Louder reviews: ‘Guardians’ – August Burns Red
Retaining a sense of authenticity and ruthlessness with every release can be a difficult task for the most skilled of metalcore acts. Now on their ninth studio outing, August Burns Red are showing no signs of surrendering their relentless ferocity. Furthermore, they do that while keeping their trademark aptitude for contrasting fiercely melodic instrumentation with Jake Luhrs amazingly harsh vocals. With the sense of scale and wrath brought to the table, ‘Guardians’ may be one of the most vital listening experiences of 2020, and yet another diamond in the crown of the Pennsylvania originating quintet.
Complex, multifaceted guitar duelling serves to reassure the listener that they are in for another album of sharp hooks and explorative instrumentals. From the stylistic changes that characterise opener ‘The Narrative’ – the theatrical chanted vocals on the chorus, to the forceful breakdown in the final moments – there’s a strong chance that you may feel the need to constantly revisit these anthems to comprehend or absorb the multiplicity of detail and colour on offer. ‘Bones’ displays a feverish rhythmic prowess, in the way that drummer Matt Greiner convincingly gives life to both the subdued and frantic moments. ‘We made a deal with the devil’ our frontman growls here – with the impetus and dexterity that they carry through these 11 tracks, you may be tempted to believe him.
The excitement persists on to ‘Paramount’ which enthrals with an ability to command chaos – the relentlessness alterations could potentially seem overbearing, yet there’s an astonishing cohesion present throughout. No time feels squandered. Every element is needed and imperative in the creation of a megalithic sound. ‘Defender’ is just as capturing, and entices with harmonising synth touches, lending a sense of heartfelt beauty to the pieces viciousness. Furthering that idea, ‘Lighthouse’ features huge anthemic chorus harmonies, and a contemplative middle section, where the elegant pairings of spoken word with jazzy bass touches, give pause for thought. That is, before hostility once more takes hold, as ‘Dismembered Memory’ proves one of the most eviscerating, gargantuan anthems throughout the entire experience.
Displaying more of the technical adventurousness that so many love so much about this band is ‘Ties That Bind’ – an expertly crafted addition, made perfect by an arpeggio riff which rises and falls from start to finish with exquisite charm. In contrast, ‘Bloodletter’ charts a stamping, colossal course, which allows these musicians to keep their knack for playing with expectations, firmly in check. Bringing that ability to harness tension to the forefront is ‘Extinct by Instinct’, a stunningly theatrical song that bridges the caustic nature of extreme metal with the grandiloquence and ambition of the self-appointed, progressive genres. Though, if that is the considerate and pensive aspect of August Burns Red, then ‘Empty Heaven’ is them at their most enraged. Once more, you shouldn’t come to this record with an expectation of hearing nothing other than anger, yet likewise, anyone looking for that will certainly not be disappointed.
The meticulously involved ‘Three Fountains’ closes us out on a truly heroic note. To say the least, the entire experience continues to fortify a status for this act as one of the most accomplished and consistent, in their field. More than that though, there’s an influential quality which speaks of a willingness to continue to take risks and impress their fans. Nothing here reinvents the blueprint for modern metal, yet is a testament to the motivation and power it can display, with an acute sense of bravery at play.
‘Guardians’ is out April 3rd via Fearless Records.
Listen to their new single, ‘Paramount’, below: