about this one honestly, it’s so random and weird I don’t much care for it. “Melting City” finally ends the abortion that was that previous song and we’re back into “massively long songs with tons of notes n stuff” songs that ends the album. This song being 10:20 and the next one being 15:09….and I’m ready for the album to be over. I mean the next two songs aren’t bad at all but my interest has peaked and is now petering out at this point. I begin to go crosseyed as I just basically tune out the rest of the album. It’s background noise now. I force myself to continue on, which is a bad thing. An album should constantly want you to listen to it and keep it on repeat at that. This album has me so exhausted now that I don’t want to finish the last 20 minutes. Even though the music is good just like the rest of the album was…it’s nothing truly special. “Goodbye to Everything Reprise” however was a good ending to the album. I’m glad they didn’t try to over do it with a 23 minute long useless outro.
That’s one thing that has me wondering why this band has such a strong positive movement. I see the musicianship is damn good but over all when you sit back and listen to it, it becomes less and less attractive. This would be boring as hell live! If you want me to be completely honest, all of the songs sound the same. There I said it, each song has a definite formula: Strong intro, easy chorus/middle section and end strong. There are a couple of exceptions but that’s how I heard it. I felt like BTBAM’s best songs were their shorter ambient pieces they put on the album as filler. Whose were more exciting and meaningful than the super long songs.
So there you have it, my honest opinion of the album. I liked it, but it got monotonous and it truly wasn’t an overall captivating experience like I had hoped for. Hell, If These Trees Could Talk pull that off better than BTBAM. This is another record everyone else can listen to, cuz I will more than likely not be revisiting this record again.
2.5 out of 5
Metal Blade Records