Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tommy Rogers, Between the Buried and Me interview

Originally meant for publication in Molten Magazine, this is an interview feature with Between the Buried and Me vocalist Tommy Rogers about new album The Parallax II: Future Sequence. Twice this year I’ve had the pleasure of interview a BTBAM member, and while it’s unfortunate that this interview never made it onto the page, please read and enjoy. I should also preface this by saying the interview was conducted while the band were on the Summer Slaughter tour, months before the new album was released. Also, I’m going to see BTBAM in London this Friday. If you are too, hit me up! Anyway, read on.

Future Sequence: Tommy Rogers interview

“We’re very anxious for the world to hear it,” says Tommy Rogers about Between the Buried and Me’s latest opus The Parallax II: Future Sequence. It’s their sixth album and since their 2002 debut, the North Carolinian band has matured and grown in ways once unimaginable, bringing them to a standing as modern progressive metal kings with a far reaching appeal. One of the very few bands that have toured with both Dream Theater and Cannibal Corpse, it’s with the latter that BTBAM have spent the summer of 2012, co-headlining the Summer Slaughter tour, with Periphery, The Faceless, Exhumed and more filling out the bill.

It’s from Milwaukee on that very tour that the vocalist and keyboardist is speaking with us. Eagerly waiting the moment when they can unleash their new album upon us, the band has to settle with playing just one new song in the live set – ‘Telos’.

Unsurprisingly a lengthy epic number, ‘Telos’ is, if anything, an appropriate introduction to the vast sounds on The Parallax II: Future Sequence, the band’s first concept album that swoops in and out of staggering peaks and troughs, much like all Between the Buried and Me albums. Beginning with last year’s EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, the concept tells an evocative tale, according to Tommy, coming to a climax and conclusion on this long player.

“The basic idea of the concept is that there is another planet exactly like ours,” he explains, “either in the past or in the future, and there’s an identical version of yourself.”

“It revolves around these two characters that we find out are indeed the same person but from different time periods. They come together and the universe is in their hands,” Tommy continues. “Paul [Waggoner, guitarist] initially came up with it. He came to me with the idea and I thought it would be something cool to work with. I thought it was something that I, as a lyricist, could elaborate on. It’s been a fun little process for sure.”

Writing lyrics for such a concept must surely have differed, when trying to tell a specific tale with a flow and logical timeline of events?

“I wanted to make sure certain things were happening in the story that fit well with the music. It was like doing it in reverse – not writing music to a movie, I was writing a movie to the music,” he admits. “The lyrics changed a lot. Usually when writing lyrics, I just write and write and write and I don’t even look at what I write for a few days, then I go back and analyse. It’s a big process.”

Concept albums, by their very nature, are more demanding listens and the process, as Tommy puts it, is “big” but in the case of Between the Buried and Me, their trusted tools have been utilised again. “It’s been the same process pretty much since Colors [2007]. It really works for us. We always start our records off writing individually”, he explains.

"We just do our thing and that’s our approach"
Each BTBAM record marks a stunning evolution for a band that rose from hardcore and metalcore backgrounds and with every year that maturation becomes clearer and clearer. “It’s just like any job or any art”, Rogers states. “The older you get and the longer you work with people, the better you get at it. I think with every year we’re in a band together, the more comfortable we are. We just click really well; the chemistry improves with every album and I think that’s very important in a band.”

“The more we write together, the more we understand and the better players we become. It’s all about getting older and pushing yourself and becoming better at what you do. We just do our thing and that’s our approach.”

It’s an approach that serves them well. The Parallax II: Future Sequence is a breath-taking journey that lunges through brutal metal, glistening melodies and hats tipped the classic prog of the 70s that has always influenced their sound in some way. The album’s climactic moment is the sprawling 15 minute epic ‘Silent Flight Parliament’, which allows everything that’s come before to manifest itself in beautiful clarity, and musically pushes the five men of Between the Buried and Me to new limits.

But there’s a sixth man involved that has given the band the room to unfurl their sound, producer Jamie King. “Jamie is just perfect for us,” enthuses Tommy. “He’s great at helping us achieve what we want with our sound. At this point he’s almost the sixth member of the band.”

Lending his production desk wizardry on every full-length from Between the Buried and Me, last year’s EP marked the first time he didn’t hold the studio reins over a BTBAM record. For once, the band enlisted famed producer David Botrill who counts Dream Theater’s Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory among the albums on his CV.

“We wanted to try something new and we figured the EP was a great way to try it. It was great working with David but travelling to Toronto was a headache in itself. We felt like we were barely getting by with the record, but with Jamie, it’s very relaxed and we had more than enough time if we needed [it]. He understands us; he’s been working with us forever.”

"Just because you love something doesn't mean anything..."

So despite the vast amount music within its 12 tracks and tricky lyric writing process, The Parallax II: Future Sequence was a relaxing recording experience once again, with King at the helm.

“It was so relaxed. There was no kinks, it was just”, says Tommy before a brief pause “… everything went smooth. It was fun and that’s important, after doing it this long you want to have fun with it. We love writing music and we love recording music. You want to make sure you’re in a studio that’s relaxed and fun. We definitely achieved that with this record.”

This is an album that marks another zenith conquered for a band that has done nothing but grow, particularly since 2007’s acclaimed Colors, an album that didn’t so much open doors for the band but rather forcefully kick in.

“When you’re in band you… you just write music and hope people like it,” explains Tommy. “Just because you love something doesn’t mean anything. We’re very fortunate to have a fan base that really loves what we do and get excited with each release and when we try new things.”

“You can only take it one step at a time; and do as well as we can and keep writing music that we love. Hopefully the future will be bright.

Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence

Much like the Didn't Quite Get There post from a few months, this is a re-publishing of a review that was intended for publication in Molten Magazine. Between the Buried and Me's The Parallax II: Future Sequence was, personally, one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Scroll down and read the review below and check back later in the afternoon for an interview with Tommy Rogers that is finally being published.

The tale of Between the Buried and Me is an ever evolving one. In fact, the band embodies much of the meaning behind musical evolution in metal and now with this, their sixth, album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence, the band has marked another overwhelming stage of evolution. Arguably the progressive metal deities of the 21st century, each of their albums have been a master class in captivating musicianship and song-craft, particularly with 2007’s game changer ‘Colors’.

Last year, these five men commenced an ambitious concept with the EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, an introduction to this album – an epic, sprawling concept record that brings this complex tale of alternate realities to a heady climax and conclusion. This is all done so by the vibrant and stunning songs found within these vast 75 minutes.

Unusual for a BTBAM album, ‘Future Sequence’ features 12 tracks with a number of short interlude numbers clearly separating out the chapters. Of course, the album’s high points come in the form of the expansive compositions, a position the band always seem most comfortable in, whether it’s the towering ‘Extremophile Elite’ or the evocative aural vistas found within ‘Melting City’.

However, it’s the last track proper ‘Silent Flight Parliament’ that steals the show, beckoning that all-important album crescendo in ways only Between the Buried and Me can do. Tommy Rogers’ vocals shine through all else in this song, and indeed the whole album, as he screams, roars and eloquently sings us to the end.

Album of the year contender, no doubt, but that’s hardly surprising.


Pig Destroyer - Book Burner

There’s a lengthy queue of fans, writers and everyone in between that’s stretching way down the street and around the corner. No one’s even sure where it ends. They’re all queuing up to give praise and worship to the new Pig Destroyer album Book Burner, and the unfortunate sod at end of the queue, wherever it is, is going to be waiting a while, but if he’s lucky Book Burner will make his year end list for 2014. 

Pig Destroyer’s latest album has been in gestation for a few years and people have been eagerly awaiting news on the Virginian grindcore luminaries’ return, and rightfully so. It’s been five years since Phantom Limb, an album not quite as universally revered but still an impressive outing.

Book Burner enters our consciousness in 2012, stares its expectations right in the eye and effortlessly obliterates them, with a vividly unconcerned feeling about others’ expectations. What do they know? This is Pig Destroyer’s fifth album and their fifth time doing things by their own book… a burning one at that.

The truth is that good things come to those who wait, and Book Burner deserves just about every bit of praise flung at it. It’s not a perfect grindcore record, and there are only a handful of those in existence, but this is Pig Destroyer at some of their finest and aggressive best and the result is an album that is one of the heavy records of 2012 without a doubt. Book Burner is ceaselessly punishing and barbaric but all the while glossed with a sleek production, one that for some records make it sterile, but the opposite is true on this record.

With a new drummer in Misery Index’s Adam Jarvis, the band’s current line-up incarnation is one that sounds like it has the bit between its teeth. Some may still pine for Brian Harvey on the drummer stool but regardless Pig Destroyer sound simply invigorated, evidenced by the unrelenting and fierce riffing stacked on top of one another like the ferocious melee of 'Machiavellian' or 'Burning Palm'. Scott Hull is revered as a master riff writer for a reason and his trademark is all over this record, with reckless abandon.

The album is also littered with some guest vocalists like Misery Index’s Jason Netherton and Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Katherine Katz, the latter in particular lending her searing vocals to ‘Eve’ and ‘The Bug’. Much like all of Pig Destroyer’s albums, JR Hayes’ lyrics are affecting verses of dark and grim poetry laid out in the album’s unnerving artwork.

Start to finish, Book Burner doesn’t let up with ideas bounding from every possible angle. Join the queue.


Happy Halloween, folks

Make sure to listen to lots of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond today. I'm pretty sure it's mandatory anyway. Reviews and an interview coming up later today, stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beithíoch - Summoning the Past EP

Ireland's black metal project Beithíoch will soon release a new EP entitled Summoning the Past, which features re-recordings of older songs and re-awakening them into new forms. Click HERE for the review now on CVLT Nation.

Siege of Limerick VIII live review

Last Sunday marked the eighth Siege of Limerick festival, with co-headliners Abaddon Incarnate and Wodensthrone delivering stellar sets, along with a several other bands across the whole day, across two stages. Click HERE for the live review now on Terrorizer's website.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lento - Anxiety Despair Languish

Italian instrumental sludge band Lento are back with a new album, Anxiety Despair Languish, the follow-up to last year's impressive Icon record. Make some room in your end of year lists and click HERE for the full review now on CVLT Nation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Downfall of Gaia - Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes

Metal Blade signing Downfall of Gaia sort of came out of nowhere. The band had been subscribing to the DIY aesthetic for many years and worked primarily with other DIT h/c labels like Alerta Antifascista and Moment of Collapse. It was these labels that released their first album Epos in 2010. Frankly, it was a mish mash of a record. The band had ideas for Epos, grand ones to say the least, but couldn’t quite implement them and ended up with some riffs and vocal styles that mirrored Alpinist a little too much and drawn out passages that shamelessly took from Fall of Efrafa. Epos was by no means bad, just a little unfocused. Those of you who listened to their split LP with In The Hearts of Emperors less than a year later then will have too been taken aback by the growth and evolution that the band has undergone.

Crafting two monumental pieces clocking in over 20 minutes, Downfall of Gaia had found something that was a little more… them. With that in mind, it may very well have been that evolution that garnered more attention for these Germans that ultimately led to their signing with Metal Blade.

Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is the result of the band’s continued growth, a growth that has seen them eschew the crust and hardcore roots they came from in favour of a post metal sound, but one that has also allowed a strong black metal influence to permeate the record, but not that of orthodox BM. Downfall of Gaia have clearly been listening to Altar of Plagues and Krallice in the gestation of this record, more so the former. Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is, consciously, more emotionally intense and atmosphere driven and while not conquering the same summits as Altar of Plagues, the album displays a great deal more depth than Downfall of Gaia’s previous work.

This second full-length effort eclipses Epos in every way. It’s longer, more ambitious, more focused and the ambition and vigour is heard in each sorrow drenched note as well as the searing harmonic three way of the vocals. The split material has certainly informed the band’s decision to protract their compositions as each song is a lengthy offering with the album just shy of the one hour mark, dragging us through several peaks and troughs, like the melodic hardcore and black metal hybrid that characterises 'Drowning by Wings Beats' and 'In The Rivers Bleak'.

Bleak is very much a recurring theme. A concept record about one man’s descent into insanity, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is a wilfully dark and harrowing album but one that’s altogether cathartic at the same time. The 10 minute 'I Fade Away' is wrought with bleak beauty as the band traverse eerie melody and razor edged ferocity while instrumental closes '[Asphyxia]' ends the album on a staggering note, suitably rounding off Downfall of Gaia’s next step in their stunning ascent.