It's no secret: Between The Buried And Me want to challenge you. They want to obliterate your senses with their blast beats, frantic yet bone-crushing guitar work, shrieked and gurgled screams, and monumental hardcore anthems that sometimes double a standard track's length. And yet, you know what to expect when you pop in a disc by these guys. Alaska is no different from the band's first two releases, but with some tweaked songwriting and a more coherent sound when compared to the disappointing The Silent Circus, Between The Buried And Me have cooked up some of their most enjoyable material to date.
Not unlike the band's previous efforts, Alaska is an exceedingly difficult listen. For fifty-three minutes, Between The Buried And Me rip through eleven tracks of (for the most part) pure fury, with mixed results. There's honestly not a bad song to be found here; the problem is that a handful of songs on Alaska follow the exact same pattern, dragging on for way too long with little variety. Songs like "Roboturner" and "Autodidact" drag on for five and a half, even seven minutes with little rising and falling action. When you are as brutal sounding of a band as Between The Buried And Me, even the most weathered of ears needs a rest every once in a while. It's simply a case of too much, too soon with some of these songs. Even with exceptional musicianship, the not-so-good tracks showcased here can feel like hours long.
To no one's surprise, the better songs on Alaska are the ones which switch it up a bit; "Selkies: The Endless Obsession" opens with a minute and a half of nifty dueling guitar play before vocalist Tommy Rogers enters with his trademark lullaby voice to screaming to growling tendencies. With this song, length is not an issue -- the band throws enough into the mix to keep the listener interested and not bore them. Among the other standouts are "Backwards Marathon," another eight and a half minute behemoth which boasts a very creepy, atmospheric bridge with Rogers crooning "It's rainingā?¦" over echoed guitar lines, and "Alaska," which is nothing more than a straight-ahead skull crusher that knows just when to stop. The showstopper, however, is buried towards the end of Alaska (which is unfortunate, because many will no doubt give up by this point), titled "The Primer." It brings back the melodic yet heavy guitar play found on what is probably the band's most popular song, "Aspirations," and is exciting from start to finish.
Just stating that this band is talented is simply not enough. Alaska will truly blow you away with how well the band members play their instruments. For those looking for nothing more than a well-performed album, they should look no further. However, coupled with a more focused approach to their next album, Between The Buried And Me could create an album which would sit at the upper echelon of albums for its respective year. Until then, Alaska will have to keep our bombastic hardcore needs fulfilled, and for many, that may not sound like too great of a deal.
- "Selkies: The Endless Obsession"
- "The Primer"
- "Backwards Marathon"