Review Summary: August Burns Red shows individual improvement in all departments and natural maturity in songwriting as Messengers stands an absolutely incredible metalcore release.
It seems when it comes to metalcore the second album seems to either make or break the group. A sophomore record and even band life in general becomes increasingly difficult when the line up changes. August Burns Red found themselves looking for a new singer and bass player sometime after the release of their explosive debut Thrill Seeker
. Metalcore enthusiasts raved at their brutal and passionate twist of the genre. Its fast paced rhythms, heavy riffs and skull crushing breakdowns had numerous metal fans hooked. It was such an impressive album many would be expecting their second Solid State release Messengers
to be a carbon copy sequel. However, after listening to a mere track or two listeners know it soars on its own. The increased use of lead guitar, incredibly powerful vocals, massively crushing breakdowns, a remorseless rhythm section and overall improvement in terms of songwriting and composition all contribute to making Messengers
an unrelentingly heavy and constantly pleasing record.
In terms of an overall feel, Messengers
certainly feels a bit more “metal” if you will then anything the group has done in the past. There has been such a step up in terms of lead riffing. The guitar work from JB and Brent features a mix of the classic heavy riffing found on their debut mixed with even greater melodic edge then before. “Truth of a Liar”
opens with persisting axe work before transitioning into a choppier section. The group’s overall maturity has led to the incredible enhancement of these sections and the improved guitar work really makes them work effectively. A later track “Composure”
features a large quantity of melodic licks and juxtaposes them with several brief shred licks as the song progresses. It is the perfect blend of riffing styles that really helps carry sections of this track. The six stringers have also added pinch harmonics to their resume as displayed in “The Eleventh Hour”
. To top things off there is a full on solo in “The Balance”
which fits the track absolutely perfectly. While all of these are high points of the record, overall the greatest quality of the guitarists is their ability to pinpoint what needs to be done in each specific passage. Never does a riff sound awkward as they have learned how to construct some phenomenal songs.
In terms of power, new vocalist Jake Luhrs makes a wonderful debut. He has a tone very similar to the group’s previous vocalist which actually made me quite pleased. Jake picks up right where things left off but brings a bit more of a defined tone to the table. His mid ranged screams seem a few notches up in terms of impact. The lower growls really hits listener’s hard and seemingly double the heaviness of certain sections. Just about the only new thing brought to the table is the addition of chant sections. The group does not sing a note on Messengers
but the use of chanting definitely adds authority to certain few sections. Lyrically the group has not changed, as they carry forth the same message and present it in an interesting fashion. “Truth of a Liar”
builds momentum with its choppy section as Jake screams “Clear a path, stand aside/We’re carrying the torch now”
. The closest thing to singing present is the spoken lines on “The Eleventh Hour”
which really tenfold the emotion of the song before they transition to a breakdown, “ We got news for you/The day is soon coming when turning your back won’t be an option.”
Writing wise there are plenty of diverse ideas present since the group collaborated together on the lyrics, each of them bringing their own ideas to the table. Then they all choose which song they thought the lyrics would fit. The unconventional method of songwriting paid off immensely for the group as vocally and lyrically they are stronger then ever.
Another are in which they are stronger then ever is in the breakdown department. But then again with improved guitar work and stronger lower growls one assume that would be the case. Assumptions would be more then right in this department as the breakdowns are downright massive here. Plenty of songs feature more then one breakdown or at least dual sections with a breakdown feel to them. Rather then being filled with both guitars full on chugging away, they have discovered how to make lead work flow through these passages. “Composure”
even features a dual guitar harmony during its breakdown marking an exciting and headbangable section. Despite the at times massive quantity of breakdowns, their quality warrants little room for complaining. They pull them off better then 80% of their peers and have enough imagination so listener’s rarely feel like they are hearing the same breakdown twice. Only in metalcore do you get a whole paragraph about breakdowns :) but their drastic improvement makes it extremely necessary.
Improvements continue to be heard as displayed by their rhythm section. Simply dismissing the rhythm section as solid does it no justice. Personally I think unrelenting sounds more appropriate. Drummer Matt Greiner exercises the use of his entire kit and just has a natural talent for banging out heavy splash driven sections. During the faster portions of the record his blast beats are performed with full force. Of course he shows his speed in terms of footwork but an even more pleasant surprise is his ability to display new rhythms with it. Some fresh rolls and burly cymbal driven patterns are shown in “Up Against the Ropes”
. However, “The Eleventh Hour”
really has him standing out from start to finish as it opens with a drum fill and contains plenty of blast beats and fills along with some great double pedal work and cymbal switches. Unfortunately, the second new member Dustin Davidson is almost completely inaudible on bass. During the intro of “Vital Signs”
his line is heard over the dual harmony but for the most part his sound is lost amongst the heavy drums. Of course he comes out to accent certain breakdowns but other then that he is extremely quiet. Despite that, the rhythm section is nothing short of skull crushing.
With so many individual improvements, one must be wondering how things sound with all of these talents combined. The answer is nothing short of incredible. In general Messengers
has some fairly long songs for its genre as more then half of the songs on the record clock in at over four minutes including three over five minutes. Never in a million years would I guess they would make almost every second of these songs something interesting let alone something fresh. Clocking in at over five minutes “The Blinding Light”
features a brief and faint atmospheric sample before the heavy verse crushes listeners. After the first breakdown some clean guitar work comes out as the pace immediately slows. Things shift into another breakdown and work drastically better then they should. The track shifts through multiple passages and keeps listeners awaiting the next twist even at the end of its long length. “The Eleventh Hour”
just puts everything together flawlessly as it features some of the best drum work on the record despite nearly overflowing with lead work. Its stop start rhythms really stick out on the record and its spoken section is nothing short of breathtaking. The final track on the record “Redemption”
opens in an epic sounding fashion. Both the melodic guitar work and the genuinely brutal vocals add an intriguing atmosphere as do the quick guitar licks over a blast beat. The track shifts through a ridiculous number of sections and features countless riffs. It eventually comes to a slower pace before slowly building up to an extremely emotional passage with Jake screaming “Lord, show me the way, as I give myself to you/Never let me go/Hold me with your everlasting love/Be my strength/ Be my voice/Be my glory/Set me free”
. The passage is just so incredible and is an absolutely perfect moment to end the record on.
August Burns Red should leave plenty just about speechless with their latest release. Every single aspect many loved about their music has taken at least a step up in the right direction. Their guitar work is at new heights bringing in stronger and more memorable riffs along with new traits such as pinch harmonics and brief harmonies. Their crushing breakdowns are delivered with more power then ever before thanks to massive vocals from Jake and enhanced guitar work. Rhythm wise the group is at a new peak as drums bring some relentless blast beats and fills to the table with bass holding things down tight. In terms of songwriting, the band is at a place listeners never would have guessed as they are capable of creating longer and more interesting songs filled with tempo and time signature changes. The record flows so fluently throughout and never reaches a low point. Its construction is superb throughout as there is never a dull section. While at certain times things can sound a bit similar, the sheer quality of it all leaves minimal room for complaints. This group of seemingly normal looking guys has created an absolutely incredible record. Messengers
shows a mix of individual improvements and natural maturity which leads to an incredibly cohesive and consistent sound with remorseless heaviness and a meaningful message. These guys certainly could land the role of the next ‘it’ metalcore band with this release and despite how bad that sounds; they sure would deserve that spotlight.
August Burns Red is…
Jake Luhrs - vocals
JB Brubaker - guitar
Brent Rambler - guitar
Dustin Davidson - bass
Matt Greiner - drums
Final Rating: 4.5/5