Walks Like Duck
All right, dig it. A week ago my man at Decibel sends out the mass email soliciting year-end lists. My longstanding opposition to year-end lists is a matter of public record, but my stance softens a lot when the list is genre-specific: I can understand a "ten best dance albums of the year" list a hell of a lot better than I can understanding trying to quantify how Young Jeezy's album compares to the Anonymous 4's treatment of Hildegard von Bingen.
But the other thing that gave me pause is that I'm not on a whole lot of people's promo lists, and while I buy more records than most people I know, there's still a whole lot of stuff I miss. If I were an OCD completist-collector type, I would go crazy thinking about the stuff I don't hear, but fortunately for me I know where the shut-off valve to my OCD is located. I know exactly where it's located, because I have to give it seven gentle but decisive taps before I can leave the house in the morning, and also turn it on and off three or four times. See? Everything's fine.
So I sent out my once-yearly begging-for-promotional-materials email, which makes me feel like a chump, and I also went down to the record store, because the only reason I even accept promos in the first place is that I'm not rich and I know I can't buy everything. At the store, I got distracted and wound up buying the new Kronos Quartet (incredible) and one of the Atheist reissues (haven't listened yet, but I think we all know how loud I'll be playing that one). And then I bought the one I'd heard so many good things about, but about which I was profoundly suspicious.
What, after all, should one expect from a band who've chosen to call themselves "Between the Buried and Me"? The stock answers badly-named 'core bands give are either sad or hilarious, I can't decide which: "But it's from a Raymond Carver story/Todd Solondz movie/Neil Gaiman book!" As though the source of a bad name suddenly would make it a good one or something. Still, one oughtn't judge a book by its cover, though I'm always gonna contend that you're less likely to read a book if it has shit smeared on it, which is what a bad band name amounts to.
But I got past it. The word on this album, Alaska, is that it's really, really good. Worst-case scenario, I'm out fourteen bucks. I'll live. So I brought it home.
Whoa whoa whoa dudes. You have got to me kidding me. This is magnificent stuff: proggy, power-metal-flecked metalcore with real melodies, shifting time-signatures, outright Opeth-bites and Michael Arnott twin-guitar jacks (you could also cite Thin Lizzy, but I dunno) that're as sweet as they are grin-inducing and just get better every time I hear them. Clever segues. Beautifully realized song development. The metalcore irritants are here, too - the bothersome barking vocals that I think are part of the Victory records standard contract, and the inane lyrics - but I'm not trying to have it all; if I wanted good lyrics, I'd listen to bands whose lyrics were comprehensible to the naked ear. What I want from a good metal album is — well, it's a long story, but it's pretty much exactly what I get from the huge, big-canvas, broad-palette, from-the-high-hills moon-shot that is Alaska, which'll be in my top three at the end of the year, easy, and whose closing number, "Laser Speed," is the neatest,
most clever, gently funniest and best damn trick I've heard all year. All this, and they claim North Carolina? As the Messiah said when they offered him seconds on cornbread: "Hell, yes."
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