Perhaps it wasn’t such a great idea for Between The Buried And Me to release their latest album in two parts after all. You wouldn’t have gotten that impression from Automata’s first part earlier this year, which was as concise as prog-metal gets while still having the space to grow into typically enormous, sprawling movements, but if there were any signs that the second part would be almost certainly the weaker, it would be its release as an EP. And that in itself isn’t a bad thing, but for a band like Between The Buried And Me for whom so much of their work relies on making their narrative as fully-formed as possible, there’s something so throwaway about tacking on four tracks as a conclusion and being done with it.

 On its own though, Automata II definitely can’t be dismissed as throwaway, given there’s at least a good half-an-hour’s worth of material to round off this experiment. Getting into the actual music though, it’s fairly easy to see why this is a separate release, because of the four tracks here, two feel like a suitable continuation of the first part but after a significant dip, while the other two go off on a completely different tangent that really should have been explored more. If these were only ever demos or leftovers from the Automata session from the start, that probably would’ve benefited this EP on the whole, as it’s hard to see what they really contribute to the entire Automata project.

 Really, the closest it comes is in a handful of callbacks to other tracks; otherwise, The Proverbial Bellow and The Grid are left more as the typically enormous demonstrations of Between The Buried And Me’s technical savvy and little else. That technicality is certainly good to have, particularly for tracks like these that sprawl over ten minutes and take as many twists and turns as possible to remain interesting, but it’s a more open-ended approach that works nowhere near as well as Automata I’s more gripping diversity, and they simply feel like just another pair of huge, underdeveloped prog-metal tracks. As for Glide and Voice Of Trespass though, they couldn’t be more different and are easily the most entertaining works to come from this entire double project, the former being a short, jaunty waltz piece driven on accordion and piano, while the latter goes all Dog Fashion Disco in its blaring, fiery horns over an equally fierce tech-metal track that also throws more than a bit of Avatar into the already insane mix.

 It’s genuinely excellent stuff that really does come out of nowhere, which alone proves the point that Automata II is more of its own entity than anything else. As another handful of tracks, it’s not the greatest, but there’s definitely enough to like; as part of the overall project though, it really doesn’t work and could be left to the side with little to no difference. As it stands, Automata I could stand just fine as an independent album; Automata II would probably benefit more as the optional bonus material.

6/10

For fans of: Dream Theater, Animals As Leaders, The Contortionist
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Automata II’ by Between The Buried And Me is released on 13th July on Sumerian Records.

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