Alaska is 10 years old!
01. All Bodies
03. Croakies and Boatshoes
04. Selkies: The Endless Obsession
05. Breathe In, Breathe Out
07. Backwards Marathon
08. Medicine Wheel
09. The Primer
11. Laser Speed
Band members can be painfully temporary – anyone who’s been in a band will attest to this – but there’s a difference between your high school garage band and a signed band with an ever expanding fanbase. This was a problem Between The Buried and Me faced when three fifths of their line-up left following the release of their second full length The Silent Circus and only frontman/keyboardist Tommy Rogers and lead guitarist Paul Waggoner remained. Anyone familiar with the band may scoff at the idea of this being worrisome due to the immense success that followed, but I remember being a bit anxious to see where they’d go from this significant line-up change.
When the band released the title track to the follow-up Alaska on their website, it didn’t take the Raleigh quintet long to eliminate any shred of fear. From the opening sweeps to the absolutely crushing final riff, they were just killing it – however, the clean, almost emo-sounding interludes present on earlier songs like “Mordecai” and “Ad a dglgmut” were absent. Of course, they hadn’t been in every song, and they had been polarizing in the past, but I was a big fan of them so I was hoping they’d find their way into other songs on the album.
My hopes were only half-justified; while there are certainly clean vocal parts and calmer areas of songs to enjoy, most of those come in a proggier flavour than before. Album opener “All Bodies” is a good example; you can’t help but think of Queen at times – but there’s little doubt about what song fast became a fan favourite. In a way you could say this song is BTBAM’s “Creep”, as they refused to play it live for a short time (Paul was supposedly quoted as saying he’d rather have his dick stepped on by cleats than play it again).
I’m speaking, of course, of “Selkies: The Endless Obsession” and its glorious, overly-covered-on-Youtube solo. I’ll admit that I spent hours upon hours perfecting that solo as a teenager (as well as the opening to “Alaska”) but I don’t blame Paul for wanting to get on with his life and play something from the four full-lengths and one EP that have followed. That being said, I wouldn’t mind hearing a ten-year birthday salute to it on a certain upcoming tour…say, in Southampton on the 16th?
To say that Alaska was an evolutionary step for the band is not only an understatement, but also a fairly redundant one. Every single album they’ve made has taken creative steps away from the previous one and while fans will keep debating the quality of each step till the end of time, it’s difficult not to respect a band willing to take risks with their sound on every record and maintain a genuinely progressive mindset toward their songwriting.
From a background of progressive deathcore/metalcore, adding more prog (and a little black metal in songs like “The Primer”) and, beyond Alaska, dropping a lot of core for experimentation and theatricality, Between The Buried and Me have created a fanbase loyal enough to follow them to the grave. I’ve been with them from the beginning and, if I have any say in the matter, I’ll stay till the very end.