Metal Blade // “So is it good? Fuck yes it is.”
The Parallax II: Future Sequence is one of my most anticipated albums in quite a while. Since the release of Colors in 2007, Between The Buried and Me have been struggling to not only top Colors, but to even come close. 2009′s The Great Misdirect was bit of a let down; now while I say that, it was still a great album and many bands never release an album as good as The Great Misdirect but, sadly for Between The Buried and Me it was no Colors, far from it in fact. Then in 2011 I was excited again as Between The Buried and Me were readying a new release, The Parallax I: Hypersleep Dialogues, but this again felt flat because for whatever reason offering an introduction to some characters of a story and not much else. The Parallax I: Hypersleep Dialogues was an EP and whilst it offered an appetizer of what was likely to come with The Parallax II: Future Sequence, it left me with hunger pangs for what was inevitably brewing behind closed doors. Today, October 9th 2012 sees the release of Between The Buried and Me‘s new album The Parallax II: Future Sequence and I have been giving this the love and attention it deserves, listening to it for over four week and in total, cranking the album in completeness at least 50 times before putting pen to ink to offer my opinions on it.
So is it good? Fuck yes it is, in short The Parallax II: Future Sequence is the album that Between The Buried and Me should have release directly after Colors. In future I would suggest that Between The Buried and Me take a leaf out of Tool‘s book and not rush their next release. It took Tool 5 years to release 10,000 Days and, if Between The Buried and Me had followed suit this would be the fifth year for them and The Parallax II: Future Sequence would have been the VERY successful follow up to Colors.
“Goodbye To Everything” begins and ends the album. Confused? You should be! Much like many movies start by showing the end and then filling in the story, The Parallax II: Future Sequence does exactly the same. As Thomas Giles sings “Let’s switch off together, Let’s float to no more, Goodbye….Goodbye To Everything” The Parallax II: Future Sequence technically ends. “Astral Body” then swings in to force and whips the listener back in time to hear what exactly brought everything to the very final climax of “Goodbye To Everything“. “Astral Body” is technically the first single released off The Parallax II: Future Sequence and boy it’s a corker. I also think it was chosen as a single as it is one of the only “normal” length songs on The Parallax II: Future Sequence with many hitting the 10 minute + mark and others hitting the sub 2 minute mark.
As Paul Waggoner, guitarist in Between The Buried and Me explains:
“The two main characters of the story take on a journey through space and time with the unenviable task of having to cure the flaws of humanity by any means necessary. While the EP served mostly as an introduction to the characters, The Parallax II: Future Sequence contains the action of the story. The lyrics are written in the stream of consciousness style, which really helps to capture the perspective and emotion of the characters.”
The story continues with “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” which offers up the first guitar solo of the record and brings you into very familiar Between The Buried and Me territory. “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” has all the heavy you want and couples that with all the weird you also want from a Between The Buried and Me record that, in reality, only they could ever really pull off. Thomas Giles screams are so on point in “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” it is unreal. Fast, heavy and very clear, it is nice to see Thomas caring as much about screaming as singing again. “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” even offers up some amazing blast beats, weird circus organs and music, cop show riffage and so much more in it’s 10 minute length, and it is on “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” where you really start to get excited for the remainder of this journey.
“Autumn” follows and is pretty much just alien sounding blips and blips that set the scene for the following track “Extremophile Elite” which is, yet again another 10 minute plus epic song that opens strong, feeling more electronic, like something that could have been on Alaska, Between The Buried and Me‘s 2005 album. “Extremophile Elite” hits hard with screams from the vocal starting line which explain the current point of the story which, in a nutshell involves the main character seeing his Astral Body for the first time – an out of body experience if you will. The chorus, whilst being sung in a beautiful melody is actually very dark and the pinnacle to the lyrical content of this song:
“Carves one’s skin out of their own soil // Sends chills throughout my body”
Complete with cartoon xylophone, string and flute breakdown like only Between The Buried and Me can do, blast beats and even a middle eastern sounding breakdown, “Extremophile Elite” is a pinnacle song on The Parallax II: Future Sequence. The amazing guitar solo at the last quarter also holds some key lyrics that are pushed out like a radio broadcast of sorts. “Parallax” is another bridging song, with ethereal soundscapes and guitars. I love Between The Buried and Me‘s nod to film again in this song by utilizing a voice over narrative to explain the story further, with the character himself speaking for first time, declaring:
“Every time I closed my eyes, I saw my astral body headspace;
For nights on end I watched myself // I knew our pain was the same;
Loss, Self doubt, Isolation // Neither constructed or taken away;
We have always known out options // It was the relativity of time and space in our shared conscious which brought us together;
Now we are one // Two forces entwined to make a decision”
Strong shit for a song only lasting 1:17! “The Black Box” is another short song. With a pretty piano, harmonica and Thomas Giles singing dreamily. Depicting a dream of flying, Thomas asks the listener to “…come soar with me”. “The Black Box” builds and builds to lead into “Telos” which, is, without doubt the best track on the entire album. Anyone looking for a song that could equal the quality of the amazing “White Walls” from 2007′s Colors will be pleasantly surprised because “Telos” is that track. Featuring the most brutal heavy parts on the album. If music listeners didn’t have short attention spans and care about the length of singles, “Telos” would have undoubtedly been the first single taken from The Parallax II: Future Sequence “Telos” builds to a gigantic drop at the 3:20 mark which has a nice repetitive Meletron and a clean guitar solo with swirling effects, whooshes and spacey feeling vibes, all of which climaxes to what is undoubtedly the best riff on the entire album, probably because there is also a horn section accompanying it! Simple and catchy as a mother fucker.
“Telos” continues on and builds right up to the drop that is the beginning of “Bloom” which, is a very close second to song of the album for me. Whereas “Telos” showed Between The Buried and Me at their very best as a heavy band, “Bloom” showcases Between The Buried and Me‘s complete quirkiness and weirdness that no-one else can even compete with. “Bloom” has all sort’s of weird things going on, my favorite of which is the 50′s Rock and Roll / Blues riff that breaks up two brutally heavy screaming sections. Too freaky for a single, with it’s cartoon sounds, “Bloom” is the most normal lengthed song on The Parallax II: Future Sequence.
The remainder of the story is spread over two behemoth tracks; the 10 minute “Melting City” and the 15 minute beast that is “Silent Flight Parliament” before the “Goodbye to Everything Reprise” closes out The Parallax II: Future Sequence for good. “Melting City” has a guitar and flute solo at 3:20 that is out of this world. The singing parts again, on the surface and due to the pretty melody sound nice but are lyrically pretty dark:
“The valley of smiling and despair // Self doubt would be my first guess; Confusion, sadness the other half // But lost through selfish measures; Selfish measures // Can’t live with this // Must let her know”
There is a beautiful interlude at the 7:20 mark which has some astonishing drum work along with very fast walking bass and simple guitar that all grow and grow. The cymbal work on display here is the highlight of the amazing drumming showcase throughout The Parallax II: Future Sequence. It all ends with more weird alien sound effects that crescendo to a reverse cymbal that signals the beginning of “Silent Flight Parliament” which is the slowest song on display on The Parallax II: Future Sequence. It is also worth noting that “Silent Flight Parliament” is also the longest song on the album, weighing in at a beastly 15:32. Now to me, “Silent Flight Parliament” is the slow motion action sequence at the end of the movie. “Silent Flight Parliament” is the realization of what is about to occur and what needs to be done, depicting all the actions that are taken to move that all from thought to action. “Silent Flight Parliament” is the most musically diverse track of the whole album and it also goes through the largest range of feelings and emotion. “Silent Flight Parliament” also has some of the weirder of the quirky Between The Buried and Me parts with washboards and all sorts of awesomeness popping up throughout “Silent Flight Parliament”. An acoustic breakdown leads into the finale of the entire album… everything that The Parallax II: Future Sequence has been building too….and, well, it’s epic. The best guitar solo of the album happens next, due in part to brilliance of musicianship and also due to the excellent use of a Wah pedal. After a sequence of what feels like never ending drum rolls, “Silent Flight Parliament” all drops to reflect again momentarily before the crucial screams of Thomas Giles return. Also returning are the attacking, never ending rolling drums, all of which bring everything to a complete stop that ends in another movie esque sounding string section that states:
“Jet Propulsion disengage, dancing towards our future, a future worth nothing, a future towards nothing”
This line is repeated over and over as the music builds and builds in the background before Tommy screams his final screams of “Goodbye to everything” in the same repetitious manner. “Silent Flight Parliament” leaves you with goose bumps when it ends, as you feel sad that not only has the song ended but so has the world, planets colliding into one another with humanity gone forever. This sadness is brought back to a smile with “Goodbye to Everything Resprise” which showcases a clean guitar solo that bridges you back to where you started, which, as I explained earlier is the actual ending (confused?) with Thomas Giles yet again (but this time politely) singing “Goodbye to Everything”. The Parallax II: Future Sequence then fades out slowly with acoustic guitars, tremolos and a distant guitar that reflects on everything that has just happened, not just musically but the story as a whole.
After listening to The Parallax II: Future Sequence about 50 times I am still only semi clear of the full story, but I do know it ends in death, destruction, sadness and armageddon. What remains to be seen though is whether this is Between The Buried and Me‘s farewell album all wrapped up in a concept story? Maybe I am reading to much into it or maybe the sadness and loss I am feeling at the end of the album is so strong it is leading me to make up my own incorrect conclusions. Either way, The Parallax II: Future Sequence is a career defining album by Between The Buried and Me that has finally equalled, and potentially topped their 2007 epic album Colors. Whether it is actually better doesn’t really matter, what matters most is that Between The Buried and Me are back on form again…finally! The Parallax II: Future Sequence moved me so much that I put together my own artwork entitled “My Astral Body Headspace” (below) that was inspired by The Parallax II: Future Sequence. It is worth noting I did this artwork BEFORE Between The Buried and Me released their video for “Astral Body” and, whilst they are still different, it is eerie to see how my interpretation of The Parallax II: Future Sequence and what I thought was going on in this album was pretty much spot on.