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Album Review: August Burns Red - Leveler

After 10 years in the business and four albums later, August Burns Red have found themselves proudly at the top of their game. This Pennsylvania quintet have constantly pushed metalcore, seeking inspiration from within other genres and styles of music, not simply looking down the long queue behind them for influences as it seems many other bands within the genre do. And, luckily, their new album, ‘Leveler’ demonstrates my point to perfection.

ABR fans will feel right at home with opener ‘Empire’, the intricate guitar work and off-kilter time signatures are thrashed with chugging riffs and pounded by drummer Matt Greiner, who expertly ropes in the relentless chaos. However it's tracks like ‘Internal Cannon’ that make this band fascinating. The addition of clean, Latin guitar work comes as a shock at first. However, far from being haphazardly thrown in, these clean sections drive the track forward, giving real definition between dark and light, which only makes the dark that much heavier, and technically brilliant throughout.

It’s clear that ABR have found inspiration within post-rock for this release. We have become accustomed to the interlude within metalcore albums, which usually offers nothing more than a brief break before the onslaught continues. However ABR slow things down throughout their fourth album, using ambient, clean guitars to sprawl out into spacey segments within ‘Carpe Diem’, ‘1-16-2011’ and ‘Cutting The Ties’ that are far from throwaway. Driving tracks forward and structurally breaking proceedings up, at times offering clean breakdowns – eager to avoid the much overused chug-fest. Yet that doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t earth destroying breakdowns on ‘Leveler’, because there are – ‘Poor Millionaire’ is a perfect example – however their willingness to experiment throughout only makes these breakdowns more intense.

Tracks like ‘Pangea’ and '40 Nights’ demonstrate how the structure of metalcore need not simply revolve around a breakdown, when a track kicks off at break neck speed – with staggering riffs and relentless shredding – there’s absolutely no need for one. In addition, Jake Luhrs has also added to his vocal range, crafting his voice into more of an instrument – making the transition from throat shredding screams, to doggish growls and spoken word during clean sections. ‘Salt And Light’ even offers up a clean group vocal, just begging for a live sing-a-long.

August Burns Red have proved once again that there are ways to develop metalcore to keep it fresh and relevant. Now having momentarily restored my faith in the genre, I’ll be awaiting the long line of bands to come through and adopt this formula – and you can’t blame them.


‘Leveler’ is out now on Solid State Records.

Connor O'Brien

Alter The Press!