Between The Buried And Me's track by track guide to Automata I
Between The Buried And Me's Dan Briggs goes through Automata I one song at a time
Between The Buried And Me are never ones to do things by halves, which is probably why they're releasing TWO albums this year. The first of which, Automata I, is out today, and is a dense, sonic journey through their own dark imaginations.
Here, bassist Dan Briggs goes deep into each track, examining and explaining how BTBAM orchestrate their own dreamy brand of progressive metal.
Condemned To The Gallows
"The beginning and end of this song came from the first batch of material I sent to the guys for our last album Coma Ecliptic. I didn’t bother expanding on what I sent because I thought I saw a little 3-4 minute long song that was kind of a slow build around a theme. Blake (Richardson, drums) brought it back to life while we were sharing material for this album and gave it new life. The chordal structure during the first change in mood at 1:20 comes back turned inside-out in the next track, setting up a thematic presence from the beginning. One of my natural instincts as a progressive music lover is intricate unison lines, but the triplet phrase at 4:00 is something I pretty much have to practice every day."
"This song starts with some totally atonal ring modulated guitar against a syncopation with the bass and drums, setting the pulse for the first minute or so, before you finally hear the massive B3 organ come in. I mean, the song was called House Organ – you knew it was coming! When the song shifts at 1:30 is when we have our call back to the progression in Condemned..., but it also uses chord arpeggiation that foreshadows the massive verse in The Proverbial Bellow from the second half of the record – out later this summer. The vocal melody at 2:00 is my favourite of this first half, Tommy Rogers (vocals, keyboards) definitely matched how lush and sparse the section was musically with a really great line. The song ends with a main theme also in the back half of the album, with a heavy amount of keyboard and percussion layers, but the guitar hints at a melody yet to come as well."
"If I remember correctly, this song and Millions were the last we got to in the rehearsal space, kind of working in this one with ideas that were floating around and tying them together. Definitely an older BTBAM technique, but with a bit of our modern twist to it. A lot of heavier stuff on the last two albums was a result of writing off the melodic ideas, and this one has melodic ideas derived from the heavier moments around it; be it locking into a rhythm like the syncopation at 3:48 or the foreshadowing of the open note extended chords at 5:16 with the acoustic section that proceeds it. A lot going on in this one, cultivating in my favourite solo of Paul’s (Waggoner, guitar) on this first part of the album; a total nod to Allan Holdsworth after his passing. A little breathing room at the end of the track while setting the pulse and tonal shift into Millions."
"Dustie (Waring, guitar) had sent us about four different variations of the beginning of this song before we started piecing it together! A great 5/4 progression with the drums accenting the offbeats, but it all kind of lulls you into not thinking about it and accepting the kind of Can essence of just getting lost in a continuous flowing rhythm. In preparing this for our upcoming tour, I’m pretty sure I’ve played the beginning differently every single time, lots of room to add or not-add notes. We didn’t want to do much with this song, we knew we wanted something concise before Blot and the beginning of the second half, which is a massive 13-minute long track. The chords in the chorus at 2:12 reference back to the main riff that goes throughout the beginning of House Organ – but with a different spin on the vocal and key melody. The ending is an even slower and more sparse version of the beginning, just kind of letting the song float off as it ends with drums."
"Part of writing a big, thematic, story-driven album is keeping it moving and flowing throughout. Not necessarily as non-stop of a barrage as our Colors album, but having free moving space that feels like both a break and a build at the same time. Part of the idea of ending Millions with the drums was that it erased the sense of key signature, allowing us to start fresh moving from E-Flat to B with this track. Also we wanted to make it feel like the idea of tempo was erased to account for Blot being about 30bpm faster than Millions, and so Gold Distance was born. Faintly in the background of the ping-ponging delayed piano chords, and free-moving swelling bass melodies, is the 9/4 pulse that begins Blot. I can’t help but say that Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight was a guiding light for this track; right down to the drum machine toms!"
"We close out the first half of the record with a song we original thought of as two tracks. The song seamlessly keeps the pulse of Gold Distance going, while taking away a beat every other phrase. I think we’ve used the electric sitar on every album since Parallax II, and this seemed like an obvious first place to drop it in. I love the way Tommy approached the verse at 1:25; the part has the heavy octave pedal 9/4 droning rhythm, but he finds a great way to interject melody over it. The Coma record was big for him seeing parts from a few different angles, I think. The chorus is a part that I believe Paul wrote near the end of the Coma sessions, I remembered always hearing it on acoustic and it was rad to hear it come to life. Also one of the more busy sections on the album with rhythm guitars, bass arpeggios, layered vocals, choir, a spaced out delay lead and a barrage of 16th note toms and cymbals in the back half… good on our mix engineer Jens Bogren for making sense of it!
"5:25 is where we saw the split in tracks happening initially, and you get a sense that things are wrapping up after hearing that opening theme come back, but then we enter a sort of Pink Floyd terrain. I love the way the acoustic layered everything in this section; we had a really great array of sounds to choose from between a few six-strings and 12-string – the opening of Condemned to the Gallows has this layering too. I think the build at 7:20 is one of the standout parts from this first half; I probably would have been alright if it went on for another minute. The song ends by tying back in the pre-chorus, and the chorus from earlier in the song. Even before we had the idea to split the album into two parts, this song came to a close with the next track starting about eight beats later, so it made for a nice splitting point. There’s a whole other journey coming in the back half!"
Between The Buried And Me's new album Automata I is out now – order your copy here.