The oft-loathed metalcore genre has been steadily losing attention as the scene of choice since its reign at the top sometime in the early-to-mid 2000's. For a long time, I dismissed Between the Buried and Me as just some other derivative metalcore band with a pretentious name. After hearing a few phenomenal pieces of theirs on recommendation from a friend, I learned how wrong I was.
Between the Buried and Me take the next logical step in the evolution of metalcore, melding the aggressiveness and chunky breakdowns of hardcore with the technicality and melodic leads of progressive metal; a genre hybrid that appears mish-mashed on paper, to be sure. However, where other bands belonging to sub-genres with the progressive or technical prefix have failed, BtBaM have succeeded in blending beauty with anger in a way that creates a very pleasing contrast and that is not overly-indulgent.
That being said, The Great Misdirect encompasses all of 'Between's aforementioned trademarks, and those looking for something more will be disappointed (but honestly, how much different could a band who incorporates almost every contemporary style into their music grow?). The leads are delicious, the solos weave beautiful soundscapes that take you on an epic mental journey, and syncopated kicks weave in and out of crunchy guitars riffing at odd time signatures. The great, little "smooth jazz" sections as well as the quirky and brief, out-of-genre tangents have remained in-tow (though more frequently, to its detriment). The production is clean and tight, sounding similar to their previous two releases, and lends itself well to their precise sound.
Though it posses all of the elements that made previous releases like Alsaka and Colors great, it ultimately fails to be as aggressive as the former, and as cohesive and catchy as the latter. To be fair, Colors set the bar very high, and were this record released by another act, its rating might be skewed more favorably. However, it seems that the band could not really take the format of earlier records any further, and felt the need to craft a record with three songs over the ten minute mark that sacrifice song-writing and restraint for wankery, narrative, and variety sections to prove how they have "matured" as musicians.
Now I'm not a critic that dislikes long songs, and in fact rank records with such labyrinthine tomes, like And Justice for All and Metropolis, Part II, as some of my favorite. But what separates a band that can pull this off from one who can't is songwriting. A band has to be talented enough to write music that keeps my attention for that long by revisiting sections and motifs at later points in a way that makes me feel like the song isn't actually that long. As is the case with most progressive bands, there is certainly a sense of ADD going on here, with songs having no real structure, ultimately feeling like a disjointed collection of riffs and 'sub' songs. Maybe this has always been the case in the past, but I either didn't notice it as much with the more manageable song lengths, or the quality of the previous longer songs simply were able to overcome it.
I've been told that if one reads the lyrics, the songs begin to make more sense. For example, "Fossil Genera" is actually split into three parts relating to various epochs that might explain its use of an out-of-place vaudeville piano, among other strange sections and instrument choices. The fact is that consuming a recording is an auditory experience that elicits a mood in the listener. Narrative should always take a backseat to good, contiguous songwriting and should never require the listener to have to read the lyrics to make sense of their indulgent song-structures (or lack thereof), especially in a genre where the vocals are often unintelligible. If you can pull off a concept while having great tunes, then by all means, tickle my intellectual side. Otherwise, stick to the riffs.
Though I may have come off as overly-critical of The Great Misdirect, it is still an enjoyable experience worthy of being compared to in the same breath as Between the Buried and Me's quality previous works, and definitely head-and-shoulders above its contemporaries who continue to rehash the same dissonant, breakdown-laden drivel.
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