August Burns Red – “Guardians”

 Posted by on May 5, 2020 at 03:49  Add comments
May 052020
 

August Burns Red have been filling the metalcore scene with great music for 17 years are back with Guardians, an album filled with fast, heavy grooves, breakdowns, and thoughtful lyrics as everyone has come to expect from the Pennsylvania quintet.

Hard to believe, but August Burns Red traces their roots to Amish country in Pennslyvania, but from humble beginnings has come the heavy music machine that is ABR complete with two Grammy nominations for those looking for critical acclaim.  As if the two Grammy nominations for “Best Metal Performance” weren’t enough, the band has often garnered top reviews from the likes of Alternative Press and Kerrang. From an album perspective, the band’s debut was Thrillseeker on Solid State Records in 2005 and featured Josh McManness on vocals who left before the recording of Messengers in 2007 when Jake Luhrs took over and the band’s sound solidified. Six more albums followed including the Sleddin’ Hill of Christmas/holiday songs in 2012 and Phantom Anthem in 2017 was the last regular studio release for the band prior to Guardians. Unfortunately after only a couple of dates Covid-19 hit and the bands’ tour with Killswitch Engage and Light the Torch ended, but there is an August date still on the calendar and the band looks to be playing the legendary Furnace Fest in September.

My exposure to August Burns Red goes back to “Your Little Suburbia is in Ruins” off Thrillseeker.  That song really blew me away…such musical chaos as the driving metal riffs and precision drumming shifted to breakdowns and then back to more melodic sections.  Every time I listen to that I hear something new.  Around the same time it was released, I managed to catch them on tour with Haste the Day and seeing that same precision delivered live was mind altering.  As mentioned before, Jake Luhrs came on board for vocals after this album and has been there ever since and to me the albums seem much more polished musically since then but at the same time  more predictable, still heavy but far less interesting.  I’ve seen them in concert on one of their last tours with Parkway Drive and even live that seems to hold.  With that in mind, I approached Guardians with some caution.  I will say that “The Narrative” and “Bones”, while being perfectly good, heavy metalcore songs, did strike me as exactly what I expected from ABR.  Then comes “Paramount” with its softer opening and whispered vocals that shift into a more complex main riff with layered guitars before shifting into something more akin to something off Thrillseeker in terms of arrangements and song structure.  Granted the requisite breakdowns are still there, but the song accelerates and slows with abandon, held together as always by Matt Greiner’s drum work.  For my money the best song on the album, and it left me hopeful for more of this.

Unfortunately, the general production and mix seems to have blunted much of the potential of the album, leaving the bass difficult to find in most of the songs and Jake Luhrs mostly deep growled screaming vocals sort of blend into the background wall of sound. At the time, I didn’t realize how much life had been taken out of the overall sound until my Spotify played a track off Constellations immediately after Guardians ended and the difference was striking.  Guitars were crisp, and the rhythm section was not lost in a deep rumble. While certainly not a devoted fan of the band, this is my general complaint about their sound since Messengers.  I get the feeling that most of the tracks have the same overall feel and dynamics and tend to run into one another, with the exception of the closing track “Three Fountains” which does show the band bringing in some different elements into the songwriting, some slower, more melancholy melodies, with near atmospheric layered guitar lines that set the tone before the heavier riffs come in, which unfortunately, do get somewhat lost in the mix.

Rating: 6.5/10

Written by John Jackson

Tracklist               

  1. The Narrative
  2. Bones
  3. Paramount
  4. Defender
  5. Lighthouse
  6. Dismembered Memories
  7. Ties that Bind
  8. Bloodletter
  9. Extinct by Instinct
  10. Empty Heaven
  11. Three Fountains

Band Members
JB Brubaker (lead guitar)
Brent Rambler (rhythm guitar)Matt Greiner (drums)
Jake Luhrs (lead vocals)
Dustin Davidson (bass)

Release Date: April 3rd. 2020

Record Label: Fearless Records, 2020

Video for ‘Paramount’

Video for ‘Bones

Video for ‘Defender”:’

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