For years now, Between The Buried And Me has been altering minds and opening eyes with their impressively chaotic and mathematic – and sometimes melodic – brand of progressive metal. Taking the genre to whole new heights with albums like Alaska, Colors, and of course, their just-released Coma Ecliptic, BTBAM is proving time and time again that they are a once in a lifetime act who, might just actually take a whole lifetime to fully understand.
So, in an attempt to embrace what really represents BTBAM and their recent full-fledged knack for storytelling (e.g. The Parallax and Coma Ecliptic), we asked bassist Dan Briggs to list his 10 favorite concept albums of all time.
While some of the names below may come as no surprise, others might shock you and, in the end, help you understand where some of BTBAM’s influences stem from.
Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
This is the album that sent me down a long road of exploration when I was in high school and is the beginning of my love for progressive rock. It’s the definitive work by a band that saved prog and brought it to a whole new generation. When I was in college, I could press play and play along note to note for the whole record. My friends and I all had the song book with tons of notes we made in it, phrasings (5,5,6 for the way a certain 4/4 bar was felt, etc)… it changed me and taught me so much.
Pink Floyd – The Wall
I grew up with a mom who was always playing musicals around the house. I played in a handful of musicals in high school too, so I feel like the theater is in my blood. That said, this album is pure theater. When you put it on it’s a whole other level of listening experience; it really takes you somewhere very few records can. You get lost in the segues between tracks, you stop thinking in terms of song and it feels more like acts with the album flips serving as an intermission – just phenomenal story telling and song writing.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Brilliant for a completely different reason than The Wall; it’s an exercise in repeated passages and building off them and morphing them in different ways relative to the song you’re listening to. Timeless obviously doesn’t even begin to describe the album, and everyone has said everything there is to be said about it, but it truly is one of the most amazing and still forward thinking works of art all these years later.
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
A complex album and a turning point in the band since it was the last with Peter Gabriel, but to me, it has so many layers not only to the story but the music. It’s an album I can put on and constantly take something new away from. The way Peter could move in and out of characters was just remarkable. He had been doing it the whole time he was in Genesis, but on an album so story focused, it’s incredible to see a master at work. I love the sonic contributions [Brian] Eno had too. The freaky jams on the album clearly birthed out of improvisations are so good at settling really unsettling moods in the story. One of my favorite side A ends and side B beginnings as well (or sides B and C in regards to a double LP). After “The Chamber,” you really can’t imagine what’s coming and it really just socks you when you flip it over. All the strange characters Rael meets along the way, “The Colony of Slippermen,” just such a wild record.
Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
This album was really inspiring to me while writing the Coma record because when they did this album in the late 80′s, doing a concept record was NOT a cool thing to do. It was probably more looked at as suicide. Little did they know, they were creating their most well-known album. The fact that they believed in it so much, had such a great vision and just did it was inspiring when this album was clearly a turn in a new direction for them. I’ve always loved the subject matter for the story too: the idea of a deranged doctor brainwashing a junkie and turning him into a political assassin. The story of a deranged doctor actually appears a lot on these albums, in Scenes From A Memory, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and on our Coma record. Which, I don’t know if Tommy did as a nod, but it definitely made me smile when I read the lyrics to “The Ectopic Stroll.” Also with this album, how can you resist not pumping your first and singing along with “Revolution Calling”??
Cursive – The Ugly Organ
The Ugly Organ is an album with incredible story telling, recurring musical themes and an absolute monster ending. I got to see this performed earlier this year and it was very moving still. Just great music that easily transcended whatever indie rock genre was happening in 2003.
The Who – Quadrophenia
I have to admit that I was really late to The Who, like, I only really got into them in the last couple of years. I think with some groups the catalogs can be so daunting (Zappa for example) that you don’t know where to start. I was at my mom’s a few Christmases ago and "Doctor Jimmy” came on Pandora and I instantly made a mental note and knew I finally had my in. A huge influence on my mindset for our Coma record, this album has themes on it that are just crushing and pummel you with a whole different kind of intensity (“Love, Reign O'er Me”) and I adopted that thinking instead of writing mind-bending, insane musical passages.
Kevin Gilbert – The Shaming of the True
The Shaming of the True is an album by an incredible musical mind who wasn’t truly recognized before his untimely death. This was his swan song, finished after his passing. It’s a body of work that is kind of like a guy focused on songs and pop sensibility but written by a guy who was listening to Gentle Giant, Genesis, Yes and all the classics. It’s a great mix and “The City of the Sun” into “Suit Fugue” is on my list of favorite musical moments.
Tears For Fears – The Hurting
Talk about an ambitious and daring start for a band’s career: A concept record about primal scream therapy – which both main writers felt a connection to from their pasts. It’s an album with 80′s production, obviously synth driven, but some atypical song structures and the dark and emotional lyrical themes really come through. Everyone is familiar with “Mad World” but “Memories Fade,” “Watch Me Bleed” and “Start of the Breakdown” are equally as dark and crushing. The way “Pain” and “Hurting” reoccur and are capitalized and referenced throughout the lyrics is so powerful. Obviously it was a hugely successful album and they kind of veered from their art rock beginning, but this is as bold of a first statement as was ever made by a group.
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
One of the first conceptual rock albums and [Paul] McCartney’s influence to do Sgt. Pepper – which is often sited as the beginnings of progressive rock (before In the Court of the Crimson King). A daring blend of classical, pop and psychedelic sounds, Pet Sounds is a record his bandmates dogged on, the public didn’t understand, but over time Brian Wilson’s vision and brilliance in the studio was realized. This album and Smile are big influences to me.