Progressive NC metal band returns home; recreates ambitious album live

03/20/2014 1:04 PM

03/20/2014 1:05 PM

Playing an entire album live may not seem like a daunting task. But when that album is as dynamic, complex, and layered as North Carolina progressive metal outfit Between the Buried and Me’s “The Parallax II: The Future Sequence,” practice is imperative.

The band performed the 70-minute-plus album on tour last fall and will do so again at the Tremont Music Hall Sunday as a warm-up for the DVD it’s filming the next day.

The concept album – which incorporates brutal, grinding death metal, Pink Floydian psychedelics, and technical fretwork and harmonies that drive guitar geeks and prog-rock fans wild – features four 10-minute tracks and one that clocks in at 15.

“Our music is so mechanical, we try to play exactly like the record,” says bassist Dan Briggs, who flexes his improvisational muscles in the jazz fusion trio Trioscapes. “By the time we get on the road, I’ve been practicing for a month.”

That sort of methodical approach is nothing new to BTBAM (as it is frequently abbreviated), which played its “Colors” album on the road in 2007.

“By the end of that year, we were all pretty much over it. I don’t have that level of disdain for this material … yet,” he says, laughing. “We’ve gotten to where we are because we spent hours every day when we were younger practicing in our rooms, playing along with records or a metronome. I know especially when I was in college studying music, I developed a very stern practice routine. On tour, you can tell the first couple days if we’ve done our homework or not. If your hands are getting sore or you’re having brain farts. Within the five of us, we know.”

The Tremont show, which will feature about two hours of music, is somewhat of a homecoming. It last played the SouthEnd club, where it got its start in Charlotte, during its 2007 tour.

“Charlotte’s always felt like the home base,” says Briggs, who moved to Greensboro from Pennsylvania after joining the band eight years ago. Guitarist Paul Waggoner and singer Tommy Rogers grew up in Charlotte and Waggoner and his wife bought a house in Ballantyne last summer but currently reside in D.C.

“The Parallax II” was released in 2012, and the format was invigorating.

“ ‘Colors’ was musically conceptual, but not lyrically. This is the first time we’ve tried to tell a story. I think it opens it up more. There are so many emotions wrapped up within this story. A song like ‘Bloom’ allowed us to write this crazy side story. One of the characters is on a boat and drifting away. There’s a clan of jellyfish and the queen holds him captive.”

It may sound like comic book fodder to the uninitiated.

“Writing an off-the-wall song that was able to fit within the structure of this really dense story – to me writing like that opens up new doors and makes you write smarter. Everything is written off of everything else,” he says. “Most of my favorite records involve dense stories, whether it’s something more literal like ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ or ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘Pictures at an Exposition’ by classical composer Mussorgsky – music that’s directly telling a story.”

Briggs, who will record with Trioscapes in April, is anxious to repeat the experience.

“I think we’ll do another concept record, but it won’t be tied in with ‘The Parallax,’ ” he says. “Tommy is ready to move on to writing about something else.”

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