You couldn’t accuse August Burns Red of standing around and waiting for something to happen. The metalcore band from Pennsylvania have released ‘Thrill Seeker’ (2005), ‘Messengers’ (2007), ‘Constellations’ (2009) and their new album, ‘Leveler’ (2011) with Solid State. The band consists of Jake Luhrs (vocals), Brent Rambler (rhythm guitar), JB Brubaker (lead guitar), Dustin Davidson (bass & backing vocals) and Matt Greiner (drums, keyboard & piano). After the stellar sales of ‘Constellations’ they could have easily played it safe and carried on in the same vein, especially as they were using the same producer, Jason Suecof (Sevendust, All That Remains, Trivium). Instead they returned to the ferocious sound of their earlier albums, and also threw in some new twists.

“The biggest risk we took on this album was not limiting ourselves to stay inside the standard metalcore box,” says Brubaker. “If there was a part that didn’t sound like a traditional metalcore part, we ran with it and made it as wild or unorthodox as we wanted. We’ve been motivated to progress as a band and push ABR in different directions, while maintaining the characteristics that made us the band we are in the first place.”

‘Empire’ opens with bludgeoning riffs before Luhrs screams “Skyscrapers, earthmovers, ground breakers. Our buildings rival the heavens”. It’s a declaration of the human spirit trying to dominate the natural world, whilst the cover art contradicts this by showing the aftermath of a tornado. Then its full throttle for ‘Internal Cannon’ before they take a left turn into Latin American salsa, switching back and forth between mariachi sections and some serious shredding. There are spine-tingling screams and deep growling featured in the brutal ‘Divisions’ which deals with losing a friend “I failed you. I threw you away. I failed you. I threw you away”. After this dark, sombre moment there is a melodic interlude in ‘Cutting The Ties’.

There is rapid-fire drumming in ‘Pangaea’ as it sets a relentless pace heaped with blistering guitar. This leads into the melodic ‘Carpe Diem’ that features Luhrs and Davidson screaming alternate lines and also contains delicate slide guitar before building up dynamics. But fear not, as ’40 Nights’ ramps up the pace again before serving up some spoken word segments and gang vocal chants in ‘Salt & Light’. Then prepare to be floored by another heavyweight slugger in ‘Poor Millionaire’ with “You stand up pridefully in front of thousands, screaming words of justice and truth / You wear a mask of this city’s hero / You are the pretender / Coward, Coward./ Where is the life in the life you live?” The melodic interlude ‘1/16/2011’ is a tribute to four young men from Manheim that died in a car accident on that day. There is more high octane shredding in ‘Boys Of Fall’ and they finish with “Leveler, make level the road for the righteous”.

For those contemplating the first ever deluxe edition, JB Brubaker explains “For the bonus tracks on the deluxe editions, we were able to collaborate with some close friends and amazing musicians. Our friends in the post rock band BELLS did an amazing job reworking our song ‘Pangaea’ and making it into something completely different. It sounds absolutely huge and we love it. Our close friend, Zach Veilleux, a virtuoso piano player, shredded a piano rendition of our song ‘Boys of Fall.’ Dustin and I recorded an acoustic version of our song ‘Internal Cannon’ with some mariachi flare and a ridiculous guitar solo courtesy of Jason Suecof. Finally, we threw in one of the original midi tracks from the Leveler writing process to give everyone an idea of how our songs sound before they get recorded. It’s pure 1988 Nintendo bliss.”

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby

Track Listing:
01. Empire
02. Internal Cannon
03. Divisions
04. Cutting The Ties
05. Pangaea
06. Carpe Diem
07. 40 Nights
08. Salt & Light
09. Poor Millionaire
10. 1/16/2011
11. Boys of Fall
12. Leveler
13. Internal Cannon (Acoustic)
14. Pangaea (Performed by Bells)
15. Boys Of Fall (Performed By Zachery Veilleux)
16. Empire (Midi)

Produced by: Jason Suecof & August Burns Red
Label: Solid State Records, 2011

August Burns Red is:
Jake Luhrs – vocals
Brent Rambler – guitar
JB Brubaker – guitar
Dustin Davidson – bass
Matt Greiner – drums

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