CD Reviews of The Anatomy of by Between the Buried and Me

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The Anatomy of
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Victory Records
Released: 2006
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Covers albums usually mean one of two things: a) the band couldn’t write any decent songs of their own, or b) they had a contractual obligation to fill and want to get it over with as quickly as possible. There are of course exceptions to the rule, A Perfect Circle’s politically-charged eMOTIVe daringly took classics like “Imagine” and “People Are People” and completely reworked them into different songs, and Def Leppard’s recent release, Yeah!, is a rollicking good time and one of the best albums they’ve put out in years, but most other cover albums (Duran Duran’s Thank You, David Bowie’s Pin-Ups, Metallica’s Garage Days, Inc., and so on…) just reek of laziness. Now hardcore metal rockers Between the Buried and Me add to the list of mediocre cover albums with The Anatomy of, a covers album that gets a couple points for diversity but loses many more in execution.

Between the Buried and Me have rightfully earned attention and acclaim because of their unique and diverse sound. While they are labeled as a hardcore band, Between the Buried and Me have always expressed an interest in all forms of music, a fact that is reflected by their own name – which was taken from a line in a Counting Crows song – so it’s not surprising that they take on a wide variety of musical genres and styles here. Hardcore and metal are represented, of course, with covers of Metallica’s “Blackened” and Sepultura’s “Territory,” but so is classic rock (Queen’s “Bicycle Race”), ‘80s glam (Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”) and even synth-pop (Depeche Mode’s “Little 15”).

What’s particularly surprising (and a little disappointing) about The Anatomy of is how faithful many of these versions are to the originals. Those hoping for a hardcore take on “Bicycle Race” will be disappointed to hear the surprisingly traditional take on the song here, and lead singer Tommy Giles Rodgers Jr., sounds so much like Billy Corgan on “Geek U.S.A.” that you might not even realize it’s a cover. For some reason Rodgers does this throughout most of the album, either consciously or subconsciously imitating the original lead singers of these classic tunes. And while sometimes it’s done quite well (as in the case of “Geek U.S.A.”), he usually sounds sounds like a pale imitation. On “Kickstart My Heart,” for instance, he sounds more like John Corabi (the guy that the Crue hired to replace Neil in the early ‘90s) than Vince Neil.

The most successful songs on The Anatomy of are the ones that take a chance and depart from the original version. Their version of Soundgarden’s “One More Time Around” branches out slightly from the original, as Rodgers does his best guttural screaming during the chorus instead of trying to imitate Chris Cornell’s amazing voice, and their take on Faith No More’s “Malpractice” is suitably dark and heavy, even more so than the original.

However, even the best tracks on The Anatomy of just leave you wanting to hear the original versions. Between the Buried and Me have a unique sound, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to The Anatomy of. If they ever decide to record a covers album again, they should stop trying to sound like their idols and have a little fun with it instead. They should look at fellow metalcore outfit Evergreen Terrace and their 2004 release Writer’s Block, which took ‘80s tunes like “Mad World” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and reworked them into mosh-pit classics. Because I would much rather hear a thrash version of Pink Floyd’ “Us and Them” than the one Between the Buried and Me recorded for this album.

~James B. Eldred