Better as one?
Between the Buried and Me aren’t necessarily strangers to sounds long and drawn out, yet considerably pleasant. With this last release, their new record label Sumerian Records threw somewhat of a curveball in the extensive soundscapes the band usually creates – by deciding to split the record into two parts. Those that had grown adjusted to being swept up in everything extra BtBaM does had to get used to the idea of a pause in the midst of chaotic prog enjoyment, and the air of a premature ending is looming throughout the “last” songs on the first installation of Automata, leading to this second one seeming somewhat disjointed as well.
For starters, Automata II is much shorter than its predecessor. Four songs at about a half an hour in runtime make it somewhat hard to get into the full groove of it. “The Proverbial Bellow” starts the record on an instrumental and theatrical note, making it clear to see that if Automata had stayed as one, this would’ve been the climax of the story. It’s the longest track between I and II and takes up nearly 40% of the second half, being 13 minutes of synthy grooves and a creepy chorus.
The next two tracks, “Glide” and “Voices of Trespass,” couldn’t really exist without the other one. “Glide” is somewhat like an intro, with a weird circus-soundtrack kind of vibe featuring accordions and piano. Its transition into “Voices of Trespass” recalls BtBaM’s usual jazz-like elements, though comparisons to Diablo Swing Orchestra make sense without being exactly on their level.
Automata II already felt incomplete as it is, but then “The Grid” goes even further to end the album patchily. Usually a finale track, particularly a BtBaM finale, is eventful and boisterous, but “The Grid” keeps a steady tempo without any outbursts of breakdowns or solos. It does, however, end the story arc of the full album’s concept (remember, it involves one’s innermost thoughts and dreams put on public display) on a positive note by not ending with some type of death. This also seems strange granted how BtBaM’s last couple of concept albums stayed with the negative, but the choice of a somewhat happy ending does match the more peaceful (or as peaceful as the band can get) instrumentation.
One can’t help but wonder if heard in its entirety at once with the first half, that Automata II might leave a different and more effective impression. It’s as if Automata I left listeners on a cliffhanger, but Automata II doesn’t do much to keep anyone from falling.