Between the Buried and Me, "Colors"

When Between the Buried and Me released their sophomore album, ‘The Silent Circus’, back in 2003, it met with instant and nearly unanimous critical acclaim. Although the approach is relatively commonplace today, their progressive and technical themes were both unique and surprisingly genuine. Critics and fans alike prized them as a personal favorite band, America’s premier metal act, the saviors of modern music, and beyond.

Five years later, Between the Buried and Me have amassed a discography of legitimate size and that once-hyperbolic rhetoric is beginning to gain some credence in the public arena. After the relatively subdued response to ‘Alaska’, 2007’s ‘Colors’ returns the band to the spotlight and appears to dazzle just about anyone who listens to it. And, indeed, this album is a stunning one. Leaping from wistful solo voice and piano to tumbling math metal riffs to organ and synth arpeggios, southern-styled shindigs, massive breakdowns and beyond, ‘Colors’ is a literal tour de force for this Carolinian quintet that will likely stand as their magnum opus.

However, for all these superlatives, it’s difficult to enjoy ‘Colors’ without reserve; on the contrary, it’s one of the most frustrating releases in recent memory (and not quite in the good way). Although beautifully composed and executed in all phases, ‘Colors’ can’t help but sound like a haphazard compilation of diverse ideas, included more the sake of being exotic or clever than for the performers’ deep appreciation of what each represents. In other words, a hipster’s playlist put on shuffle. Meanwhile, a loose net of more traditional American tech-metalcore is cast over the entire work, keeping the core fanbase appreciative (and no doubt awed) while allowing the band to get their kicks. It seems that the highfaluting touches that made the band’s early works so distinctive have finally become excessive and arguably even insincere.

Perhaps, though, this is not solely the band’s doing. While ‘Colors’ is in itself highly dynamic, its production is so spotless and clinical that it could suck the soul from a James Brown tune. As a result BTBAM’s lush imaginations have been compressed into isolated digestible portions, highly reflective of our ProTools- and iPod-driven generation.

After seven tracks of ambivalence, ‘Colors’ does close on a consistent high note with ‘White Walls’, which seems to be the band’s way of commenting on their own album. As one of the more focused tracks, it is suffused with a sense of triumph particularly evident in such lines as, “This is all we have when we die…we will be remembered for this.” Indeed they will, and deservedly so, but at what cost? While ‘Colors’ is one of 2007’s most extraordinary metal releases and shows a band at its collaborative zenith, the shadow of its misgiving looms nearly as large.