Much like they did with the two-part Parallax releases back in 2011 & 2012, North Carolina's progressive metal darlings have the first of a duo of CDs to be released here in 2018, Automata I, with the second installment to come later this summer. This new, roughly 35-minute EP (if you even want to call it an EP considering that many full-lengths these days barely cross the half hour mark) also is noteworthy in that the band now find themselves on Sumerian Records after a near 7 year stint with Metal Blade.
Automata is of course a concept album centered around the idea of being able to view the dreams of others, broadcasting those dreams out to the general public through the media, and the impact it would have on the viewing audience as well as the actual dreamer. It's an interesting concept that will play out over the course of two releases, of which the band are off to a great start here on this first part. "Condemned to the Gallows" kicks things off, BtBaM injecting many of their trademark characteristics into this 6+ minute track, such as the dueling clean & growling vocals, sledgehammer, complex riffing, a smattering of proggy keyboards, and just the right amount of atmosphere. There's a futuristic slant to the arrangement of "House Organ" that helps add to the sci-fi storyline, and Blake Richardson's wildly acrobatic drumming is especially noteworthy, as he rumbles alongside some intricate keyboard tapestries from Tommy Rogers, who as always portrays the clean melodic vocal tones as well as the snarling death metal growls. "Yellow Eyes", at nearly 9-minutes in length, contains some truly crushing riffs and complex arrangements, Rogers layering both the clean & extreme vocals perfectly, the song a must hear for any fan of vintage Strapping Young Lad as well as Dream Theater. Some of the musical passages are just jaw dropping, the band tapping into progressive metal, jazz-fusion, and death metal quite seamlessly. "Millions" starts out as gorgeous, soaring prog-rock before lurching into bombastic & atmospheric extreme metal, the riffs and keyboard tapestries just sensational, while "Gold Distance" is a short, dreamy instrumental that bridges the gap to the lengthy epic "Blot", where Middle Eastern and jazz tones collide with intricate progressive metal for one of the bands strongest compositions in years. Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring have really outdone themselves on this one, as some of the guitar passages are truly mind boggling in their complexity and inventiveness.
Sadly, the album basically ends with a 'cliffhanger' of sorts, so the fans are now going to have to wait patiently for the conclusion in a few months. It's safe to say that Between the Buried and Me have whetted out appetites for a truly remarkable grand finale, as this excellent first part to the story has set the stage rather spectacularly. Would it have been better to release Automata as one complete saga in its entirety? Perhaps, but thankfully the wait won't be too long. In the meantime, lots to savor here for the time being.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. "Condemned to the Gallows" 6:35
2. "House Organ" 3:41
3. "Yellow Eyes" 8:45
4. "Millions" 4:43
5. "Gold Distance" (instrumental) 1:02
6. "Blot" 10:27