The prospect of a “sequel” to a beloved album is welcomed with as much trepidation as that of a sequel to a beloved film. BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME‘s 2007 record “Colors” was the moment the North Carolina group arranged the individual pieces of their infections influences from the worlds of technical hardcore, melodic prog-metal and guttural death metal into a truly cohesive expression of powerful musicianship. This year’s “Colors II” doesn’t quite hit the refreshing heights of its predecessor, but it is a strong statement from a band comfortably acknowledging its past, while still finding a few new tricks to keep pushing their sound forward nearly twenty years into its existence.
Much like the original “Colors”, the new album begins with a piano-driven intro featuring Tommy Rogers‘s soft vocals leading into the heavier riffs. And again, much like its predecessor’s opening tracks, the cleverly titled “Monochrome” leads into the first lengthy barrage of chaotic heaviness. The second half of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME‘s career has seen them slowly whittle away the heavier aspects of their sound. Those elements have still poked their head in here and there through the band’s evolution into a more streamlined progressive-metal beast. “The Double Helix of Extinction” is a wild sprawl showing that the band is still more than capable of throwing heavy-hitting bombs, with tech-death guitar squeals, sweeping breakdown riffs, and a pummeling drum performance from Blake Richardson punctuating a throwback track that will please fans who were onboard from day one, while not coming off as merely regurgitating ghosts of the past.
The band’s ability to juggle the heavier elements of their sound is more pronounced and reigns supreme on other tracks throughout “Colors II”, most notably with the trudging mosh-crunch of “Never Seen / Future Shock”, the opening display of infectiously furious thrash on “Fix The Error”, and the Jon Lord-inspired and John Carpenter-invoking keyboard-driven power of “Bad Habits”. Fans of the group’s more recent progression though will still find plenty of melodic beauty to dive into. After the previously mentioned guttural thrash, “Fix The Error” transitions into a collage of glorious hooks, a jazzy interlude fueled by fever-curing cowbell, and a return to the dissonant metallic crunch to finish it off. Rogers soars when he makes his forays into more melodic vocals, at times coming close to hitting similar registers to DREAM THEATER‘s James LaBrie during the back half of “Revolution In Limbo”, those moments coming though after a sublime display of neo-classical guitar work from Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring, and “Kashmir”-style keyboard orchestration from Rogers and Dan Briggs.
In the midst of all of this, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME still manages to succeed at exploring a few new paths. Forays into jazz-fusion are more pronounced during the B-side of “Colors II”. Fans of acts such as LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT and Briggs‘s much-missed side project TRIOSCAPES will be pleased by the first half of “Prehistory” and the early ’80s RUSH worship that launches “The Future Is Behind Us”, while the second half of the former track’s Broadway-style musical number will put smiles on faces of the group’s more lighthearted moments.
The surprise factor of a band beginning its progression from a collection of solid-but-scattered musical parts to a genuinely great act is obviously hard to replicate nearly twenty years into a career. To BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME‘s credit — save for a few nods here and there — the band doesn’t try for a pure mechanical replication of past glories. The end result is that “Colors II” is the rare sequel album that delivers satisfaction for the devoted fans of the original.