It might not seem like three years having sandwiched a pair of album Anniversary tours in during the tour cycle for 2017’s “Phantom Anthem” but the seemingly constant work of Lancaster Pennsylvania Metalcore quintet August Burns Red is relentless. Whether it be new albums or tours, they never seem to be too far away from the scene. Seventeen years down the track and Jake Luhrs (Vocals), JB Brubaker (Lead Guitar), Brent Rambler (Rhythm Guitar), Dustin Davidson (Bass) and Matt Greiner (Drums) are back with their ninth studio album in “Guardians“, produced by Carson Slovak and Grant McFarlane.
During the first few tracks of the album it becomes apparent that August Burns Red have seemingly abandoned some of the After The Burial esq DJent infusions that appeared on their last album “Phantom Anthem“, instead opting for a modern Metalcore sound. That being said, “The Narrative” has a blast beat section and some intricate tapping guitar moments, not to mention the melodic lead flourishes that accompany the solid rhythmic energy. “Bones” is equally flawless, with each musician grasping the opportunity to show off their song writing skills. A bright solo and some slick tempo changes make for a thoroughly enjoyable time that doesn’t stray too far from the signature sound path. “Paramount” is perhaps more technical in its approach with swathes of stuccato riffs overlayed by technical leads. Lyrically about helping friends and family through tough times it is as deep and meaningful as Luhrs powerful voice.
“Defender” got the full music video treatment and perhaps is a good summary in a single track for the album as whole. Luhrs roars about needing a defender, someone to absorb the pain and crumble to ash when he can’t take anymore. The superhero referencing video is on point for the lyrics. Some clean sung vocals make an appearance in “Lighthouse” as does a spoken word. The most melodic track on the album, it’s also far more Metalcore than any other. Having it as a mid album tempo slow down is like a rest or at least breathing space before the return to the usual relentless August Burns Red sonic approach with “Dismembered Memory“. It plays out at a breakneck pace, the band going hell for leather at times but always maintaining that sense of control. A stand out cut, it’s a circle pit moment with neck snapping headbangable slabs of riffs inside it, which is also the case with “Ties That Bind“. The only criticism you could have here is that the later could be 30 seconds or a chorus segment shorter. That is a problem that this effects the album as a whole because unlike “Phantom Anthem“, while August Burns Red show plenty of technical talent and craftsmanship when it comes to song writing, it is a little bit predicable. Part of that is down to the mix which means that some of the nuances fall a bit flat or go unnoticed instead of leaping out like they have on some of the bands earlier records.
Rasing the bird to a nameless naysayer on “Bloodletter” Luhrs is at his most aggressive with lyrics like “It’s time to bury the hatchet, We won’t bury it in your back, We’re not like you“. Sticking to the heavy end of Metalcore for the music, it’s refreshing to hear the band having beef even at this stage of their career. It’s a stand out moment and slaps hard like a Deathcore track in places. “Extinct by Instinct” has a mid song melodic breakout with some orchestral manoeuvres that separate it from the pack, while “Empty Heaven” is front loaded with staccato riff grooves and sing-a-long moments. Slowing things down for an epic finale in “Three Fountains“, which is as beautiful as it is heavy in places, though does take a while to get going. Overall the album is a good solid listen, it just might not have you coming back to it as often as you would with some of its predecessors [7/10]
Ties That Bind
Extinct by Instinct
“Guardians” by August Burns Red is out now via Fearless Records