By Bill Adams
It sounds silly to say it, but when Between The Buried And Me released their covers album, The Anatomy Of, three years ago it had a profound effect on the band and its sound. While BTBAM had always boasted a certain noticeable dosage of prog in their metal, The Anatomy Of inadvertently betrayed a love of pop (in a metal context of course, best exemplified by the covers of Smashing Pumpkins, Motley Crue and Queen) that had gone here-to-fore unseen in the band’s output. The follow-up, Colors [released in 2007 –ed] tried desperately to ignore the gloss that the band had had inadvertently shown off on its predecessor but, now, there’s no missing it as the clean, shiny and startlingly tight guitars vacuum-seal in the chaos on The Great Misdirect.
In listening, that might need a little better explanation because there are some aspects of The Great Misdirect that are decidedly un-pop, but the catch is that the band veers wildly between caustic metal and oddball pop structures regularly – often several times in one song. By turns grunting and snarling like he’s trying in vain to pass a tennis ball-sized kidney stone, yelping and crooning like the finest form of pop-punk frontman and occasionally treating his voice electronically (some listeners will be reminded of the Butthole Surfers’ ‘Gibby-tronics’ phase), singer Tommy Rogers’ voice is the main draw into songs like “Obfuscation” and “Disease, Injury, Madness” and will have fists flying into the air violently and involuntarily each time Paul Waggoner unleashes hell with another electric guitar solo, but there’s more at work here than just that – the guitars are as chameleonic as the voice. Sometimes railing forth like Paul Leary, sometimes like Mick Mars and still other times about on par with John 5 or Buckethead, Waggoner illustrates that he’s successfully learned and committed to memory a directory of sounds and styles and commands them all to come forth at will here; producing designer replicas of the sounds but doing so with his own sensibilities in place, thus making them unmistakably his own. The interplay and symbiotic relationship between Waggoner and Rogers is surprising in that way too – every time one shifts to raving distortion or clean and beautiful or back, the other follows with equal ease and without so much as a stutter. In that way, audiences will be left guessing or what shape it’s going to take as one song ends and the next begins.
While it’s easy to focus so much attention on the interplay between Waggoner and Rogers, jaws will drop even further as listeners realize the sheer breadth and scope of the sounds surrounding them. Waves of otherworldly effects – sometimes sounding like tubular bells, wind chimes, electro-clash keyboards and ray gun flashes dart across speakers with the speed and jarringly unexpected timing of acid flashbacks at least or honest-to-god aural hallucinations on occasion; further adding to the disquieting sense that the band is in flux and ready to implode or dissolve at any given moment. Neither of those things actually happens, but it’s a very real concern as the break-neck left turns is approach grow more frequent and veering toward the conclusion of the record.
By the time “Swim To The Moon” methodically washes in and crests out, listeners will be completely shell-shocked and have no idea how to react to what they’ve just heard. They’ve been hit from every side with almost every sound a band could possibly cram into fifty-eight minutes and, while it looked like everything was flying apart every other minute, it’s apparent that what Between The Buried And Me has managed to do here isn’t so much TACKLE a variety of sounds at once, but simply BE them. Like some terrifying amoeba, Between The Buried And Me has absorbed and incorporated a wild variety of sounds into themselves and spat back something that exhibits them all, but only uses them as ingredients to work toward their own ends. Is The Great Misdirect the work of a band in transition? Maybe, but no one will be able to figure out what the band is pupating into on the basis of The Great Misdirect other than something of a genre all its own.
Review courtesy of groundcontrolmag.com