Analog Adventures: Alaska

Between the Buried and Me



About the Artist

Between the Buried and Me take their name from the song Ghost Train by Counting Crows. This is the most mainstream aspect of the band, as their music jumps from genre to genre in the matter of moments. The band is led by Tommy Rogers on vocals and keys and Paul Waggoner on guitar. This duo is behind most of the songwriting and are the only two original members of the band remaining.

Their first two albums Between the Buried and Me and The Silent Circus saw praise for their experimental song composition, but both sound like a band finding its identity. A band has a lifetime to write their first album, about a year to write their second. This is typically the reason behind the infamous sophomore slump that many artists suffer. Between the Buried and Me avoid the sophomore slump but still surpass their efforts with Alaska.

The Record Itself

Alaska sets the tone immediately with the searing guitar intro to All Bodies. The song begins as a standard death metal affair in the style of Death, but transitions into the chorus with a surprising melody. The chorus ends with an arpeggiated keyboard simulating orchestral strings and brings it into another verse, this time with a frantic blast beat.

The structure of the song is a standard intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro, but the execution and variety between sections set this a part from standard popular music. The record is musical whiplash; One moment it’s death metal, the next it’s something akin to the Smashing Pumpkins, and then finally it’s smooth jazz. It is a journey to listen to from beginning to end. Songs such as Selkies: The Endless Obsession, Roboturner, and Backwards Marathon are best described as “pocket symphonies”, a term Brian Wilson’s publicist Derek Taylor coined while describing the Beach Boys classic single Good Vibrations.

“Keeper of the stars, I hope to never find, we are just mortal souls left to die” – Between the Buried and Me, All Bodies

The design and layout of the record is standard fare; 140 grams, two disc, gate fold record. The album clocks in at around 53 minutes, and with several songs approaching the nine minute mark. This requires clever editing between sides and discs to ensure the full songs are not broken up. The length of the songs along with the 33 1/2 speed of the record means that two to three songs fit on a side. You will be getting up and flipping the record three times before the music is finished.

The back cover of the record.

Is It Worth It?

An open mind is helpful to enjoy a lot of the music that I suggest in this column. This album is no exception. If you are not a fan of death growls and hammering drums, this may not be for you. If you enjoy unconventional song structure and a variety of music styles, you will be pleasantly surprised by this album. The guitar work is virtuoso level shredding, with the intro to the titular track and the solo to Selkies: The Endless Obsession having more in common with classical violin work than death metal guitar playing. If you are willing to take a chance on something different, this record is worth the $15-30 price on Discogs and other online retailers.

Outstanding Tracks

  • All Bodies
  • Selkies: The Endless Obsession
  • Roboturner

Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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