Between the Buried and Me’s Automata I had the distinction of both fitting into the idea of being the first half of a sprawling concept album and acting on its own, avoiding an incompleteness that double albums can have when only listening to one part of it.
Automata II, coming mere months after the first, also fits into the band’s catalog in the same manner. There’s no sense of forced finality that may have come if there had been an abrupt stop at the end of Automata I, nor is there a sign of a band’s greed in splitting up what could’ve been one album for maximum profit.
Besides story reasons, there’s logical rational behind dividing these albums up. While Automata I was from the dependable progressive metal band, who have cultivated a winning strategy of proggy, topsy-turvy tempos within modern extremity, Automata II is much more bizarre in delivery. There will be few, if any, metal albums in 2018 that boast a radical shift in gears like a circus-like interlude leading into a Van Halen-meets-swing groove, all within the span of five minutes.
The band has always been known for maintaining a quirky streak (the barroom hoedown in “Ants of the Sky” and galloping horses on “Disease, Injury, Madness” speak to this claim), but it’s been a while since they’ve been this carefree. It’s a quality that’s been lacking from their serious musical affairs as of late, so hearing a song like “Voice of Trespass,” which goes off the rails in the best way imaginable, is reaffirming.
The whole album is not styled in this way, and it’s slightly disappointing that they just didn’t go all the way in for the entirely of its brief 32 minutes. A little more Diablo Swing Orchestra and less Dream Theater could’ve been an experiment with exponential results, but it makes those moments even more special since they aren’t dominating the whole second half of this Automata concept. The story is left up to the listener to figure out, as Between the Buried and Me have never been ones to explain their theories outright. Suffice to say, it’s not a typical happy ending with all the threads tied up.
When I reviewed Automata I back in March, the only expectation I had for Automata II was that with four songs compared to Automata I’s six, this would be where the lengthier material would reside. While that is true, there was also little warning that the band would test the boundaries of their rock-solid sound with unusual instrumentation (horns are prevalent throughout) and a flippant air towards conventionality that Automata II gleefully shows off.
(released July 13, 2018 on Sumerian Records)