ALBUM REVIEW: August Burns Red – Guardians
August Burns Red are one of the pillars of modern day metalcore. Since their inception in 2003 the band have created a plethora of critically acclaimed full-length albums, with each seeming to push their musical boundaries further than the last. This was to culminate in 2017’s astounding Phantom Anthem, a release that saw the band achieve their second GRAMMY® Award nomination for Invisible Enemy under the ‘Best Metal Performance’ category. With that in mind, the scene has been waiting with baited breath for the band to follow-up the release, and now in 2020 the time has finally come with their new studio album, Guardians.
From the very outset it’s apparent that the intensity has been ramped up significantly. The opening guitar riff of The Narrative is equal parts frantic and well constructed, and it plays off wonderfully against the vocals of Jake Luhrs who sounds like he has a real bit between his teeth throughout the entire release, switching between guttural lows and shrill highs with the ease he always has. All of the hallmarks of a great August Burns Red song are displayed in the early stages: drummer Matt Greiner utilising his seemingly bottomless bag of tricks with a plethora of different beats; riffs that are amongst the most infectious the band have penned to date; and a breakdown that is simply crushing. The pace refuses to let up with the following track Bones where the band utilise the backing vocals to add the highs, counteracting the guttural growl of Luhrs which has the inclusion of a melodic break in the mid-section, which is very welcome at this point as it breaks up the fury.
Paramount is one of the highlights of the album, mixing the old school sound from their Messengers album with the more experienced and honed songwriting of their later works. The result is a song that is sure to create as much empathy with it’s lyrical content as it is carnage with the heavyweight delivery it is served with. The guitar work from JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler is some of the finest and most intricate of the band’s career, the difference being that nowadays the band aren’t trying to cram in as many notes as possible for the sake of it. Rather, they write technical music with purpose and direction.
The second half of the album refuses to let up with the constant tempo changes and emotive vocal work from Luhrs on Ties That Bind, coupled with the superb lead work resulting in another highlight on this already stacked album. Bloodletter is a collection of some of the heaviest riffs that August Burns Red have ever penned, with the impossibly heavy breakdown sections each being bridged by impressive guitar work and the inclusion of another superb guitar solo, ensuring that all of the boxes are ticked for their loyal listeners.
The fact that August Burns Red can continue to rework and reshape the same formula for the amount of time and number of releases that they have is a testament to the level of musicianship that the guys possess. With the band now nearing the double digit mark in terms of releases, they are showing no signs of running out of ideas and seem to be having more fun exploring beyond their normal boundaries. With Guardians, the band have penned their finest album in a decade.
Standout Tracks: Guardians, Paramount, Bloodletter
For Fans Of: Parkway Drive, The Ghost Inside, Texas In July
Written by: Richard Webb