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August Burns Red – Death Below

For the uninitiated, August Burns Red (ABR) are a two-time Grammy nominated metalcore band from Lancaster Pennsylvania. Since their inception they have, for the most part,  been labeled a “Christian Metalcore” band. Whilst their members are indeed Christians, this in no way indicates that ABR preach , nor do they push any agenda. They are merely musicians who wish to entertain.and who pride themselves in generally promoting positivity and being positive influences.

Forming in 2003 while still in High School, drummer Matt Greiner, and guitarists Brent Rambler and John Benjamin (JB) Brubaker have been the foundation of the band, with vocalist Jake Luhrs and bassist Dustin Davidson both joining in 2006, and together they all remain to make up the current line up.

ABR have made a name for themselves as being a very melodic and atmospheric metalcore band, with some occasional progressive vibes also. Jake Luhrs, unlike many other metalcore vocalists, does not lend his vocals to both screams and clean vocals too much. His are mostly scream vocals.

The upcoming tenth studio album, titled Death Below, is due for release 24/3/2023, and features some heavy hitters in Jesse Leach ( Killswitch Engage) ,Spencer Chamberlain (Underoath), Jason Richardson ( Chelsea Grin and All That Remains) and also JT Cavey (Erra).

In fact the tracks featuring both Jesse and Spencer were some of the first to be released. Ancestry was released on November 3rd 2022, and Reckoning was released on February 22nd, both being received exceptionally well when you look at the plays across all platforms.

One thing that is apparent when listening to Death Below, is that this album seems markedly more deep, dark and personal. Given that writing for this album started right at the beginning of the global pandemic, it is not surprising that there is a vast array of heavy emotion transcending through both the lyrics and music. It was a time in the lives of our generation that was full of dread, with fear of the unknown at times becoming paralyzing for some people. Parts of the world were crippled financially, and we viewed our health, and our place in the world so much more differently than we did before.It took it’s toll on so many, yet, through music ABR have unleashed their feelings and have come through the other side with an album that is sure to be yet another success.

Opening with Premonition, this intro track lulls you in with an airy sound, with unusually clean spoken vocals and then smacks you fair in the face as it shifts seamlessly into The Cleansing. In very typical ABR fashion this is technically brilliant, with exceptionally captivating riffs, and a very likeable melody. At 7:48 minutes long, it takes you on a real  progressive sonic journey.

Ancestry, the track featuring Jesse from Killswitch Engage. is dark and heavy both lyrically and musically. It gets in your face from the get-go as it imparts on feelings of abandonment, and anger within the family. It can be interpreted to reflect many varied family situations and is sure to resonate with fans. This track is touted as being one of the darkest and most personal Jake has ever written. Definitely a highlight of the album for me.

Next up is Tightrope, with the added dimension of having Jason Richardson impart some of his touch. A moderate track of 4:14 long, it is intricate and powerful.

Leading in with a gentle and mesmerizing sound, Fool’s Gold In the Bear Trap quickly hits you with a wall of sound at 1:47 and  is unrelenting until the end.

Backfire has a really strong message within it, along the lines of being responsible for your own decisions. Don’t be influenced by others, and choosing wisely who you follow.

Revival is next, followed by Sevink, which is a 1 minute 23 second shot in the arm of hope and peace amongst all the darkness, or at least that’s how it felt to me.

Dark Divide and Deadbolt come next, both staying true to the ABR formula of searing riffs and solid breakdowns, however I personally found Deadbolt to be a little more catchy and memorable. I found myself going back to it over and again.

The Abyss is a track which  features artist JT Cavey. I found this track to have the cadence and melody of some old school thrash in parts which I really liked.

Reckoning closes out the album, featuring Spencer Chamberlain from Underoath, a band very close to the ABR boys, so it was a very natural collaboration.

All in all, Death Below is yet another feather in the cap of August Burns Red. They have consistently provided absolutely stellar music over the years, maintaining their style, their perfectly intricate musicianship and are a testament to the theory that sticking to the formula that works for you, is often times what the legions of die hard fans want to hear. They don’t vary too much from their tried and true way of doing things, and that’s ok. If you like it ,you like it. And if you don’t, then you don’t. Masses of metalcore fans across the globe love it, and that is a great reason to keep following the path that has brought them so much success to date.

Death Below is out 24/3/23, so if you like what you have heard from August Burns Red before, be sure to check it out. It’s been a long time since we saw them here in 2019, so let’s hope we can get the boys back down, as their last tour kicked some serious ass.

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