Between the Buried and Me's forward-thinking musical agenda was already well established by the release of third album, Alaska (their second for Victory Records), but it's questionable whether their complex creative vision had yet coalesced in such stunningly satisfying fashion. Come to think of it, there is no argument. Perhaps it was the frustratingly continuous membership turnover that marred those past near-misses, because although there was no telling as of yet that the quintet responsible for Alaska would in fact go on to embody BTBAM's definitive lineup, in retrospect, it's quite obvious why they meshed here, and then stuck together. On Alaska, BTBAM's hardcore foundation definitively assumed the role of springboard for their wilder, cross-genre experimentation, often involving gentle passages composed of elegiac acoustic guitar work, flowing basslines, jazzy percussion, and surprisingly timid vocals, all wrapped in a gauze of soothing synthesizers. Opening statement "All Bodies" and, later, "Backwards Marathon" beautifully exemplify these contrasts, riding the very extremes of possible hard/soft delivery and instrumentation as they follow their winding treasure maps to the X that marks the spot. "Medicine Wheel" is all evanescent bliss, and the deceptively named "Laser Speed" goes all bossa nova, while "The Primer" begins like vintage melodic power metal before unveiling its savage side, and another eye-opening number, "Selkies: The Endless Obsession," resembles a new millennium reconstruction of Rush: from the "Tom Sawyer"-winking synth intro to the circular riff contortions that precede the ensuing thrash-out to the gentle interruption that rebuilds gradually like Opeth meeting Dream Theater. And despite all these daring investigations, Between the Buried and Me could still convulse, shudder, and retch along with the best mathcore practitioners out there -- the serpentine cataclysm of a title track, "Roboturner," and others prove as much -- making Alaska about as well-balanced as anything this emotionally schizophrenic and musically eclectic group could possibly be. Between the Buried and Me had never flown higher and would probably never fly this high again.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia