Positive Feedback Logo

Between the Buried and Me: The Silent Circus Remix/Remaster

08-06-2020 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 110

Between the Buried and Me

2020 marks the 20th anniversary of progressive / hardcore / metalcore / technical deathcore band Between the Buried and Me, and Craft Recordings follows up on the excellent reissue of the band's first album with a remixed / remastered LP reissue of their sophomore effort, 2003's The Silent Circus. The myriad changes to the band's lineup had already begun with the sessions for this album, with Mark Castillo brought on to replace Will Goodyear on drums; other changes would take place over the next couple of years. By the time the band had recorded Alaska in 2005, they'd reached the current lineup that features founding members guitarist Paul Waggoner and vocalist Tommy Rogers, along with Dusty Waring on guitar, Dan Briggs on bass, keys, and vocals, and Blake Richardson on drums; this lineup has held firm since 2005. BTBAM has morphed over a couple of decades into more of a prog metal ensemble; and while only a few songs from The Silent Circus still find their way into the band's setlist, it's nonetheless instructive to take a listen to where they once were, and how that's impacted the band that they've become. As I mentioned in my recent PF review (HERE) of the reissue of BTBAM's eponymous first album, the band was a favorite of local Atlanta college radio early on, regularly getting extensive airplay on WREK and Album 88.

When the first album got BTBAM noticed by Chicago label Victory Records, they were signed to an exclusive contract, and the label took the reins in preparation for the follow-up by booking time with producer Matthew Ellard (Morphine, Tanya Donnelly, Juliana Hatfield, Elliot Smith, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) at Boston's famous Q Division Studios. That second album, The Silent Circus, marks the only occasion in the band's discography where BTBAM's longtime producer Jamie King wasn't behind the console. Not to worry, though—he's on board here for the new remix / remaster, and the excellent work Jamie did with the tapes for Between the Buried and Me is clearly in abundance on this new set. The remix / remaster adds a much appreciated level of clarity and detail to the band's performance; as I sat listening to the LPs I was literally stunned by the reissue's impressive dynamics, and with the remarkable realism of the players and instruments in my stereo's re-creation of the band in the recording space. 

Between the Buried and Me

The Silent Circus covers a lot of ground stylistically, while managing to come across in a much more cohesive manner than BTBAM's first record—which was knocked by some of the critics as a shade unfocused. I actually prefer to look at the band's ability to navigate complex time signatures and seemingly disparate styles effortlessly and on the fly as the very hallmark of their creative diversity. Side one's opening track, "Lost Perfection," is a two part affair; the opening section, "Coulrophobia"—which, literally, means fear of clowns—opens with massive distortion that then transitions into a guitar figure that sounds not at all unlike a warning siren. Crunching guitars and newest member Mark Castillo's pounding staccato drums propel the tune at a dizzying pace to Tommy Rogers' growls—the song comes across as not so much about clowns, but more as clowns being a metaphor for the uninteresting people he's occupying his time with. In part two, "Anablephobia," however, the actual clowns arrive, brandishing knives and gasoline, and sheer mayhem ensues, with the song eventually fading into the same alarming guitar figure that introduced it. 

The following tune, "Camilla Rhodes" is clearly a metaphor for Tommy Rogers' take on how overtly hypersexualized our culture has become. Using the crazed creativity of whack director David Lynch's totally bonkers film Mulholland Drive; Camilla Rhodes is the movie's multi-layered, multiple-personality central character, who also might happen to be any of several different actors who appear in the film—who really knows? Rogers' lyrics are essentially a travelogue of her appearances and interaction with the other characters on screen, and how her unrestrained sexuality haunts us afterward: "This orgasm on the screen...has molded our American dream." Side two opens with one of BTBAM's most enduring tunes and the album's first single, "Mordecai," which has regularly served as an encore in their live shows. "Mordecai" is maybe the heaviest, most propulsively dynamic song on the entire album, but midway through, it transitions to a more mellow tone, with Paul Waggoner delivering a jazzy, almost Wes Montgomery-inspired guitar solo, accompanied by clean vocals from Rogers. The finish is hardcore, and the alternating, crushing chords at the finale are simply breathtaking. It then transitions to the most mellow section of the album; "Mordecai" segues into "Reaction," which is a kind of ambient piece that bridges to the next tune, "Shevanel Take 2," which revisits the cleanly sung closing song from the first album. 

 The first side of the second LP opens with "Ad A Dglgmut," which is Tommy Rogers' inspired and sarcastic response to claims that his songs are indecipherable and essentially just noise. The title comes from a garbled text message Rogers received, and the tune begins with an extended, totally incoherent wordless death growl that eventually transitions into his lyrics: "I wish all hours were so relaxing...thinking of the next noise...making up the next noise...scream, loud, loud, loud, loud, loud...static intoxication." Midway through, the frenetic pace of pounding drums and screaming guitars suddenly slows; Paul Waggoner then plays an exceptionally lyrical guitar solo, as Rogers cleanly sings "It all makes sense...we're capable of beauty." The tempo then abruptly returns to its previously tumultuous pace, with Rogers growling ecstatically into the conclusion. Our chaotic lives are filled with many instances of beauty and ugliness, and the chaos applies to each often in equal measure: the whole Jungian "duality of man" thing. When you hear comments about BTBAM being a "thinking man's band," this is what they're all talking about! This track has also remained a concert favorite for the band's fans.

Side four opens with "Aesthetic," which is BTBAM's version of death metal at its very best; crushing dual guitars and Castillo's punishing drum beats—his drumming seems so note-perfect throughout this record, that it really makes one wonder why he eventually ended up not being a good fit with the band. As the song closes, Rogers screams "Music: the greatest wealth...we must play on." Indeed. The album closes—or does it (?) with "The Need for Repetition," which is a scathing, hardcore rebuke of pedophiles and child molesters. The song ends at around the six minute mark, then is followed by about five minutes of silence—I'm thinking, WTF—when suddenly, "The Man Land" comes crushing in, but it's actually kind of a parody piece, with members of the band laughing in the background, and Tommy Rogers' amusing send-up of his vocal style taking the forefront. Hey, at least these guys have a sense of humor! 

The two-LP set appears to be pressed on 140 gram vinyl (?), though it feels slightly heavier to me; yeah, it's not 180 gram vinyl, but I'm not a firm believer that the additional thickness of 180 gram vinyl really adds anything sonically superior to conventional, well-pressed LPs. The LPs from Craft Recordings were perfectly flat, with no surface blemishes of any kind, and the vinyl was exceptionally quiet during playback; Craft Recordings is well on their way to becoming the Gold Standard in vinyl reissues. The total timing of  The Silent Circus clocks in at just a shade over 53 minutes, so that works out to roughly 13 minutes per side for the double LP. While squeezing the entire album onto one LP would have been possible, that approach definitely would harm the geometry of the LP grooves; Craft's approach is the correct one, and the playback quality of the LP speaks volumes for their expertise in LP reissues.

You can purchase the 2-LP black vinyl release from Craft Recordings HERE; as with BTBAM's eponymous first album (also recently reissued), this set was also made available for pre-order on limited availability colored vinyl. At the point when I received my review copy in late July, those purple marbled vinyl sets were already completely sold out, but there's probably a decent chance you might be able to snag one from your local independent record store. And the remixed / remastered reissue is available digitally on most streaming services; in addition to my time spent with the excellent LPs, I also listened extensively to the 16/44.1 digital stream on my home system via Qobuz, and the sound was superlative. Although the band has moved on from this point of their career, BTBAM's The Silent Circus is a noteworthy document in the band's catalog, and the reissue from Craft Recordings is very highly recommended! Many thanks to Jacob Mask from Chummy Press!

Between the Buried and Me: The Silent Circus

Craft Recordings, 2-LP set, also available in limited edition purple marbled vinyl.