A spectacularly warm day put Melbourne in high spirits on Tuesday, as one of the biggest progressive metal shows of the year arrived at The Corner Hotel in Richmond – the Parallax Future Sequence Australian tour, in which Between the Buried and Me has been delivering their latest opus from start to finish with the extreme precision and unique dynamism upon which the band has built their reputation.
Although the room wasn’t yet full when I arrived for Melbourne’s own Ne Obliviscaris, there was a healthy assembly of NeO fans showing their support down the front. A well-matched and entertaining support act, Ne Obliviscaris’ orchestral compositions were welcomed by the open-minded prog crowd who appreciated the extravagant song structures and the alternating heavy and clean vocals of Xenoyr and Tim Charles respectively. NeO closed their set with the popular ‘And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope’, memorable mostly because Charles launched into the moshpit in a moment of wild compulsiveness only to break his heel, almost tearing his heavily-taped jeans in the process.
Next up was Indiana outfit The Contortionist, who took to the stage to greet a much-fuller room. The band battled at times against a mix that seemed to lose some of the clarity that had been bestowed upon NeO, yet the volume remained consistently loud. On record, the Contortionist’s music is a swirling and ethereal exploration of equal parts light and shade, and these dynamics were preserved live – gentle, flowing passages melded into core-esque breakdowns that instantly saw hands flung in the air and heads bobbing to the band’s thick, hardcore groove. While vocalist Mike Lessard worked hard to keep the energy up, the band shone brightest in more melodic and instrumental sections, engrossing the audience with powerful ambience.
So far, the crowd had witnessed some world-class progressive metal but let it be said that Between the Buried and Me (BTBAM) are in a league of their own, and their performance validated this claim in every way.
As the sample played and BTBAM appeared on stage, the first few notes of ‘Goodbye To Everything’ soared through the PA and Tommy began his smooth, captivating crooning. The crowd had only a moment to bask in the rich tapestry of the intro before ‘Astral Body’ as Tommy left the keyboard to start screaming in their faces – such bucking and turning provides a good representation of the whole set.
Delivering Parallax II: Future Sequence in its entirety and without stopping to even address the crowd, BTBAM did not so much replicate the album as make it come alive. Shifting through each of their highly diverse songs, the band take listeners on a galactic journey that ebbs and flows, leaving the audience so wholly fixated upon the stage – so in awe of the level of musicianship – that an hour and a half slips by in a moment. It’s not just that BTBAM are superior musicians to so many other bands. The group’s stage presence demonstrates not only maximum composure, but genuine, deep-seeded passion for the music they play. What distinguishes this band from others is that, while most bands come out with guns blazing and fail to sustain their energy throughout their entire sets, BTBAM seem to time their run, building hype and layering intensity right through the set until the final climax arrives.
As the spatial voyage deepened, BTBAM grew in intensity, with ‘Telos’ standing out for the level of ferocity blasting from the stage. Overall, the mix was clean and punchy, highlighting the delicate guitar moments before equally amplifying their heaviness. That said, there were times where the use of a delay effect on Tommy’s vocals was off-putting.
The peak of the night, though, came after the last gentle notes of the ‘Goodbye to Everything Reprise’ had faded and the band left the stage. Returning, guitarist Paul Waggoner spoke the first words of the night: “We’re going to play one more song for you. It’s called ‘White Walls’.”
The crowd erupted.
It was a perfect finale – the massive groove of the riff pulsed through the entire crowd and befittingly harkened back to the truly epic performance of Colors in its entirety that the band gave on a past tour – and then they were gone. Undoubtedly, it wont be long until BTBAM return with a new album and a new tour, giving those who missed out this time the chance to experience what is a truly awesome live spectacle.
For more on BTBAM, check out our interview with guitarist Paul Waggoner in the latest issue of HEAVY magazine here.
Photo Credit: Dave Bickerton