Between the Buried and Me are a thinking man's rock & roll outfit hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina. Moving from death growls to mellow singing, and death metal to blues to prog, technical death and math metal are qualities not usually found in the poster-boy megaband. For BTBAM, it's not how the music is written that matters, it's in the execution, both in the studio and on the stage. Beginning with 2003's The Silent Circus, where they ground through extreme music's subgenres, to 2007's Colors, which the band called "a 65-minute opus of non-stop pummeling beautiful music...." they professed distaste for staying inside the lines, stifling almost no creative impulse to get the material across even if it meant forsaking one genre for another. While metal was always the outfit's referential touchstone, they emerged from the hardcore and indie rock scenes to get there. When recordings became more conceptual with 2015's relatively accessible Coma Ecliptic, BTBAM had widened their musical circle so much that critics lauded them under the "progressive metal" tag, since it was easier to categorize. Live, they are a contradiction in terms, displaying an intense energy and playing music almost theatrical in its immediacy.
The band formed in 2000 after the dissolution of vocalist Tommy Rogers and guitarist Paul Waggoner's previous group, Prayer for Cleansing. Rogers and Waggoner completed their new lineup with the addition of guitarist Nick Fletcher, bassist Jason King (ex-Azazel), and drummer Mark Castillo, formerly of Bury Your Dead. An eponymous debut soon appeared, issued through the German indie Lifeforce, and the band supported its release with an avid tour schedule. Between the Buried and Me signed with Chicago hardcore powerhouse Victory in the summer of 2002 and began work on their debut for the label. The Silent Circus appeared in late October of the following year and showcased a more focused fusion of the group's math rock, heavy metal, and post-hardcore influences.
Victory put out a Between the Buried and Me greatest-hits album in 2011, just weeks before the band released its first EP on Metal Blade, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, the first entry in a two-part concept album. The second part, The Parallax II: Future Sequence, followed in 2012. In 2013, they embarked on the Future Sequence Tour, where they played The Parallax II in full. The group reentered the studio in late 2014 to begin work on a new concept recording — Metal Blade referred to it as a "rock opera." Coma Ecliptic was produced by Jamie King and mixed by Jens Bogren. The set's pre-release single, "Memory Palace," appeared in April of 2015; the album followed in July. In 2017, Between the Buried and Me released the concert LP Coma Ecliptic Live, which featured the band playing the album live in its entirety at the Observatory North Park in San Diego, California. It was their final album for Metal Blade.
The band signed to Sumerian that year and quickly hit the studio with King returning as producer. They developed a double-length concept album, Automata, to be issued as two separate recordings with different release dates. According to Rogers: "We can get music instantly, and with this luxury, the listener has a hard time sitting down with albums and exploring their every twist and turn. Because of this, we have decided to release our new album in two parts." The album's songs explore several central questions: What if dreams could be broadcast for the purpose of entertainment? Could you consume the innermost thoughts of another person onscreen? If you could, what does that say about an attention-starved audience? More importantly, what would become of the dreamer? The truly accessible Automata I was issued in early March of 2018; in July, its existence was nearly contradicted (musically) by its companion release, Automata II, an epic, emotional, and eccentric journey that found the group working not only through the usual panoply of genres but also jazz, swing, improvised music, and avant-rock. ~ Johnny Loftus