Review Summary: Shred.
Metalcore is dead. Or, at the very least, it’s in the process of dying in a hospital bed somewhere in America. August Burns Red, in continuation of this metaphor, refuse to accept this and are currently in its room, resuscitating and using the electric shocks in the “Clear!” style they saw on E.R.
one time. It’s certainly a valiant effort on their behalf – which has taken form in the band’s latest release, their third album Constellations
. Still, the album comes off as a release mostly intended for diehards of the genre only; leaving little to sway the unconverted into believing there is anything exciting still happening within the hybrid genre.
There’s plenty of energy on Constellations
– it’s loud, fast-paced and pissed off about everything, as metalcore should be. Opener "Thirty and Seven" is a strong initial example of this, summing up the album’s mission statement in roughly three and a half minutes. There’s quick 2/4 drumbeats, big lead guitar licks and a finale breakdown that serves no other purpose than to kick some kid’s face in (it probably sounds ten times better whilst doing so). "Ocean of Apathy" is also a fun highlight of Constellations
, with some interesting tempo changes, a surprising and inventive change of pace near its end and a brief but formidable guitar solo from JB Brubaker.
Tracks such as these may provide some substance and entertainment, but the question needs to be asked whilst listening to the album: Is any of this sounding familiar? It most probably should, given how similar much of Constellations
sounds when paralleled with its contemporaries. It’s brash and energetic at its peaks, but when next to every track attempts to encapsulate this, it ultimately becomes boring.
As a matter of fact, it’s when Constellations
deviates from its own formula that things become interesting. Between the Buried and Me’s Tommy Rogers makes a clean vocal cameo on Indonesia, taking the song out of a generic slump and creates a wonderful, harmonic bridge that results in one of the album’s greatest moments. Beyond this, there is one trick left up the band’s sleeve in the albums second half. There’s no showboating guitar, breakdowns or blastbeats. Hell, there’s hardly even any vocals. "Meridian" is a six-minute, nearly entirely instrumental track that builds up immensely and manages to convey several shades of emotion without a word in its first half. It’s a genuinely interesting listen in spite of its length, and holds the slightest bit of weight in arguing that there’s more to ABR than inciting violent dancing.
Where can you stand on a record like Constellations
? Fans of the genre will praise a resurrection, but perhaps it would be wise not to celebrate early – this is a good record, but it struggles to become anything more; which is what metalcore as an entity must do in order to keep itself afloat.