O V E R V I E W
Consistency is key in so many things in life. Find what you excel and flourish in and then utilize those skills, abilities, and knowledge to put forth whatever it is that you do best. At times this course may seem to become a bit redundant or overdone, but in the end, you’ll know you’ve kept to what most would deem a higher set of standards. Now that doesn’t mean there can’t be a subtle tweak or adjustment to the plan and thrown into the mix, if for nothing more then to add some slight improvisation in the attempt of spicing things up a bit. In fact, that isn’t actually deviating from the norm at all really, more so improving on what already is done so exquisitely. Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this actually directly correlates to both the band and the album itself I’m about to review, August Burns Red’s upcoming juggernaut, Guardians. On this, the Pennsylvania boys ninth album the group executed all of the aforementioned details to a tee. August Burns Red have without a doubt been one of THE most consistent metalcore bands over the past decade and half (plus), churning out masterpiece after masterpiece without ever delivering what could even come close to being considered something weak or boring. In fact, their name has become synonymous with consistent (epitome of), quality metalcore. With each release they hone their craft further and further, all the while garnering an ever-growing fanbase that salivates at whatever comes next. Well folks, prepare those drool rags because Guardians is in actuality everything great this band has ever done, but with that slight tweak some of us have been waiting for. It’s still the August Burns Red we all know and love, but they have undoubtedly added a few more ingredients into the head bangin’ pot.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
One thing, among many, that August Burns Red have excelled at with each album is making each and every song feel like it belongs with one another. On every album every individual song tells its own story, and yet they all fit together so seamlessly. The same can be said yet again with Guardians. All eleven songs are pieced together in a way that you couldn’t imagine them being anywhere else, and yet when you truly listen to any specific track you can see how well they all stand on their very own as well. It’s as if the group has written eleven single worthy songs, with ne’er a touch of filler to be found. And, although the band has always been known for being quite the heavy hitters, there are one or two tracks on here relay more on melody and emotion to ‘bring the heavy’. “Lighthouse” shows a…for lack of a better word…softer side of August Burns Red, actually utilizing cleans (albeit raspy/borderline ready to scream) during the chorus and the chosen notes and chords sound distant and haunting as opposed to a in your face, maniacal force. A song like “Bloodletter” felt like something new from the group. Vehemently crushing, earth shattering heaviness without the extremely faced paced and technical stylings the group are normally so well known for. A slow and sludgy banger was a fresh take in the best possible way. Now all this isn’t to say that the band has strayed too far from their tried and true formula, but more so added to it in a way that everything still feels so right exactly where it is.
I was actually having a conversation with a friend who lives elsewhere in my country the other day about August Burns Red. We had originally grown up together in the same city before he and his gal moved to what feels like the other side of the world. We actually hadn’t even gotten to the point of speaking about Guardians, and he says to me ‘dude, I was listening to Messengers on my way home from work. Being that it’s Friday and all, I feel like ragin’ and that record just hits my sweet spot’. Why do I bring this up do you ask? Well, if that doesn’t speak VOLUMES to the staying power of this bands albums then I don’t know what does. That album came out in in 2007. THIRTEEN DAMN YEARS AGO!! And a buddy of mine is STILL talking about it. Still giving it regular spins. I’m sure the same can be said for all of August Burns Red’s albums, and I know it will be the absolute same for Guardians. I received my demo copy some bit of time ago, and it’s been hard to switch my playlist to much else. I’m a firm believer that if you can play an album to what some would consider death and still find yourself anticipating multiple more spins to come even in the beginning of an albums release, than that will hold up for years to come.
When it comes to being original in the world of metalcore these days, bands that haven’t replicated a sound of some other group over the years (whether knowingly or not) or don’t remind you of something you’ve heard before are few and far between. When it comes to August Burns Red though, the only thing they’ll remind you of or be reminiscent of is themselves. And aside from the fact that they have indeed slightly changed up their repertoire this go around, the same can be said for Guardians. I’m not saying that the group are the original inventors of metalcore or that they reinvented to core wheel, and yet you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that mirrors what this group has done or sounds like.
August Burns Red – Defender From the album Guardians – Available April 3, 2020 Pre-order at http://found.ee/guardians iTunes – http://found.ee/guardians_it A…
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
Perhaps this harkens back to the ‘originality’ factor a touch (as will my comments on instrumentation), but hot damn Jake Luhrs is a fucking beast. His vocal cords know no bounds. LIKE, ABSOLUTELY NONE! His range, his gusto, his striving to ever improve and expand is beyond mind boggling. Luckily you don’t have to search too hard to find out everything this dude has to offer. He shows his full scope on almost every single song, and yet there are some more in-depth gems to be found. “Paramount” is such a tune to behold. His signature mid range screams flow throughout the verses, yet with every bridge and chorus he begins with his shatter the glass higher pitches, which then flow into his guttural growls. “Three Fountains” is another prime example as it’s potentially one of the most diverse songs on the entire record. There is even a small section in the outro of the track which contains some more of those rarely heard Mr. Luhrs cleans. Both the cleans on this song and “Lighthouse” were actually something I had been hoping for. I enjoy a good set a screams like the next core fan, and yet at times I find myself hoping for a bit more diversity or a bit of variation from a group which ‘only’ screams. Throughout the years August Burns Red has kept all of our attention due to the fact that they are beyond talented and know how to write one helluva tune, and yet I couldn’t help finding myself hoping for even a little more. Aside from the fact that so many songs in general show maturing on Guardians, it was beyond stellar to see Jake expand even further than he already has over the years.
What do you say about the instrumentation of any August Burns Red album? I mean yea, it’s fucking amazing. Some of the most advanced and technical drumming, bass and guitar work you’ll hear in the entire metalcore world these days beyond a doubt. Some almost seeming other worldly. And as much as I sit here at this keyboard, trying to think of something more to say, I’m having a difficult time with that. And although it doesn’t quite sound like it, I mean that in the most positive of ways. I guess one thing I could say is that this time around it felt like at times they took a new formulaic approach. Instead of the same genetic code (so to speak) which seemed to make up a lot of their songs over the years, they actually used the basis of that and expanded. And as much as I have enjoyed every album over the years, it honestly was about time. Not to beat a dead horse, but a song like “Bloodletter” was an incredible change of pace and style for the group. As were both of the initial singles. I personally found that both “Defender” and “Bones” had the ever-slightest touch of southern metalcore which really helped to mix things up a bit for my tastes. And “The Narrative” has to be one of the greatest album openers I’ve heard in some time, and that is hugely due to what JB Brubaker, Brent Rambler, Matt Greiner, and Dustin Davidson have created. This song sets the tone for the whole album in my opinion. And even though they use that technical fingering across the fretboard as an overtone like they often do, this felt more to the point. Fast, aggressive, metalcore. It’s everything we’ve all wanted.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
This is how you write music folks. To be honest I’ve always felt that August Burns Red set themselves beyond reproach when it comes to writing anything musically. Instrumentals. Lyrics. They have an uncanny knack for writing something of the purest and utmost quality. Nothing is taken for granted or left to the wayside. Nothing is rushed or half-assed. This entire group takes their time and puts their entire and complete effort into each note and word. I said uncanny and although that is true, it may in fact be a gross understatement. I’m a firm believer that even groups from outside of the core world could take note. Guardians IS their greatest effort yet and that is only possible because they gave their best effort yet. Not much more needs to be said on this matter. Listen. And you’ll know.
The production, much like the music, is of course top tier. It HAS to be with a band like this. Anything subpar would actually destroy everything they had created and sink the metaphorical ship. With this vast array of elements and intricacies muddled production would not have given it the justice it deserves. Luckily as I previously stated the sound is crisp and clean and sounds as perfect as music can get pumping through speakers.
August Burns Red – Paramount From the album Guardians – Available April 3, 2020 Pre-order at http://found.ee/guardians iTunes – http://found.ee/guardians_it …
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
THIS is the August Burns Red album that I’ve always wanted. That I didn’t even know I had been waiting for. How could I have known? I really have loved each album they have put out before this, and although I may have hoped for a slight subtle change in nuance from time to time, I still had zero complaints. I still don’t. But this album has given me something I never knew I needed in this band. Upon first listening to Guardians I almost felt as if it were a whole new day for August Burns Red, but I guess that’s not a stretch considering the obvious fact that every new album for every single band kind of is exactly that. But the way a group perceives their own album and the way the fans do can be quite different. I would take a stab that most bands are absolutely proud of what they’ve created even before releasing it into the world. They would have to be to be willing to do that in the first place. But what comes next can go either way. It’s up to the fans next if what the band has created is of worth to them. This album has a giant shit ton of worth to me. I am invested in this album in some sense. I’m drawn to it. The sheer magnificence of talent and emotion resonates strongly with me as I know it will with so many others. THIS is the August Burns Red album we’ve all been waiting for without even knowing it. THIS! IS! METALCORE (get the reference?)!