Over the last decade, North Carolina quintet Between the Buried and Me has become one of the most cinematic and conceptual progressive metal groups of its time. Sure, they’ve always been extremely resolute and capable, but it wasn’t until 2007’s Colors that they delved fully into vibrant narrative opuses bursting with genre-bending techniques and unified cohesion. As such, one might expect their concerts to strive for similar theatrics (with backdrops, thematic videos, etc.), and although they sometimes do, they just as often contain nothing more than the band recreating the material with the assistance of shifting camera angles and lights. Coma Ecliptic: Live falls into that category, too, and while that’s not inherently bad—after all, you’re getting exactly what’s advertised—it may disappoint fans hoping for some added artistry (or even additional songs). This is Coma Ecliptic front to back and nothing more; take that as you will.
The show was shot on October 4th, 2016 at The Observatory North Park in San Diego, CA. According to bassist Dan Briggs, filming the tour was “based around capturing the look and feel of the show our lighting director, Chris Hill, produced for the full album set. It's such an important record for us and our progression as a band and the visual representation captures the moods of our tragic tale so well.” In addition, he acknowledges the relatively streamlined approach to it, adding that the Parallax II: Future Sequence performance was “more intimate. . . . It was aimed more at our musician-based crowd.” That said, he actually found replicating Coma Ecliptic live more difficult because “[he] was playing more keyboards than . . . in the past. That was fun; it was just another type of preparation.” It may not have all the bells and whistles that some devotees want, but Coma Ecliptic: Live undoubtedly captures the band at the height of its creative and performance competencies, making it a very worthwhile—if not essential—watch.
In a way, it’s a benefit that there are no videos or other embellishments to distract from the show. Instead, viewers are given several camera angles—close-up shots of each member, plus several full shots from the perspective of the audience—through which to watch and imagine being in attendance. Aside from that, Hill’s lighting oscillates around the blackened band according to temperament, basking them in epic colored eclipses the entire time. As for the audio, it sounds incredibly close to the original version from start to finish, so aside from some missing effects on Rogers’ vocals, there’s almost no detail missing. In fact, there are some new tones here and there that help distinguish it from its studio counterpart, and it’s often easier to hear the intricacies of guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring impeccable puzzles. Also, there’s virtually no interaction with the crowd until Coma Ecliptic is done, when Rogers introduces BTBAM and thanks the audience as the distortion dies out. While this may seem a bit cold and distancing, it’s actually a smart move because it allows everyone involved to remain completely focused on the journey.
By its nature, Coma Ecliptic: Live isn’t a must have for fans because they won’t be treated to anything outside of the record itself, played straight through and without much else to look at. While it’s not meant to be anything else (so it may seem silly to fault it for not being something more), it still feels a bit too shallow and unfulfilled in terms of potential. That said, if you are interested in seeing a tightly shot and impeccably recreated live take on the quintet’s 2015 opus, you’ll find it quite satisfying. After all, BTBAM doesn’t need any additional frills to blow your mind, but they definitely would've enhanced the experiece.