Review Summary: August "Yawns" Red.
August Burns Red are boring, there I said it. They’re boring, every idea the band has had has been unoriginal and incredibly dull. For some reason ABR’s took the place of Underoath this year as the Christian Metalcore band everyone wanted to hear from. I don’t quite know why, seemed like only yesterday no one cared about ABR’s generic take on the Metalcore genre but somewhere along the line a hype train started for Constellations and people decided they suddenly loved August Burns Red.
Well those people suck. Constellations is an attempt by August Burns Red to remain relevant to the ever-growing number of trend-hoppers who’ve become bored with mainstream Metal. I can’t fault them for trying, but I can fault them for failing. Breaking down ABR’s general song writing formula is pretty simple, much like a slew of other bands they rely on guitar dominance, combining this with an under usage of bass work and in a slight twist a competent drummer. Yes I said it ABR’s drummer isn’t anywhere near as bad as a lot of his contemporaries. In that regard he’s sort of like Derek Bloom being that both are far superior instrumentalists to the rest of their respective bands.
Impressive drumming aside there really isn’t anything that impressive about ABR. Their guitarists can write some relatively technical riffs, albeit they’re more “flashy” than effective. Their bassist occasionally demonstrates competency but is too often drowned out by the other members and finally we have ourselves August Burns Red’s vocalist Jake Luhrs. Jake Luhrs isn’t a particularly strong vocalist, to emphasize my point; he sounds very hollow. One could argue that it’s the production but he still sounds hollow. Now he’s got three “styles” of vocals you get his “growl” which sounds as though he’s trying to speak amidst a wave of vomit, his “high-scream” which sounds like someone choking and his “mid-range” yell which is probably the most impressive part of his performance.
Now, it could be argued I’m being overly critical of Jake, but the fact is there’s a not a single instance on this album where he’s enjoyable. Beyond the uninteresting vocals, ABR’s song writing isn’t particularly interesting, they have tried to move beyond the sheer blandness of their previous works and at times craft a handful of interesting melodies. But even at their best the band still lacks anything to set them apart from the wave of similar bands. At their best ABR creates passable metal, at their worst they create the same thing we’ve been hearing for the past decade.
To say ABR haven’t made an improvement would be untrue; they’ve focused on moving away from constraints of their previous work. The problem is their attempts at progression are very obviously calculated, a perfect example would be Meridian a track that suffers from both horrible placement and horrible implementation. It genuinely seems as though the band sat down and decided they wanted a “post-metal” track on their album for the sake of being able to say they had one.
Aside from these issues a major concern of mine is that August Burns Red still haven’t managed to make use of their studio space. The album’s production is sub-par, with the instruments being pushed together into a distinctly dull wall of sound. This makes it difficult to separate the individual aspects of each member’s performance making the overall listen far less enjoyable than it could be. All in all, August Burns Red have attempted to move out of generic Metalcore territory, but they still haven’t done anything much, their “progressions” seem cheap and ham-handed at the end of the day ABR might be trying to move forward but they haven’t delivered on that promise yet.