Let's talk about Between the Buried and Me's "Coma Ecliptic": Part One

   Here we are again. I'll be upfront and say I'm not 100% sure whether I like this album or not yet, which is partially why I'm writing this. It feels like an inevitable thing that BTBAM (no, I'm not going to CamelCaps that) is going to keep releasing somewhat unique metal concept albums until the end of their career, so I'm not shocked by the ambition, and few of the songs on Coma Ecliptic have really bit into me. As far as my past tastes with BTBAM go, Parallax I is my favorite work by them, but I loved The Great Misdirect (bite me) as well and really like Parallax II and most of Colors. I tend to view each song on its own, as for all of the hype around BTBAM's “album-length songs” they really tend to be more like a collection 6-to-10 minute pieces with transitions added between them. They do consider pacing between songs, but as the songs are as lengthy as they are, they’re mostly self-contained unlike Periphery’s Juggernaut (which I’ve also reviewed on this blog and will be referencing a few times). I’d compare my approach to listening to BTBAM to watching episodes of a serialized TV show, rather than watching one movie (which, musically, would be like a symphony or genuine album-length song) or watching a sitcom (like a typical “motley collection of songs” album).

   Before I get into the meat, I'll just talk a little about the basic stuff and the media response. Coma Ecliptic is somewhat similar to the last two songs ("Melting City" and "Silent Flight Parliament") of Parallax II in terms of tone and arrangement, and does have more of a rock opera vibe; the jokey genre-switch sections present in a lot of their previous music are toned down and less segmented here, and there are several sincere classic prog rock sections too. It’s a concept album about a dude who purposefully enters a coma to experience his "past lives", which sure is a concept for an album, I guess. I'm not going to puzzle through the story or anything, 1) because I don't have a lyrics booklet and 2) it's a bunch of prog shit, who cares? That seems overly dismissive but really, BTBAM are very abstract and enigmatic about even their most explicit subject matter (excluding "The Need for Repetition", haha) so it's really pointless for me to try to discuss anything but the most surface level of narrative. People are making a point of the fact that this record has more clean vocals than past releases but to me, it's not a very drastic shift from Parallax II. Certainly there's more classic rock and prog influence in the parts (and a lot more organ). I’ll be covering the first 6 pieces in this post.

Track 1 – "Node"

   They certainly know how to set the stage for an album, though. Every one since Colors has had a lovely little intro and it's pretty necessary for the grandiosity BTBAM goes for in their composition: none of their big intros would sound as big without first establishing a baseline. I think this one is a little weak and foreshadows some of the issues I have with the album, though. It's very, very segmented with its ABCAC order, and I don't think they really flow together at all: the B section (0:49) especially is a little fumbled as it's dissimilar to the A section in meter, complexity, instrumentation, and tone, and thus the transition doesn’t flow well. It's in 25/8 time, which already is pretty arbitrary by BTBAM standards, and while it does return later in the album I almost just wish they had picked something... better? Or at least less bluntly odd-time. "Goodbye to Everything" has considerable complexity for an opening track too, but there they don't change too many elements at once so it flows a lot better. The vocals in "Node" are really good, though. I've always liked Tommy (the vocalist)'s contributions and they're consistently good on this album.

   After that, “Node” bursts into BTBAM fanfare at 2:42, even more grand and cheeky than ever. I really appreciate that Blake (the drummer) didn't play those orchestral snare parts on a drumset snare as a lot of drummers seem to do, though they do sound quite programmed – I'm not sure, but they have definitely used programmed percussion parts before, so I wouldn't be surprised. Not much else to say about this, the lead guitars are good. The track ends with a little soft piano which I really like. It's a good transition, it doesn't go on too long, it's well chosen. That's about that. Let's get into the first really meaty track, "The Coma Machine".

Track 2 – "The Coma Machine"

   Hmm. Hmmmmmm. This song has many of the hallmarks of a typical BTBAM song but if I'm being honest, it also has a lot of things that just don't work for me. A pretty common complaint I see about BTBAM is that they sound like a bunch of different sections with little external repetition stapled together with stilted transitions. Generally, I think their transitions flow well enough, and the sections have enough development within them to where I'm not concerned that they don't return. It's worth noting as well that their songwriting tendencies are quite different from Periphery's – BTBAM has their own logic to their song structures, adopting a somewhat programmatic nature, so I'm not as concerned with their songwriting efficiency as I was with Periphery's because Periphery stuck so rigidly to pop structure that one simply could not assume they had the same musical goals as BTBAM. However: "The Coma Machine" sounds like a bunch of good sections stapled together haphazardly. I like the main idea (0:23, etc.), and the section starting at 1:19 but the pacing is iffy and there are several flubbed transitions.

   Let's examine those issues. The pacing of the first 3 or so minutes is just bizarre. By the time the main idea has been firmly established around 0:52 we, the audience, are interested to see where it goes next. We've been riding the very grandiose, dramatic train for about minutes since the fanfare of "Node", but BTBAM introduce the first opposing idea at 1:02 (which is based on the soft piano at the end of “Node”), don't develop it, and then do a transitory figure and stop the train entirely. In the first three minutes?? It feels both premature and repetitive since we immediately go into some vocal material that sounds a lot like the beginning of "Node" and seems like we’re just sort of restarting the album. This could have worked, but the content of 0:00 to 1:16 is just not enough of a peak for the valley of 1:19 to feel natural. The reason this doesn't work and the sudden shift at 1:51 does is quite simple; the former is obviously the end of "section one" of the song as there's quite a bit of separation between it and 1:19 but it’s two very different ideas and doesn’t feel like the previous section was done, and the latter at 1:51 is simply a new outfit for the idea preceding it – it's still very identifiably the same motif.

   After that, "The Coma Machine" starts flowing a bit better as BTBAM use a typical structure of theirs: a simple ABAB section alternating between a metal riff and (usually) a melodic vocal idea. You can see this all over their music; this section (3:30) in Specular Reflection, this section (2:16) in Sun of Nothing, this section (5:26) in Swim to the Moon, and so on. It's certainly functional though it's usually not very central to the song's main material, and thus isn't very interesting to talk about. I really like the B idea (2:16) though, featuring a great drum groove from Blake utilizing the two "stack" cymbals in his setup, and nicely futuristic vocals from Tommy. He uses that vocal treatment a fair bit on this album and Parallax II and it works very well with his voice. Plus the little cadence (meaning the end of a phrase or section) moment at 0:29 is a nice little bauble of an atypical sound for BTBAM.

   However, the part at 3:13 doesn’t work for me. The song transitions from a cheeky, eccentric section directly to an extremely serious, dramatic part that undermines both sections, and the drama part sounds pretty stock for BTBAM, even encroaching on Dream Theater territory. It sounds like this part was just crammed in here without thought – it doesn’t flow, IMO, and in a band with as diverse concepts and nontraditional structures as this, transitions keeping a good flow through the parts for the listener is paramount. I do like the transition out of it back into the main idea, though.

   After the next recital of the main idea, we go straight into another section at 4:13, and again I don’t think these parts should be right next to each other like they are. This section is in an odd meter of 13/8 with a subdivision of 2-2-3-3-3, and really comes across like an absurdly blunt odd-time part. There’s no subtlety to it and it sound very arbitrary as a result; usually I think BTBAM are good about disguising their really plainly weird-metered stuff like the 19/16 part in “Telos” (1:24) but this album has quite a few parts like this that just sound too on-the-nose.

   Yet the section immediately following it at 4:23 immediately shows how to fix that problem by obfuscating the rhythm (no mirrors, though) behind several other parts as a rhythmic backbone and placing it in an interesting harmonic context. This section is one of my favorites from the whole album because it actually connects with me in a non-br00tal, emotional way: the whole thing is drenched in electric guitar sustain, just like my favorite parts of “Augment of Rebirth” (8:18) – undeniably my favorite BTBAM song and one that will come up again in these reviews; the two vocal ideas have a lot of emotional weight to them, especially the octaved “Oblivion” part; the two little guitar solo breaks are great and sound meaningful, and the whole thing just seems very well-considered. Ahhhh.

   Unfortunately, the immediate next part doesn’t keep the flow up in my opinion. One contributing factor is that the tempo slows down very noticeably (for me, at least) at 4:58 and really sucks some life out of the piece because we just came from a rhythmically complex, somewhat fast part, and both reducing the complexity and slowing the tempo down majorly affects our perception of “flow” (I know I’m using that word a lot, but it’s a very intuitive word for the audience’s mental investment and feelings as we listen through a piece of music). Other than that, I find this section mostly unremarkable, and it does at least turn into the part from 2:29.

   This next transition I actually like as a typical “fakeout ending” for a few reasons: 1) based on our memory of the first time this material appeared, we expect the song to continue, so it’s not just a surprising moment by way of disrupting the energy of the song, 2) this particular part isn’t as cheeky as the full chorus it was originally attached to, so the mood of it and 5:25 aren’t as dissonant, and 3) based on the sincerity of the section at 4:23, the audience is (or at least, I am) ready to give the song more dramatic leeway as it feels much more earned.

   Anyways, they repeat the dramatic guitar lead several times and add some fine vocal embellishments and development. This goes back into the main idea once more, which reverts to the big section from the very beginning of this song. It all works fine, and I discussed the main idea already, so let’s get into the next song.

Track 3 – "Dim Ignition"

    An interesting idea. I can’t say I’ve heard anything like this from BTBAM before, so obviously it’s nice to hear them continue to do new sounds. This is quite similar in construction to Periphery’s “The Event” which I already discussed in that review, but “Ignition” is much better executed for several reasons.

   Firstly, the transitions between it and the surrounding tracks are actually metered and flow well, which helps it not sound like an afterthought the way “The Event” does with its essentially empty space surrounding it. Secondly, depth: “The Event” has one concept that all the instruments play four times and that’s… it. I know there’s some guitar swelling too, but that’s very much not the focus of that song. “Ignition” has several different concepts: the obvious chordal implications of the sci-fi synth at 0:15, the electronic percussion motives, the synth loop over the whole track (which actually isn’t a 3/16 superimposition like I thought originally. Lame, guys!), and lyrics to give it some story worth as well. Thirdly, while “The Event” is just a straight crescendo the whole time – increasing in energy – a graph of the intensity of “Ignition” is not just a straight line.

   Overall, this track lays some good work in for the “Famine Wolf”, develops a tonality, and doesn't feel like a tossed-off demo track. Plus it has an honest-to-god metric modulation at the end, where the dotted eighth note turns into the eighth note of “Famine”! Metric modulations are my jam!! Also, just to point it out, the echoing vocals at the end seem to alternate between saying “dim ignition” and “dim remission”.

Track 4 – "Famine Wolf"

    Uggghhhh godddddd. I don’t want to spoil this track right off the bat so let’s talk about all the great stuff in the first three minutes (which will probably take a couple paragraphs – there’s a lot!). The introductory guitar part sounds plain cool and fits the title well too, the prosody and evocativity of “Famine Wolf” as a phrase is amazing. At this point in my digestion of the album I think one of the most prevalent ideas is the use of chromaticism about the 5th scale degree (warning: Heady Music Theory ahead), basically meaning BTBAM uses a lot of diminished and augmented-type chords (mostly a lot of the minor 6th scale degree). This is heavily established in the main idea of “The Coma Machine” which is a I - I+ - vi6 - I+ loop, appears again in the main synth/vocal idea of “Dim Ignition” which uses i, , and VI6, and is used again here as a I+ - i loop with ornamentation for the main riff (technically the full chords are first inversion Bb mM7 and A M7 but the C# as tonic is unmistakeable). It pops up a fair bit in the album so I’ll point it out as it comes.

   The guitar tapping part starting at 0:21 really struck me as well. It’s very reminiscent of your Jarzombek 12-tone lines (ugh, more heady music theory stuff – not gonna analyze that one) but I am unequivocally for more people taking ideas from his work! I love the verse guitar parts (0:41) also. Those syncopated scare chords in the higher guitar line are a perfect fit for the mood they’ve built up, and the lower guitar line has some interesting chords within its 16th note, uh, chuggies. The “chorus” (1:06) is super interesting too, the vocals echo 4:40 of “The Coma Machine” in contour and the whole thing is a very well-built loop.

   After repeating those, we go into the B section at 1:54 which features overdriven bass guitar!! I love bands that surprise you with accompanying sounds you may not have expected: this section certainly could have been just normal chug guitar and default bass sound, but the overdriven bass and super waaah-y organ sound further spice up an already spicy guitar line (plus this bass sound comes back later on the album). I have to say it reminds me a bit of a section of “Fossil Genera” (6:09), but that obviously has no fuzz bass or organ. I’d say this part is decent but not super unique for BTBAM so we’ll fast forward to the severing and reprise of the chorus at 2:49.

   Here, the (very oddly timed, but not arbitrary-feeling) chorus gets even more dense and inscrutable as Blake superimposes half notes and then dotted quarter notes over it. It’s unfortunate that the chorus doesn’t really get any more development than that but I like listening to it, so I don’t mind that. After this, though, I think “Famine” becomes much less cohesive. The secondary chorus-sounding part at 3:12 sounds just kind of lame to me and the extremely heavy emphasis on the 3-2-2-2 pattern in the drums and guitar makes it sound kind of lifeless. Plus, it only repeats once and doesn’t come up ever again. Anyways, the transition to the next part at 3:40 works, and again references the vocals at 4:40 of “The Coma Machine” in their timbre.

   Interestingly, 3:44 reverses the chordal logic of the first riff in this song and extends it, meaning the top voice starts on the 5th scale degree and works its way up past the octave, directly referencing “Dim Ignition” and “The Coma Machine” again in the process. The little falsetto vocal thing here is pretty campy, but isn’t supported by the riff, so it’s just kind of a neat little bauble. This ends the first uninterrupted section of the song and moves into a synth-driven shuffle that continues the synth feel of “Dim Ignition” and reminds me of “Telos” (3:16) in its construction. Obviously the mood here is different, but the way BTBAM punctuate the section at 5:04 just needs a bigger build to it than they give us. “Telos” spends three and a half minutes building up its enormous climax, and while “Famine” doesn’t serve as the turning point for the entire album, their smooth jazz break at 5:09 would have been a lot more effective and funny if there had been a little more build to its anticlimax. I know I was angry at Periphery for jazz pranks but BTBAM is an unmistakably sillier band (evidenced by the vibraslap at 4:35 and, more noticeably, Tommy’s narration in the shuffle) and I already discussed this kind of thing in my review of Juggernaut: Alpha.

   The jazz; it’s good. The section following it (5:25) is really nice and creepy and uses another typical ABAB structure for BTBAM; this one being the alternation of an unsettling novelty section with a big, dramatic part. The most obvious example is 6:22 in “Augment of Rebirth” (see??). The final part is a very fanfare-sounding thing that just sort of comes in to end the track and doesn’t seem to be much related to the rest. That’s mainly my problem with this track: everything after 3:12 feels much looser than the really tight first three minutes. Most BTBAM songs reprise their chorus or their first/main idea at the end of the track (hey, I said they were “somewhat programmatic”, wink wink), and while this could be construed as a little hacky, it at least makes me feel like they care about the listener’s perception of each piece. Without that “wrapper” around the songs they could easily be just a bunch of loose threads leading to nowhere, and that’s kind of what “Famine” sounds like to me. And it feels even more like that when it’s immediately followed by…

Track 5 – "King Redeem / Queen Serene"

   ...which I’ll refer to as “KRQS” for brevity. I really, really appreciate this song. The first idea seems like the kind of thing you might hear a band do for less than a minute as an acoustic intro, but BTBAM actually respect this idea and build up a solid section of music in these first two minutes. The most impressive part of this whole song to me is that it has about the same number of sections as their typical songs but it feels much more cohesive than something like “Famine Wolf” because the ‘weird metal parts’ are all sandwiched between material that’s exposed here in this first section. Also, the song is much more continuous and less segmented than “The Coma Machine” or “Famine Wolf” in that almost every transition keeps the energy level up between material and doesn’t leave much space for the listener to compartmentalize so it naturally sounds like it flows better. A huge part of what makes BTBAM songs sound like more than a bunch of loose threads is their continuous energy – if you keep the listener’s interest, they tend to assume continuity, and the opposite is also true (this is based purely on my own experience but hopefully it’s an intuitive concept).

    Blake’s wind chime usage continues to be on point (0:28) – this isn’t as ethereal as it was in “Viridian” but they’re obviously different moments anyways. The two antecedent parts at 1:28 and 1:48 are important, I’ll talk about them in a bit. We get a big exposition of one of the primary parts for this song at 1:58, and this one doesn’t feel as arbitrary as the other odd-time ones to me (this being in 13/8). I think that’s partially because the simplicity of the exposition fits with the simplicity of the intro to this song, whereas the odd patterns in “The Coma Machine” and “Famine Wolf” are nestled between parts with more depth and complexity. Also relevant: this is actually the same rhythm from “The Coma Machine”. That’s cool, sure, but as far as I can tell there’s not any other acknowledgement of that – there might be a lyrical one, though. Otherwise it’s just kind of there.

    At 2:10 the “main part” of the song starts and, as I mentioned, continues unabated for the next four minutes and fourteen seconds. I like the first riff well enough, it dances around the tonic nicely. Then we hear the evolved version of the aforementioned “primary part” at 2:34 and it does sound a little awkward in this heavier version to me – the drums are what I would kindly refer to as a “Portnoy part” in that they are overly literal with their interpretation of the guitar part. However, this is immediately followed by a much more interesting drum part at 2:44, where BTBAM completely overload the listener with complexity of material – and I like it. “KRQS” so far has been relatively restrained in its exposition of material so this section offers a nice counter to that, and the density of the riffs seems well-considered and intentional. I especially like their use of the G C B F# motif poking through the cracks. Great use of triplets to transition into the chorus, and that chorus is nice. A little manic, a little campy, it works. A lot of this song just works for me so I’m going to try not to drag on with saying that repetitively.

    The really interesting part about this song is the dramatic transformation of the two antecedent intro parts from 1:28 to 1:58 into the emotionally charged “verse parts” of the song from 3:27 to 3:48 and 4:07 to 4:30. The second of those serves as a transition back into the idea that kicked off the main section which… well, it doesn’t change, but Blake plays around with the beats and makes it sound like it does get some development. That’s pretty par for the course with BTBAM. Then we segue into the “bridge” – really, this song is easiest to understand as a heavily decorated “intro > verse > chorus > verse > chorus > bridge > chorus > outro” structure – where some cool ideas come in.

    First off, I’m not sure if this is how they got to it but the core rhythm at 4:30 is a 3-3-3-3-3-3-2-2 pattern which, reversed, is pretty similar to the 13/8 rhythm (2-2-3-3-3) from “The Coma Machine”. Anyways, they build a very competent little “instrumental” break here (though there are bizarre vocals too) with an excellent drum break by Blake at 5:23. I love all of this: the fun piano interruptions in the B idea, the esoteric vocal lines, the bass slides (!) at 5:32, plus after all that complexity I have no problem with just restating that 22333 part at 5:51, especially with another cool vocal treatment behind it. One thing I think more “progressive” bands really need to take note of is how BTBAM rarely let the seriosity and drama of their music grow out of check and know that they can let some of the air out with plainly fun sections like these – and and and they understand how to move between the two and when it’s appropriate.

    “KRQS” ends with one more chorus and a reprisal of the acoustic idea from the beginning of the song, setting the stage for the next quite well. This is one of my early favorites from the album for how well it flows between ideas and based on the thoughtfulness of its execution, and unfortunately we won’t get to my next favorite until Part 2 of this review, but let’s just move on and talk about a more… perplexing song.

Track 6 – "Turn on the Darkness"

   Still not sure whether the emphasis is “Turn On the Darkness”, in which case: eugh; or “Turn on the Darkness” which might be it given the lyric “We turn our backs on ourselves”. Also, I ended up transcribing the intro note-for-note, condensing the guitar parts into the piano. A-ny-ways, this is going to be another especially lengthy section as I’m essentially covering three unrelated songs, so let’s dive in with the promising first two and a half minutes:

   I love the intro. It’s well-considered, it has great vocals and interesting partwriting, and it’s very unique tonally. Coming from the soft, wistful ending of “KRQS”, this has the same instrumentation (piano and acoustic guitars) which eases the transition between the two very different moods. There’s a lot of space here as well, with good use of ambient sounds (the alien noise around 0:33 and the repeated bowed gong (or perhaps drumset cymbal) behind the vocals), which helps establish a low point of intensity for the rest of the song to sound more intense via contrast. The vocals are one of the best “normal” performances from Tommy on the whole album, in my opinion, using great portamento and control of timbre. Also, it sounds like the two vocal lines at 1:10 were double-tracked with “normal” voice and whispering? Regardless, it sounds great. The piano part is also really unique for being (almost) entirely long notes in the extreme low register of the piano. That note at 0:30 and 1:04 is A0, which is the absolute lowest note on most 88-key keyboards. Finally, most of this intro is in the Locrian mode. I’m not going to explain that either (heady music theory) but it’s very rare to hear and contributes immensely to the vibe here – they also use a Freygish scale alteration at 0:22 and 0:56 which introduces the audience to that tonality for its use in the “main song”. I think it’s a very successful intro, regardless.

   The riff at 1:23 is very cool. With the piano and particular mode, this section sounds a bit dance-y, which is one of the only things connecting parts one and two of this song. I dig the added layers at 1:48. I also like the keyboard sound in the background, which I’ve never learned the specific name of but will always be “that Opeth one” (0:48) to me (Periphery use it in the intro to “The Scourge” as well). The chorus of this part comes at 2:14 with a gnarly and very much not the focus guitar call (that becomes part of the A riff of part two) followed by another funky-sounding guitar lead response. It’s all very promising stuff for a BTBAM piece, but then we get to 2:30 and the song just switches into part two. Now, that specific transition isn’t awful but since I’ve listened to it more than once it sticks out because the two cool sections they just showed us don’t come back again in this damn song.

   So, part two, I’ll say, runs from 2:30 to 4:18. This is just an ABCABC form with some interesting decoration, really, but it doesn’t appear to draw from part one much (aside from the chorus I just mentioned above). The A idea is a perfectly fine BTBAM idea but I find the vocals a bit much, actually. This section and the chorus of “Famine Wolf” both sound like they’re just absurdly dense and fatiguing, mix-wise, and I don’t think it really works here – especially as it overshadows the clear chorus we just passed by. This is connected by an interesting guitar timbre run to the B section which, speaking of “Famine Wolf”, is based on the 9/8 3-2-2-2 pattern from that song. However it’s so obscured that I’m not concerned with it being just a half-hearted reuse of ideas: this kind of thing works best IMO when it’s either quite subtle or quite obvious. We have another connective dueling guitar run (which seems like it’s be really fun to see live) going into the C idea which is the “dance-y” sounding section I referred to above. This part, again, has a very clear and catchy vocal melody and is clearly which makes it sound chorus-like to me but it stays within part two entirely and is a bit less ripe for development than the chorus of part one. After its exposition, the ABC pattern repeats with minimal alteration and we go into part three which is where this song really starts to fall apart to me.

   This first thing at 4:18 is a really good example of what I mean by a “absurdly blunt odd-time rhythm”. Every instrument is just hammering home that accent pattern with little subtlety and frankly, it sounds lame. I’d also categorize this as a half-hearted reuse of ideas as it doesn’t add anything to this 3222 motif and is the opposite of subtle. At least it gets out of the way quickly, and takes us into a nice-enough acoustic guitar riff that uses a noticeable major 2nd in it, which is the same interval used in the intro at 0:31. Subtlety! This section obviously has a chill guitar solo over it which is fine. It doesn’t grab me or anything. Anyways, we get to 5:12. The solo has ended. We, the audience, are intrigued because the song is sitting in this chord and we’re wondering what comes next. Blake does a really energetic fill going into the next measure, there’s a guitar dive, aaaannnd fuck I hate this part. It makes me cringe. It changes the tone immediately from “sincere chill” to “corny half-hoedown”. There’s a serious buildup, but not dramatic enough to make the tone change funny, and what’s worse is that I can’t tell if they were going for a joke here. The vocals are just… lame. The “question” part of the phrase stays entirely within the major chord (“safe” notes), and the lyrics are unbelievably annoying; they’re a little mysterious, which doesn’t fit the tone of the music at all, but they’re also alternately “corny, cliche words delivered to the protagonist”, “weird prog metal shit”, and “weird prog metal faux-philosophical shit”. I mean, just,

Welcome to our journey

Please walk with me, I’ll put your mind at ease

Our breath disrupts their flames

We walk through their walls; life exists apart from this

And they don’t even rhyme well!! I mean, these aren’t perfect lyrics either (and they don’t rhyme) but they have decent prosody, they’re not the obvious focus of the section, their delivery makes sense given the content, and they don’t sound like first draft dialogue from Prometheus. Continuing from my being unsure whether this section is a joke or not, the guitar and vocal effects have me think so but they’re not so corny as to be unmistakeable. The biggest anchor to sincerity here is the drums, which are playing just as if nothing strange were going on, and grow louder the second time as if we are supposed to be interested by the increasing perplexity of this section. There seems to even be an attempt to make the section more interesting through sincere tone by the synth and bass additions the second time through, but that part feels incredibly lazy too, and definitely not humorous. This section just ruins the song for me.

    Which is really disappointing because 6:09 to 6:25 is an amazing transition! The lyrics are more whatever stuff but the vocal part is really striking and the delivery is nice. This is actually one of my favorite moments on the album for how vulnerable it sounds, and how well it integrates (what sounds like) a narrative beat into the music. The vocal harmonies are really fun to sing too; they connect with me, a shame since the previous section is Geneva Convention-level ear torture. This goes into another fine riff that serves as the climax of part three, and then we finally get some interconnection between the section with a heavy version of the intro. It’s very well-done and fits perfectly, but this track is just so segmented to me that it can’t “bring it home”. I do appreciate the little bonus of the “orchestral” ending being an obvious restatement of the riff at 1:23 though.

    So that’s the first half of the album. A mixed bag, but there’s still genuinely good stuff in there. Here's part two.