Rounding out the week, we've got a seemingly lopsided contest, between a three-song EP from Between The Buried And Me and a full album from Children Of Bodom. Underdogs due to record length, BTBAM goes first, and because their material is shorter, it should be easier to get through. Right?
Nope. “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues” is a challenging piece of craftsmanship, as dense as half the full-length LPs in this year's tournament. With a vague yet certain nod to King Crimson (co-produced by David Bottrill, after all), with hints of Protest The Hero, Voivod, The Mars Volta, and Cynic before they bought the patchouli farm, this thirty-minute EP is a feast of extremes, so crazed and determined that it forces a kind of shellshocked listening. The darkness is as choking as the emotive progressions are heartbreaking, and the sudden emotional turns stay surprising for long after the first listen. Honestly, it was the manifest excellence of “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues” that forced the Arsies to even consider EPs for the first time in its history. 'Nuff said.
Children Of Bodom's “Relentless, Reckless Forever” is like a spring salad by comparison. Indeed, the band's steady progress toward mainstream accessibility seems to have turned a credible corner on their latest album. The first half of the album doesn't give much away in terms of the band's normally extreme cheese inclinations. It's not until the back half that the facade of respectability slips, and the rift appears between shredding guitar wizardry and Janne Wirman's horribly inexcusable synth choices. “Ugly” is a great showcase of this schizophrenic duality, with the band trading off between speed metal and... ugh. The schism culminates in the final track, the unabashedly goofy “Northpole Throwdown” that's more punk rock than anything else. Too bad: while “Relentless, Reckless Forever” is charming in their own way, any band trying to take the day away from BTBAM had better be on top of their game. And COB wasn't. All hail BTBAM!
That's it for this week, and we're almost at the end of the first round of the Arsies. Only one more fight stands between us and the Final Sixteen. This time, it's personal: Machine Head versus Megadeth.