Between the Buried and Me: Extreme Makeover

Originally published in Guitar World, January 2010

Guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring discuss the creation of their latest masterpiece, The Great Misdirect.

Inspired equaly by Yes, Dream Theater and Dillinger Escape Plan, the North Carolina extreme-prog band Between the Buried and Me think nothing of combining furious death metal rhythms and complex math metal licks with neoclassical leads and airy, atmospheric interludes. And to further confound listeners, they’ll casually inject acoustic folk, bouncy ragtime and mind-bending jazz fusion into the mix as well.

“If people find our music challenging, we take that as a compliment, because we’re always trying to challenge ourselves,” says guitarist Paul Waggoner, who co-founded the band in 2000 with vocalist Tommy Rogers. “With each album, we try to explore different territories and draw from even more influences in order to never repeat ourselves.”

To that end, Between the Buried and Me’s sixth album, The Great Misdirect, the follow-up to 2007’s tech-spaz opus Colors, is alternately brutal and bizarre, veering between blitzkrieg blasts of speed and textural washes of sound. Four of its six songs are more than nine minutes long, and the wildly schizophrenic 18-minute closer “Swim to the Moon” is like a concept album within a concept album.

Yet as sprawling and fragmented as The Great Misdirect is, the songs are bound by threads of melody that prevent the music from spiraling out of control. “I had more melodic ideas this time around instead of just crazy fretboard acrobatics,” explains Dustie Waring, Waggoner’s coguitarist.

To keep their guitars distinct within the group’s chaotic sonic brew, Waggoner and Waring rely on clean tones. As such, the duo switched from more traditional metal-style axes to Paul Reed Smith guitars in 2008, in part because they liked the instruments’ clean tones. Waggoner says, “Their guitars work great for us. They’re a little bigger sounding and look a little classier, and they have a much better clean tone. We couldn’t be happier.”

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