Between the Buried and Me
Between the Buried and Me have not made a name for themselves through playing it safe. Pushing the envelope of heavy music with each successive release, they have continually evolved in thrilling new directions while maintaining the honesty and integrity that has connected with so many listeners. With The Parallax II: Future Sequence, the first concept album of their career, the North Carolina based unit have delivered their most complex, ambitious, and accomplished work to date. "We’re certainly not the average metal band – we write what we want to write, and we’ve never really tried to fit in anywhere," states guitarist Paul Waggoner. "With this record we held nothing back. We were excited to experiment and see where it took us, and working with a concept was a really interesting new challenge."
The concept was first introduced to the band’s fans with 2011?s The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP, which established the narrative’s two characters, Prospect I and Prospect II, the story commencing with the events of Parallax II. Separated by millions of light years, the two men exist in ignorance of the other yet are intrinsically connected by a shared soul, which ultimately brings them together. "Both men exist in isolation, one because he runs away from the life that is his and the other when he leaves his dying planet in the hope of creating new life elsewhere, through the planting of souls," explains vocalist Tommy Rogers. "As the story progresses you realize they are actually the same person, and at the end of the journey they’re responsible for destroying all life as they know it, reinforcing the idea that humanity is a destructive species, and that there’s some kind of innate flaw about us that causes us to destroy everything we touch." While the story is very much based in fiction and grounded in the imagination of Rogers, it was important that the vocalist was able to emotionally connect with it, and relate it to his own life, thereby making it relatable for listeners. "That was probably the hardest thing for me, making sure I could find that connection. The main thing that these characters go through is confusion and isolation, and I think that’s something every person deals with in their lives at some point. As a musician you spend a lot of time with your own thoughts, so despite the science fiction of it all it is still a very personal record."
Such an epic storyline demands a suitably grand and expansive soundtrack, and musically the record captures the sound of five men pushing themselves further than ever before. Having never fallen into the trap of prioritizing complexity for complexity’s sake, Between the Buried and Me are renowned for their capacity for writing intensely complicated and often challenging music yet never losing sight of the importance of good songwriting, something that is demonstrated constantly across Parallax II‘s twelve tracks. With swathes of crushing riffs, dizzying leads and convoluted rhythms that shift in unpredictable directions, the record also boasts a great deal of melody that is never trite or obvious. Equally, there is a wealth of rich ambience and atmosphere suffusing the record, the combination of these qualities making for an immersive listening experience. "The EP was a very interesting challenge for us, because it was very concise. In a lot of ways we didn’t necessarily get to experiment or expand on parts in the way that we usually do," Waggoner states. "With the full-length we really went for it, we left nothing on the table – if we came up with an idea we thought was cool we did it. It’s an extremely dynamic record, it’s over seventy minutes of music and never really settles into one style, and we’ve got some different instruments on there too. There’s some banjo and mandolin and sitar, and we had friends come in and play some saxophone, and there’s a flute solo on there too. It’s still rooted in guitar, bass and drums, but there’s some interesting other flavors on there as well, which is exciting for us as a band." While the project began with the concept being broadly sketched out, Rogers waited until the music was written before he began to write the lyrics, taking the various themes and ideas and making them work with the music in a cohesive manner. Written in a stream of conscious style, the lyrics take the form of the thoughts of the characters, allowing you an insight into their feelings rather than supplying a straightforward narrative, and it was important to the members that each song stand on its own merit and could be enjoyed when listened to apart from the whole. "I don’t think you necessarily need to understand or even know the whole concept to be able to get something out of each of the songs here," Waggoner says. "It was important to us that we were very much aware of the whole, but to not get so caught up in it that any particular song couldn’t stand up on its own."
Produced by the band – which is rounded out by guitarist Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs, and drummer Blake Richardson – alongside longtime collaborator Jamie King, the recording process was smooth, though labor intensive, if for no other reason than the sheer amount of material that had to be tracked. Stepping back from it, the band are proud of everything they have achieved. "This whole process was a lot of work, and it’s definitely the most rewarding piece of music we’ve ever written," states Rogers. "It’s a very coherent record, and I think nowadays records are getting thrown out there without much thought put into them. I like that what we’ve done is kind of bring back the whole album feel, which was really important once but doesn’t seem to be any more." With plans to play Parallax II in its entirety on forthcoming tours, the band hope this album introduces new fans to their music, yet they maintain the humble aspirations that have always driven them. "I’m a firm believer that if you create something that’s unique and different there’s always going to be a niche market for that. Our mentality is to keep doing what we’re doing, writing music that challenges both us and the listener, and to keep playing to everyone who wants to see us," Waggoner states. Rogers concurs with this, adding "I think what we do speaks loudly to people. We’re a very genuine band, we do what we want because we love doing it, and I think that’s what people want. They want honesty in their music, and they want music that comes from the heart rather than comes from a computer, or that is made by people motivated by making money. We’re just going to keep writing the best songs we can and with that continue to grow, and hopefully through doing that more and more people will find us." Bio written by Dan Slessor