Between the Buried and Me, Colors
Back in the day, I can remember waging fierce debates over what was and wasn’t metal. Each of my friends had their favorites, naturally, and we all went back and forth over tempos, vocal styles, guitars, songwriting, the whole mess, and classifying some bands as being “real” metal (Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden) and what really wasn’t (Poison, for one). I even remember one guy, this crazy older metalhead named Brian who claimed to be an Eagle Scout and bragged about killing his dad’s cat, going off on how Guns ‘N Roses really weren’t metal, just hard rock. Despite essentially being a bunch of slackers who concentrated on getting by by doing as little real work as possible, we became experts at splitting hairs.
Obviously, things have changed a hell of a lot since. Some days it feels like we’re living through the third (or is it fourth?) Golden Age of Metal, what with all the innovative, groundbreaking bands out there right now bending/breaking the rules. The world of metal these days is one gigantic free-for-all, to the point where arguments over what is and isn’t metal seem pretty damn academic. (Although yes, I’m absolutely positive somebody somewhere out there is having that exact argument right this second.)
With Colors, Between the Buried and Me — who were already one of the leading lights of this new Third Wave of the genre — have not only discarded the rulebook, they’ve attached plastic explosive to it and dropped it into some abyssal oceanic trench. Kiss your preconceptions goodbye, metal fans. The album’s apparently one 60-plus-minute epic, and while I haven’t got a clue what it’s about (sure would be nice if the CD had come with lyrics, ’cause I can’t understand about 90% of what vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Rogers is snarling/bellowing), “epic” is definitely the word.
Honestly, there’s not really much delineation between tracks for me — I can’t help but listen to Colors as basically one gigantic song. From the first few delicately Floydian guitar chords of “Foam Born (A) The Backtrack” on, the album’s a swirling, sweeping encyclopedia of alternately grandiose and brutally crushing rock, metal, and pop. There’s standard-issue metalcore, growly vocals and breakneck beats and all, there’re Avenged Sevenfold-style dual-guitar melodies, there’re exotic-sounding, vaguely Middle Eastern lines, there’re little bits of Mr. Bungle/System Of A Down-esque weirdness, there’re flashes of sunshiny, trippy psych-pop, there’s delicate, nimble jazz that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on an Al DiMeola CD, and there’s a shitload of heavy-duty prog-metal (think Voivod, or maybe a much cooler Dream Theater). Oh, and there’s some, um, polka thrown in there, too. (No, seriously.) And a bit that sounds like a bunch of hillbillies eating dinner. The hell?
Astoundingly, it all flows, like the inexorable crawl of lava over the rim of a volcano. The pretty melodic bits morph seamlessly into sledgehammer-heavy metal, the metal morphs into grand arena-rock Brian May would feel proud of, and then the rock transmutes into halfway-cheesy jazz, and so on, and so on. It’s an incredible, immense thing to behold. If there’s a problem with Colors, it’s that there’s so much here that it’s near-impossible to deal with. But as I type, that dizzy sense of being overwhelmed is starting to pass, replaced by a sense of awe at what these guys can do.