Nearly three years have passed since Between the Buried and Me’s last album, and that’s long enough for me and many others to start fiending. But a new tour that includes at least a few new songs is arguably just as good as a new album, considering the band’s flawless on-stage execution.
Between the Buried and Me has been around for 15 years now. They passed the point of having something to prove years ago. They’ve been open about how they like to write music for themselves and they aren’t the type of band that’ll be accused of selling out. A cursory amount of reflection before the show would’ve reminded me of this. But it all hit me as soon as the band came out.
Each member looks a bit more seasoned than the last time I saw them in October 2016. Singer and keys player Tommy Rogers and lead guitarist Paul Waggoner were visibly grey in their beards. I mention all this to point out that the band doesn’t put on airs. And make no mistake: Between the Buried and Me is still at their apex.
Opening night of the tour was oddly timed. A full week before Part I of their new album Automata released, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show. Would they play the whole album? Just a few songs to tease the new album? The anticipation had been steadily growing for a few weeks. Add in the impending new album and not knowing what to expect and I was a bit giddy before the show. They ended up playing songs from the past few albums, with Parallax II getting the most air time.
The crowd was fired up for this show. It fed off of the band’s energy and vice versa. I don’t know whether everyone was just excited for new material or the first tour date but the band was more animated than I’d ever seen and the crowd, especially the pit, was going crazy. Waggoner was head banging with his whole body in spots and he and guitar mate Dusty Waring looked like they were punishing their instruments.
My previous BTBAM shows had enthusiastic pits, but this was a different level. Music nerds, standing mostly still and gazing in admiration, dotted the outskirts of the main floor. More animated fans banged heads, pumped fists and sang along. But the mosh pit took up a majority of the real estate. It was active and volatile, exploding at multiple points during the show. The first of which happened about three minutes into the set marked by Rogers’ “Bleh!” in “Condemned to the Gallows.” The House of Blues floor bounced and bowed, eliciting a few distracting feelings of concern.
The House of Blues in Chicago is a great venue for BTBAM. This was the third time I’ve seen them there, and the band seems to have a great rapport with the place. They achieved a brutal sound without relying on splitting my ear drums. I was able to effortlessly distinguish the lead guitar parts and hear Dan Briggs’ excellent bass work as well. Heavy and loud often seem synonymous but they are certainly not the same thing. I couldn’t tell you whether the band or venue was more responsible but I appreciate it.
The intro to “Condemned to the Gallows,” the first single from the new album, led the band onto the stage. I took a second to appreciate how long they’ve been making phenomenal music during the opening. Then the heavy part kicked in and we were back in the present.
Heavy may not be the best word to properly describe the show. How about crushing? This was my fourth BTBAM show and it sounded and felt heavier than ever. Normally the kick drums and bass will hit you in the chest at a metal show, and they did. But even the strumming guitars seemed to be pushing back against the rushing crowd.
The show continued with “Coma Machine” and “Dim Ignition” from the previous album Coma Ecliptic. The first gave the crowd a chance to sing along before “Dim Ignition” served as a de facto break.
Then came the new stuff. We got two more songs from Automata called “Millions” and “Blot,” according to posted set lists. “Millions,” at various points throughout the song, reminded me of the last few seconds of Avenge Sevenfold’s “Waking the Fallen” and the main riff to “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” by the Dickies. I’m excited to hear the album version to see if the first impression holds up at all. I’m assuming it won’t — those are some pretty wacky connections — but that’s where my head was at during the show, I guess. The song was able to do all that while sounding like a trippy, drifting-through-space lullaby.
“Blot” was great; it struck me as a prototypical Between the Buried and Me song. It starts off with the classic BTBAM dark carnival music sound before getting into heavier, nonsense rhythm grooves for the meat of the song. The heavy stuff was interspersed with ominous, Middle Eastern-sounding music, epic vocal-arpeggio duet sections and softer underwater sounds. I’m pumped to hear the whole album.
From there we got “Astral Body” and “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest,” which was my favorite stretch from Parallax II. The latter song saw the best crowd interaction of the night. From the opening chug’s mosh pit, to the carnival dance party part, to the catchy choruses, to the absolutely brutal pit at “The end starts now” — by far the biggest pit explosion of the night — this song was the highlight of the show.
The main set ended with one of Between the Buried and Me’s iconic guitar solos. “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” led right into the back half of “Obfuscation,” which showcased Waggoner’s brilliant solo writing and led the band into another break before coming back out for an encore. An eight-song set list from BTBAM’s library will put the show’s run time at well over an hour. But I still wanted more. I knew they’d come back out for one more, but I could’ve handled another set.
The band’s encore options are limited to maybe five or six songs that have either epic guitar solos, epic sing-alongs, or both. They went with “Silent Flight Parliament.” To call fifteen more minutes of performing an encore is a bit of a stretch but nobody was complaining. The sing-along leading into the solo from “Goodbye to Everything Reprise” was a perfect way to close a fantastic show.
I haven’t mentioned Leprous or the Dear Hunter’s opening sets because, to be honest, I missed them. The Dear Hunter, while a great band, isn’t even a metal band, though, so for the purposes of this site, I’m not sure much was lost.
This is a 27-date tour that runs through April 7. You can find their remaining dates on Between the Buried and Me’s website. If you have a chance to catch one of the shows, I recommend you do. I can’t say enough about the great work this band has put in. If you can’t make it to a show, the first part of the album releases in a few days.