REVIEW: August Burns Red – “Leveler”

August Burns Red / Leveler / Solid State Records

2009’s Constellations brought power and aggressive speed, keeping a certain brand of metal intact thus giving August Burns Red the privilege of being fierce for a total of 47 minutes. Clocked in at the same length almost two years later, one would think Leveler would be a one-dimensional doppleganger. Instead, the fourth release is inked with an artistic mindset; the first three opening tracks cause an emphatic metalcore blow, changing pace to click in gang vocals (“Empire”), tossing around solos dripping in Spanish guitar tones (“Internal Cannon”) and even convincing Jake Luhrs to shred his voice in different volumes of desperation (“Divisions”) before hitting a wall of robust breakdowns. What follows is not a definite ear beatdown or a trickle into experimentation; it’s a basic yet concise mixture of the two. Adjusting gears and mentalities to such a focus is a challenge August Burns Red seemed to have conquered, as their bass and drum duo emit flooding rhythms, letting guitarists Brent Rambler and JB Brubaker loose like a pack of wolves on a defenseless victim.

The arrangements are tighter but breathe a little bit more. The hardcore backbone blends with various styles without losing intensity. The vocal delivery is potent and features a more adaptive behavior, licensing Luhrs to be a bit more revealing with his lyricism and poetic outlook (“I’ve thrown my bottles of guilt into the sea, hoping the waves carry them away”). These changes, situated next to natural progression, commit August Burns Red to being relentless, whether it’s over five minutes (“Cutting The Ties”) or three (“40 Nights”). It also fabricates Leveler as a deceptive piece; “Salt And Light” drops into an expected breakdown, before a fingerpicking line provokes the vocalist to go from primitive to desperate over a punk rhythm that transforms into a lighthearted riff. Such creative impulses is what makes the shuddering bass and bewitching rhythm of “Carpe Diem” appetizing with every listen. Balancing inventive skill and lacerating fretboard work can push a group into a pitfall of repetition, letting an LP become a standard outlook on modern metalcore. Each second of Leveler on the other hand, goes straight for your neck.

Download: “Carpe Diem”, “Salt And Light”, “Leveler”


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