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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CD Review: Between the Buried and Me - The Best of Between the Buried and Me

Between the Buried and Me - The Best of Between the Buried and Me
2011 Victory Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I hold Between the Buried and Me in the same regard I do as The Police. Albeit nothing in common genre-wise (though it's surprising BTBAM didn't take a crack at "Invisible Sun" on their dynamic covers album The Anatomy Of), neither band can be contained to singular "Best Of" compilations, try as one might. Zenyatta Mondatta and Colors are considered signature albums for each respective group. While Between the Buried and Me hardly contains the potential to cross over, they are one of the most important metal acts of the past 15 years. A hits package from BTBAM and The Police is hardly comprehensive, no matter how astute you are as a record label. Sorry to say, but even in these cash-strapped times, if you care about music from a craftsmanship point-of-view, you damn well ought to own the entire catalog of both bands.

But these are tough economic times and Victory Records has to grudgingly let go of their flagship act as Between the Buried and Me joins Metal Blade Records for the release of their Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogue EP next month. You can understand why Victory is releasing The Best of Between the Buried and Me, but the gross understatement is, you cannot be a casual fan of this group. Hence, the casual nature of a two album, one DVD greatest hits mentality does impair its overall consumption experience--particularly when a band is this gifted.

Even though The Best of Between the Buried and Me grabs five of the eight compositions from the band's masterpiece Colors, it feels absolutely naked remiss of "Sun of Nothing" and "Ants of the Sky," particularly if you want to remind listeners this album is Pink Floyd interpreted through grind. Four songs apiece from The Silent Circus and Alaska check in on this comp and two from BTBAM's most recent full-length, The Great Misdirect. Nothing from The Anatomy Of, which is forgivable since there's a ton of ground to cover with these masters of prog-grind. Though it would've been a hell of fun way to accentuate the point of Colors by including Between the Buried and Me's take on Floyd's "Us and Them."

While the selections from The Silent Circus ("Mordecai," "Ad a Dglgmut," "Aesthetic" and "Shevanel Take 2") are more spread out from the album's track listing, the Alaska tracks are hedged more from the beginning. Yes, most fans yell out for "All Bodies," "Backwards Marathon" and "Selkies: The Endless Obsession," but Alaska is such a deep album you're missing a big part of the picture without "Medicine Wheel," "Autodidact" and "Breathe In, Breathe Out." In a way, it's like presenting a Mr. Bungle hits package without "Egg," "Travolta" or "My Ass is On Fire," since Bungle is essentially the silver-haired ancestor to Between the Buried and Me and their brain-stewed contemporaries.

The good news, however, is Victory has assembled some of Between the Buried and Me's most refined songs, thus this hits album is a powerful overview of the crunk side to the band as well as their expressive, layered side. The Best of Between the Buried and Me also benefits from a series of in-progress live songs on the second disc and a very cool bonus DVD featuring the thought-provoking videos for "Obfuscation," "Alaska" and "Mordecai." Add to the pot a terrific long film credited as "Synesthesia," which is the entire Colors album set to a whirlygig flicker-fly of film splices spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s. You won't soon think the same way about Colors if you make it through the sensory overload of social commentary Between the Buried and Me tosses out for assimilation as quickly-delved as their polyrhythm.

Better yet, the packaging of The Best of Between the Buried and Me features a digipak of foldout holograms, which gives you something to trip out on during "Aesthetic," "Viridian" and "From Born A: The Backtrack." Fuck you, iPod, hard copy still rules.

Is the best yet to come for Between the Buried and Me? We'll find out beginning this April and with all luck, they'll continue their trend of "must own" albums, which does include The Best of Between the Buried and Me. Victory is sending their math metal maestros out with an appreciative thank you note to all this band has achieved for them and for tech metal as its own clarified form of art.

Rating: ****1/2

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