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Tuesday 22nd September 2015
Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Latched onto Between the Buried and Me's tour as sole support act are rising British progsters Haken. Bubbling away beneath the scene's forefront for a few years following their inception in 2007, it seems the band are, at last, on the verge of breaking through into a more eminent position within the prog fraternity. And they demonstrate just why on the Rescue Rooms' stage in Nottingham tonight, with a masterclass in technically flawless musicianship that sees them blend instrumental virtuosity with more emotionally driven passages of music. They've come a long way since I first caught them live, at the ProgPower festival in the Netherlands some five years ago, where an ever so slightly awkward stage presence wasn't helped by vocalist Ross Jennings' gratingly off-key performance and not to mention the ridiculous hat he was wearing. Now, gone is the hat and, more importantly, he hits all the right notes, with an energetic performance to boot. It's kind of fortunate that Jennings is as dynamic as he is because it compensates for the rest of the band's noticeable lack of onstage energy. Jennings aside, Haken are evidently more about musical prowess than performance showmanship and at this they excel. It's a shame, therefore, that their entire performance is marred by a bass-heavy mix through the PA... ironic, really, considering bassist Conner Green is the most recent recruit, just last year, to the band's ranks. Other instruments can be heard enough to decipher their combined parts within the context of each song they play, as can Jennings' vocals, although the bass-biased sonics that resonate around the venue are somewhat distracting. Closing their three quarters of an hour set with the near-20 minute 'Restoration' piece, 'Crystallised', Haken have evidently impressed BTBAM's audience enough judging by the loud applause they receive as they exit the stage.
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Between the Buried and Me at the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK, 22nd September 2015
Photograph copyright 2015 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Appearing a few minutes before their designated stage time of 8:30pm, Between the Buried and Me surprise quite a few people judging by the number of fans still socialising outside the venue (including myself) when the opening bars to 'Selkies: The Endless Obsession' can suddenly be heard from within. Scurrying through the near-sold out venue, I reach the photopit to begin my first BTBAM experience since 2012. With a new record under their belts after the summer release of another concept work, 'Coma Ecliptic', the North Carolinian quintet were back on UK shores to promote said album and tonight is Nottingham's turn to be entertained by this musically innovative crew, for what I believe to be the band's first ever show in the city.

A BTBAM crowd is always an interesting one, such is the wide appeal of their music, the parameters of which have just been widened that much further following the release of their most progressively refined work to date. So, their audience ranges from eager kids who try to stir up a little pit action, right up to grey haired prog fans of yore. And there's something for everyone in tonight's set, which takes in three new album tracks ('Coma Machine', 'Memory Palace' and 'Famine Wolf'), mixed up with the harder hitting cacophonic passages that can be found in 'Colors' material ('Ants in the Sky' and encore number 'White Walls'), but not before dipping into 2012's 'The Parallax II: Future Sequence' for airings of 'Astral Body' and 'Lay Your Ghosts to Rest'. Everything's performed to perfection this evening and it's left primarily to frontman Tommy Rogers to maintain onstage energy levels when he frequently ventures from behind his keyboard, striding and leaping around the stage with all the bravado of a man who's clearly in the zone. Guitarist Paul Waggoner manages a little headbanging during less intricate parts that obviously require less concentration, while bassist Dan Briggs also seems to be feeling the moment as he grooves away with his own array of moves. Rogers' vocals also impress, as ever, with his wide (and wider since the new album's release) range, both tonally and stylistically.

However, despite BTBAM's musically impeccable performance and semi-energetic presence, all is not overly marvellous through the PA (which becomes all too evident when I venture back into the crowd following my photopit stint). Like Haken, BTBAM have a discernible bass bias tonight - not quite as emphatically bass-heavy as the Brits, but it's still too prominent in the mix. Couple that with Blake Richardson's subpar drum sound, and it's enough of a distraction to render songs not quite as potent as they should be. And I hasten to add that Richardson excels, as always, performance-wise; rather, like Dan Briggs' instrument, his drums are a little too high in the mix, and with a far from perfect sound, with an ever so slightly choked snare and overall tinny sonics. Sound issues aside, it's still an enjoyable performance overall and, although it would've been nice to hear a couple of tracks from 'The Great Misdirect' (I guess you can't please everyone), their set is a well chosen one. However, I do leave the venue wondering just what's up with the Rescue Rooms' PA this evening, as it's a little too coincidental for both bands to suffer the exact same issues (and, presumably, they're touring with their own engineers, so it'd be unusual for two people to fuck up).
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