Review Summary: Smoldering nicely, yet this fire could burn brighter with a bit more kindling.
Every so often my favorite big box monster Wal-Mart will be hiding a few albums I might so happen to take interest in. While ravaging amidst a mass of potential buys I took notice of "Constellations"
, an album by the metalcore act August Burns Red. Examining the softly intriguing cover art while recalling a few positive comments I had previously heard about the 2009 release I decided to pick it up. After playing it over quite a few times over quite a few weeks I found myself formulating quite a few views regarding the album. And thus we are brought to this page here today to read the review that I have written.
Being one to subconsciously associate the term "metalcore" with the band Underoath I have never been quite able to form an overly negative bias towards the genre. That's not to say I don't become annoyed by overused ideas that more than a few bands playing the style are plagued by. Some of those problems are scattered within Constellations. Oddly enough it’s easy for me to separate my thoughts into two sections. What was good and what was not so good. Very manageable, nice and simple just follow along.
What Was Good
The majority (apx 75%) of the lead guitar riffs are safely above average. Nothing mind blowing and nothing surprisingly abstract, simply very good. Just don’t try and compare anything here to None So Vile (which I strangely found myself doing). The descending whine of the riff starting the song ”Rationalist”
being fairly fantastic, a standout easily noticed. As the riff carries and winds menacingly inside the track it jerks collectively, making “Rationalist” one of the more powerful components in Constellations arsenal. Moving on the eerie opening of ”White Washed”
seeps moss like into the ascending shifts that create the following sequences. The track ”Indonesia”
also encompasses its fair share of swerving passages produced by the axe, most easily audible during the slower portion of that song. When the assault of vocals shuts down the first time during ”Marinas Trench”
the patterns continually shine, whipping intricately in slick execution. The rougher chord progressions that follow don’t falter for a second, blending more polished, sharper play into the harsher directness with ease. Twisting and twining ostentatious riffs are scattered thickly among each song. Backed by a fitting rhythm section it’s far easier to enjoy the good parts rather than searching for the bad.
Next we turn our attention to the scintillating factor that creates the ever important drumming. Again it must be noted that nothing here ever quite reaches levels of extraordinary, however they get the job done and they get it done better than more than a few. Fast, frantic and flooding nowhere on the album does the drum work lapse with laziness. From the start ”Thirty and Seven”
rapidly fires a rushing stab of haphazard thundering fueling the urgency and sharpness to no end. Offbeat blasting and clever fills seem to be ubiquitous within each song. A fluid array of pin pointed accuracy and undeniable skill allow little room for criticism.
Finally praise must be given to another impactful aspect of the album, the slower portions. It seemed that whenever August decided to slow it down a notch my interest seemed to move up a few. ”Meridian”
being the most apparently decelerated also proves to be one of the more engrossing tracks. Every note seeming to calmly melt into the next. By implementing more standard ”dun dun dun’s”
for the backbone, the track is conveyed smoothly, and at a perfect pace. The more simplistic flow allowing the mood to unfold in a feather falling manner. As with the start of ”White Washed”
the band again show how patiently brilliant they are when slowing down. Similar is the beginning of ” Marianas Trench”
. While satisfying to a degree the ending of the slower, moodier parts only left me wishing more tracks contained such captivating calmness, and certainly in higher doses. However asking for too much of this would probably be the same as asking for a different band altogether.
So I’ve shared what I felt Constellations excelled at. That’s not saying that only what I took notice of was worthwhile, for there are surly more delights to be found. It’s just that we now need to turn our sights on what was not so good.
What Was Not So Good
The lyrics. Not being one to sit and listen to a guy scream at me in large quantities without knowing what he’s yelling about I took it up with the lyric book. Lacking, underwhelming and quite simply unimpressive the lyrics are a loaf of bread left out two days too long, stale. While the readily apparent religious themes could have actually sparked an interest their bland fabrication did not. Randomly and in this order I share with you a few thought dulling moments from songs 2, 4, and 8.
”You’re hurt. You’re broken. That’s alright. This might be all it takes to wake you up.”
”Don’t say another word you’ve crossed the line. I won’t hesitate to put you in your place”
”Bite your tongue until it bleeds. This pain is worth more then what you have to say. Swallow your pride because silence is golden and I wouldn’t pay a penny to hear your thoughts.”
Jesus August Burns Red.. Literally. Your failure within the lyrical department does not go unnoticed on this day. Or maybe it’s just me and I’m delusional, but this is my review so go figure.
And to frolic in mediocrity we have the vocals. While not a full blown failure they are blandly undistinguishable amongst a wealth of similar bands. To start he doesn’t have a lot of range and while the vocals work that’s about as far as it goes. Listening any closer reveals a work in need of progress but progression really doesn’t seem too far out of reach. Maybe a wider variety would come with a subsequent release. And lastly the clean vocals during ”Indonesia”
Summing up my bickering in one final stretch we now speak of the bass. While a few slaps here and there add flavor nothing quite shines, nor falls broken. It simply appears that this is just another bassist in a metalcore band too often drowned out by the other instruments. Again however this could be fixed if given proper attention. Also every song (yes every
) seems to have their own inconsistencies somewhere. The chorus in ”White Washed”
, a few lame breakdowns here and there, and how it sounds kind of familiar even though you’ve never heard it, ect, ect.
Constellations is far from perfect, not at all terrible, yet falling short of excellence. A step above average and we find ourselves with a conclusive rating. Never having heard the band before I bought this I can honestly say that I have become a fan, I just feel that they have more potential not fully expressed here. So here’s to the future because really, being good really isn’t bad at all.