Between the Buried and Me is one of those bands you definitely have to acquire a taste for. Simply put, they are different. A good kind of different. Going from death growls, to mellow singing, and death metal to blues is not usually found in the poster-boy hardcore band. But, the thing about BTBAM, is not about how the music is written, it’s in the execution.

Formed in 2000 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Between the Buried and Me went on to release seven studio albums, two EPs, three live albums, and three compilations albums.

Being diverse each on their own, BTBAM’s albums are different and beautiful on their own. Below is a list of Between the Buried and Me’s albums ranked from less great to great, in our opinion.

Updated on February 22, 2020: Automata II included in the rankings.

09. Between the Buried and Me (2002)

Becoming one of the most innovative style-benders of this century is not an easy task by any means, and it has to involve incorporating plenty of mathcore, grindcore, death metal, and hardcore elements into their sound. A lesser-used, but still undeniably prominent thrash influence occasionally boils to the surface all throughout Between The Buried And Me too.

The record makes for a pretty choppy and jerking front-to-back listen, as it fails to ever fall into any cohesive groove to speak of; but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t individual gems out the wazoo, here! Indeed, pick any one of these eight cuts, and you will be treated to neck-aching, math-derived tempo changes, impeccable musicianship, and a vocalist that boasts one very expansive and amazing range. And it is all topped off by noteworthy, smarter-than-most lyricism, too. Take “Arsonist” into account when considering Between’s exceptional lyric-writing skills. It is a just plain gutsy song that tackles politics in organized religion by slamming a conservatively-minded pastor who preaches anti-gay remarks. When it is all paired together, the end product is the sound of an album from a band that has more than enough of what it needs to be a very successful young group, and one that is most certainly firing on all cylinders.

With their self-titled album, BTBAM have crafted easily one of the most unpredictable, auspicious, enjoyable, well-rounded, memorable, original, and all-around strongest—yet criminally overlooked and underrated—debuts not only of the year (2002), but of the whole decade.

08. The Silent Circus (2003)

From “Lost Perfection” to the ridiculous hidden track, it would be a crime not to at least call this album memorable. It will take you through the heaviest extreme metal has to offer, to the softest acoustic rock has to offer, and it all flows seamlessly from one song to the next. The heaviest song off the album is probably “Camilla Rhodes,” which includes an incredibly droning and weird-sounding guitar riff around the one minute and thirty second mark. The softest part of the album is probably “(Shevanel Take 2),” which is basically an acoustic rock passage, devoid of anything metal, filled with clean vocals. Between the Buried and Me has this incredible knack for making tasteful song transitions, often combining multiple tracks to make one song.

This album is a staple in the neck of metalcore, giving a hated genre hope for redemption. Between the Buried and Me have not only created an amazing sophomore release, they have also molded a definitive album, showcasing progressive metalcore at it’s best. The Silent Circus is an unrelenting journey through all metal has to offer, as well as displaying certain elements of rock, melding together to create a masterpiece. Next time you break your legs and can’t take that wonderful trip through the woods, you know what album to place in your stereo.

07. Coma Ecliptic (2015)

Coma Ecliptic bears all the signposts of a Between the Buried and Me album, but rather than a constant barrage of tempo changes and dynamic shifts, the music is streamlined, with the focus now on the actual songs themselves. Themes recur not just within each song, but also throughout the album as a whole. The balance between frontman Thomas Giles’ clean and harsh vocals is better than it’s ever been, with the more frenetic metal bouts appropriately placed at strategic moments, in distinct contrast to Future Sequence’s schizoid bursts of screaming. Balance is the key factor that makes Coma Ecliptic as successful as it is.

Take highlight cut “The Ectopic Stroll” as an example. Beginning with a wicked groove shared by piano and guitar, the track then develops imid-section rife with frenetic, finger-melting guitar technique. After all the fury comes to a close, the band reintroduces the opening riff with a slightly new variation, bringing the music back to its original ground. This kind of arrangement can also be heard on the second track, “Coma Machine”, which similarly uses piano/guitar interplay to a compelling, syncopated effect. In their wild-eyed ambition, Between the Buried and Me have in the past failed to put a filter for their seemingly endless ideas; with Coma Ecliptic, they’ve found the songwriting structures that effectively bind together their sundry turns and tricks.

Coma Ecliptic is most impressive on a structural front, but it’s no slouch on the sonic end either. After 2005’s Alaska, a potent stew of various metal subgenres, Between the Buried and Me moved increasingly towards a prog-centric rather than a metal-centric style. While there are no shortage of downtuned guitars and death growls on Future Sequence, in its overall aesthetic and in its composition, it’s far more akin to contemporary prog than it is to metal. Metal remains an integral part of the sonic equation on Coma Ecliptic, but prog is even more at the fore here, with the influences of Yes, and King Crimson out on full display. Lead single “Memory Palace” echoes Alex Lifeson’s guitar technique and tone in more than a few places. The midsection of “Turn on the Darkness” even evokes Dream Theater circa Scenes from a Memory.

06. Automata I (2018)

After the band’s rock opera affair in Coma Ecliptic, which was good (if a little dense at around 70-minutes) the band announced their signing with Sumerian Records, who have shown to champion many progressive metal acts in recent years, and with it, the announcement of the band’s first two-part album; Automata.

“Condemned To The Gallows” opens with ominous guitar picking and keyboard whirrs before kicking things up to eleven less than a minute in with Tommy Rogers signature screams and growls making a triumphant return after having been reigned in on previous releases. Automata may showcase Rogers at his most versatile – “Yellow Eyes” stands tall as a project highlight, slick riffs dance as Rogers croons “yellooowww,” accentuated by the record’s spiralling forward momentum which could all fit quite snugly amidst The Great Misdirect era of their career.

Despite their recent progressive leanings, Between The Buried And Me have always had a firm foot planted in the world of the heavy, yet it certainly feels like they’ve doubled down in this regard. To describe Paul Waggoner‘s riffs as sounding heavier is likely a faux pas, but; meatier. It feels as if the band has caught themselves in midst of a creative updraft, so while there are many uplifting guitar solos similar to those that escalated the likes of Colors into more progressive numbers, truthfully it feels like the band has returned to their roots somewhat.

Despite aforementioned sonic heaviness, there’s just as much in the way of experimentation as there is restraint demonstrated here. “Millions” takes a more fastidious melodic approach to the band’s song structure whereas “Blot” is the signature progressive powerhouse of the album before it deliberately pulls the plug right as it hits its climax. It’s hard not to draw parallel to when the band celebrated their jump from Victory Records to Metal Blade with their first ever EP, which would go on to be a precursor to the band’s monstrous Future Sequence album, their longest record to date. This known, it can be hard to judge a BTBAM project with a subsequent piece missing.

Moreover, veterans might feel a little short-changed at just 36 minutes, especially considering just how lengthy some of the group’s previous work can be. It feels a little gimmicky to divide up what would be the normal length of a band’s studio album into two shorter halves, but most of the band’s work comes highly conceptual, so if anything, this should appeal to those looking for a more accessible foray into their catalogue.

Regardless, Automata I is an exceptional return to form – especially for those that found their previous full-lengths to be a little too bombastic and overwhelming. It’s perhaps not as exploratory as some of the band’s older efforts, but there’s plenty of effortless sounding technical wonder that’s sure to satiate fans appetite until we get to hear the concluding instalment. Between The Buried And Me are certainly no strangers when it comes to stretching their canvas – only this time, they’ve sawed it in half.

05. Automata II (2018)

From the jump, it’s troubling that this four-song, 31-minute sequel is even shorter than its predecessor, which clocked in at a shade over 35 minutes; both recordings could easily have fit on a single disc. What’s more, this set is even shorter than the 2011 EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, making it more of a head scratcher as an “album.”

Despite this questionable packaging, the music matches the quality of its predecessor. Opener “The Proverbial Bellow” commences with the full band chugging in syncopated rhythms, guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring turn on the over-amped churn, with Tommy Rogers alternately offering dirty and clean vocals barking and plaintively singing the lyrics as a Deep Purple-esque organ; repetitive, hypnotic piano lines and pointillistic guitars support him before erupting into cacophony near the halfway point via thundering tom-toms courtesy of Blake Richardson. Djent and prog go at one another, creating swirls of sonic color as the music balances the confusion and panic in the lyrics. After the momentary yet welcome distraction of “Glide” (complete with accordion, calliope, and piano) introduces—in waltz time—”Voice of Trespass” (titled for the name of the company that steals and broadcasts dreams). Introduced by a full band gallop, they are joined by horns that give way to swinging gypsy jazz acoustic guitar (à la Django Reinhardt) and acoustic piano, before assuming the punchy verses with Rogers screaming the lyrics. Throughout its 13-plus-minute run, the tracks flirt with fingerpopping jazz, vintage Canterbury-styled prog rock, death metal, and more Those fat horns add unexpected—and welcome—timbral and textural qualities. Interestingly, the track’s second half invests in meaty, doom riffery (from guitars, keyboards, and horns), that unites the halves of Automata as a whole. “The Grid” is an epic closer. Elements of Kim Thayil‘s (Soundgarden) guitar sound intertwine with bass, drum, and keyboard tenets of prog amid clean and dirty vocals, distorted mellotron drones, and clattering drums. About two-thirds of the way through, a Led Zeppelin-esque acoustic guitar adorned by piano introduces a long narrative conclusion wherein Rogers‘ vocals offer echoes of David Bowie.

Automata II flows effortlessly, creating a prismatic emotional palette where music and lyrics come together to define not only the narrative arc, but a kind of spiritual and philosophical exhaustion in the listening experience. Automata II can be listened to on its own, but it holds much greater power when taken together with its predecessor. It is easily the more musically adventurous of the two recordings, making it an indispensable part of Between the Buried and Me‘s provocative catalog.

04. The Parallax II: The Future Sequence (2012)

BTBAM‘s 2012 release Parallax II: Future Sequence is a fantastic and spectacular album that takes the listener on a musical journey that will sure be not forgotten. Clocking in at an epic 72 minutes and 32 seconds, this album is a continuation of the conceptual story which of course was introduced on the band’s 2011 EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, thus concluding this incredibly spectacular musical journey. This album is filled with absolutely every single nook and cranny that you can expect from BTBAM: phenomenal musicianship and songwriting, brilliantly written lyrics, changes in tempos, and time signatures, various influences in genres throughout, and beautiful, dreamy melodic passages that transform into waves of massive, bludgeoning metal fury and back again, etc.

The influences on this album range very greatly from of course progressive metal to technical death metal, to 70′s progressive rock, to jazz and fusion and everything else that you can imagine throughout. The musicianship is simply to put in one word: phenomenal!

Tommy Rogers leads the charge throughout with his always impressive and amazing vocal range which alternates between dreamy, melodic clean singing, and monstrous, throaty death metal growls and screams, and he also does an awesome job at providing excellent keyboard atmospheres as well. Guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring as always both dish out their abundance of always brilliantly inventive riffs which of course range from aggressive and bludgeoning to melodic and beautiful, and amazingly proficient leads and solos throughout. Meanwhile, bassist Dan Briggs does an amazing job laying down his always amazingly eargasmic, technical bass lines, and of course drummer Blake Richardson pounds his way flawlessly throughout with his always tight, and precise drum work.

With The Parallax II: Future Sequence, Between the Buried and Me have managed to craft metal that’s not just for metal heads, but will excite them just the same.

03. Alaska (2005)

Marking a firmly-planted step into the wilder, more ambitious sounds of progressive rock without losing their metal roots, Between the Buried and Me’s followup to the wildly popular The Silent Circus came to fruition in the form of Alaska—an album that fittingly captures the raw brutality and flagrant melodies that have shaped the band’s sound up to the present. In fact, their songwriting and musicianship is often compared to this record or Colors, and with good reason, as the ripping guitars and swelling tension of this record correctly personify the album’s title. Alaska stands as one of the band’s strongest works today, pulling us in with winding melodies and catchy grooves while keeping the track times a bit more in check.

Where other times the band slides nicely into things with an introduction of sorts, “All Bodies” grinds out a churning riff to set the tone for both the track and the album. The combination of shredding guitars and well-placed grooves throughout reminds of the isolated darkness of the locale mentioned in the album title—whether or not they meant to do it. However, that affection for grooves is a huge part of the album, whether it is the synth-plugging of “Selkies: The Endless Obsession,” the bridge of the title track or the low-end slamming of “The Primer.” After twisting our brains on Silent Circus with “Aesthetic,” the band took that primal urge and left it with a little more room to breathe and flourish – particularly heard on “Selkies.” “Croakies and Boatshoes” even finds the band dabbling a bit into the tech-metal realm—which isn’t surprising considering they were touring with bands like The Red Chord not too long after the release of this album.

But it is the mastery of which the band seemingly flies in and out of these memorable moments without submersing us in sonic gale force winds that makes this album shine. “Autodidact” keep the groove intact while soaring to wailing guitars and dissonant twisting, while “Alaska” features one of the most memorable and catchy introductions of the band’s repertoire. It’s aggressive but not overbearing—a fine line for a band that above all else still sound like a metal band regardless of what they’re injecting sonically into the mix. It also helps that the band doesn’t push the longest run times on this disc, as their later works from here on all feature at least one track past the ten-minute mark. Sure, some of the longer tracks work quite well, but even in hearing this album for the odd dozenth time, you can hear complete ideas without getting the stretched-out build and release of their later work.

The lighter moments of the album should also be noted, as both “Breathe Out, Breathe In” and “Laser Speed” feature outings of tonally gentler ideas – the latter sounding more like a island-mixed oasis imagination with delicate melodies and inventive percussion.  While arguably not a concept album, it kind of brings that idea of desolation and urge for connection to a cyclical end—even if it doesn’t seem to make the most musical sense.

Yet, even as the band has progressed past this benchmark in their writing career, Alaska forces itself to be considered in the band’s constantly evolving sound.

02. The Great Misdirect (2009)

Coming off 60-minute-plus opus Colors, BTBAM have chosen to apply their established face-melting theatrics to a different format: six individual pieces that pack all the craziness into tracks that are distinct from each other and move their sound forward in several directions. Opener “Mirrors” is gentle, unassuming prog pop, but three minutes later the listener is thrown swiftly into “Obfuscation,” a dense concoction of spiralling riffage that merely hints at what’s to come. “Fossil Genera” begins with a strangely predictable Mr. Bungle-esque circus segment before stampeding its way through ten more minutes of alarming wankery, which manages to segue effectively into comparatively brief western-tinged rock number “Desert of Song.” Wrapping the album up is monolithic closing suite “Swim to the Moon,” a 17-minute tech metal opus with an appropriately epic chorus that set the bar unrealistically high for everything that came afterwards.

Instrumentally, BTBAM are at their finest. Paul and Dusty’s guitar parts are less blatantly technical and more solidified and thought through. Dan’s bass playing is a wondrous as ever and he continues to prove that he is a preposterously talented, graceful musician. Blake’s drumming is simply his most phenomenal work yet. Tommy is at the top of his game, giving a bit more tone and feeling to his screaming and really coming into his own with his cleans. The production is BTBAM’s finest. Jamie King has done a marvelous job of bringing out all of the character and dynamic of BTBAM’s sound yet again, giving all of the instruments plenty of room to breathe, and the tones on the album across the board are jaw-dropping.

01. Colors (2007)

Between the Buried and Me’s Colors is the inconceivable result of a gathering of boundless imaginations. It’s musical intensity in all its forms; relentless riffing, dazzling melodies, and unusual, but never uneven, genre-hopping. The album represents creativity with no boundaries or restrictions, but nothing on the album is ever too outlandish or bizarre. The album takes you to many strange lands using many different methods, but it’s all laced with a certain accessibility that assures you you’ll end up safe back home in the end. All of its sounds and ideas come together beautifully to create the definition of an unforgettable musical journey.

Probably the biggest part of what makes the album so great, and what contributes most to its worth, is what I mentioned earlier, the fact that it has no restraints stifling its creativity, genre included. Yes, the metal (and other sub-genres of it) influence is prevalent, but the band by no means denies any musical idea because it’s not “metal” enough, or for any other reason. They write the music that sounds best for the message being sent in each passage of each song. On the album, this is just as prevalent as the metal influence. The album’s opener, “Foam Born (A): The Backtrack,” begins the journey with a soft, tranquil piano lead, consisting of a simple, but powerful chord pattern, all underneath Tommy’s singing.

This album is above something so petty and dogmatic as genre, more specifically, genre-labeling. Colors isn’t biased when showing you the places that sit along the edge of the eclectic journey it takes you on. You get it all. Good thing it’s all awesome.

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