2/23/14 – Royale

In recent years, it’s seemed that metal tour promoters have been pulling at straws to come up with supporting acts for national tour packages. For this reason, buzz among prog fanatics and extreme metalheads alike was especially ablaze with the announcement that innovative heavyweights Between the Buried and Me (BTBAM) would be bringing along Deafheaven, Intronaut, and The Kindred on their second tour supporting their new album, The Parallax II: Future Sequence. As BTBAM are famous for their spastic integration of many genres, ranging from grindcore to polka, it was no surprise that they opted for a tour package that drew on such varied acts. Boston certainly responded by packing the Royale when the tour rolled through on February 23rd.

Ottawa’s The Kindred (formerly Today I Caught the Plague) kicked off the show with their contemporarily popular brand of progressive metal, equal parts 1970s prog, vaudeville, and modern heavy metal. The Kindred set themselves apart from their new metal peers by deftly melding these varying influences together, keeping each song distinctive by building off of a consistent melodic base. Keyboardist Matt Young particularly contributed to this sound through the driving, melodic nature of his parts. Vocalist Dave Journeaux’s soprano clean-singing style was fitting with the band’s overall sound, yet his screamed hardcore-style aggressive vocal seemed out of place and did not add much to the music rhythmically or emotionally, and contributed to a immature presence. He also struggled with maintaining consistency while belting out high sustained notes.

Intronaut, hailing from Los Angeles, contrasted starkly from the former band. Rather than utilizing an integrated songwriting style, Intronaut’s songs each presented a dichotomy between heavy sludgy sections and soft progressive melodic sections reminiscent of progressive metal pioneers Cynic, though in both cases falling back on groove as the driving force of their music. As such, they did not rely on guitars or a frontman to provide the melodic sections of interest. Bassist Joe Lester justifiably took center-stage, despite not contributing vocals; Lester’s bass was generally the focal point of each song’s melodic structure. Similarly, esteemed drummer Danny Walker utilized his full drumkit, prominently featuring his tom-toms, contributing a similarly melodic quality to his playing. Lester and Walker’s energetic demeanors further reinforced their eminence. Conversely, Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick’s shared lead vocals and guitar playing took a backseat, providing an atmospheric counterpoint. Amidst the atmosphere, use of syncopation provided an entrancing yet arresting, and ultimately quite rewarding concert experience.

Deafheaven has been attracted quite a bit of attention with their 2013 release, Sunbather, which features their distinctive combination of black metal and post-metal. The absence of progressive influence in their sound makes them seem out of place in this lineup on paper; however, their emphasis on atmosphere served as an appropriate transition from fellow Californians, Intronaut. The duality between the wistful, popular shoegaze/post-metal elements of Deafheaven’s sound and the evil coldness of their black metal influence is largely executed with success, but produces some confusion. Initially, the more uplifting components seem out of place among the overall depressive atmosphere invoked by their performance. The reverb-full, cadence-heavy strummed chords seemed somewhat at odds with the blast-beat drums and shrieked black metal vocals. Singer George Clarke’s dramatic persona and drug/suicide references also typical to black metal clashed with his trendy haircut and punk rock-like energetic interaction with the crowd. Ultimately, these juxtapositions contributed to a sense of darkness throughout, infecting the more uplifting portions with a cold anxiety, toeing an artful line between bliss and despair.

I feel obliged to admit bias when describing North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me. Ever since hearing their 2007 opus, Colors, I have been completely hooked on the group; I’m talking fan boy status here. Their ability to float effortlessly between entirely different musical genres while retaining elements of a musical theme throughout has resonated with me strongly and been a persistent source of inspiration. You would never expect one part to follow another, but somehow, no transition is jarring, at least not to the detriment of the music. BTBAM, while nearly always technically perfect, were in top form at this date, delivering an especially energetic performance. The crowd responded equally energetically to BTBAM’s eclectic performance, consisting of varied songs from their past four full length albums (no songs from their Parallax I EP were performed).

Beginning with Colors companion opening tracks “Foam Born A” and “B,” the band immediately displayed their wide range of styles, from the former’s soft piano-driven introduction to the latter’s unrelenting aggression and technicality. “Obfuscation,” a selection off their 2009 album, The Great Misdirect, featured some improvisation on the part of drummer Blake Richardson; the added off-beat embellishment further contributed to BTBAM’s off-kilter polka-influence breed of metal. The crowd’s reaction remained strong as the band transitioned into newer material. Epic track “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” displayed Richardson’s unique style, utilizing cymbals as accents, almost to the point of serving as a supporting melody. Classic favorite, “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” highlighted lead guitarist Paul Waggoner’s deeply emotional style, despite his immense technicality and break-neck speed. The unconventional song, “Bloom” allowed vocalist Tommy Rogers to display his myriad stylings, taking on several character voices that were readily embraced by the crowd, who were likely aware that the song is part a story that has spanned several of their albums.

While each of the opening bands excelled at presenting one to two styles, BTBAM’s true value is a product of their versatility. No instrument or musical element assumes dominance and no style takes precedence. BTBAM seemed to acknowledge their reputation as a band that can “do it all” by playing a brief ditty in the manner of each opening band as they thanked them for their performance, a stunt that was met by laughter and applause from the audience. Both on recording and in the live setting, BTBAM’s diverse influences come together in a manner that is truly unique and engaging. In this instance, it was the perfect conclusion to a night of wildly differing metal acts.

Between The Buried And Me Showcase Their Versatility
Pros
  • Stunning technical showcase
  • Enthusiastic audience
  • Diverse performances
Cons
  • Four bands means short sets
  • Inconsistent quality of openers
8.5Overall Score

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