Review Summary: August Burns Red as August Burns Red in Leveler.
When '80s cross-over bands laid the groundwork for the idea of metalcore it's hard to postulate any scenario in which they would have been able to predict what it has become today. Same thing goes to the bands like Unbroken and Integrity that were among the first to definitively play the style because these days metalcore is a hell of a lot more about the metal than the hardcore. Really the only things that have carried over from the early days are a damning penchant for breakdowns and gang chants. Everything else that makes up modern metalcore is saturated in the decade old run off from Sweden's melodic death metal boom of the 1990s. It's easy to tell that the guitar heroes for most of those who are taking part in the latest installment in the evolution of what is metalcore are your Jesper Stromblads and your Martin Henrikssons. It would be a cop out to blame this all on one band's collective influence, but since Overcast have been around for-freaking-ever and their roots reach into two of the biggest bands to mix Swedish harmonies with American chug to hell with it, we're going with the cop out. This isn't to say that metalcore has ceased to be valid because, even though they were derivative as holy hell, bands like Unearth, Killswitch Engage, Himsa and yes even Overcast have produced some monster works that are more than worth any metalhead's time. August Burns Red also belong in this group as while nothing they've put out has ever been more than the sum of their influences from a creative standpoint when they are firing on all cylinders they pull it off pretty damn well.
continues the trend of August Burns Red being August Burns Red. The basic frame work hasn't really changed that much here as they still have a 1:1 ratio of semi-technical alternate picked lead runs and open drop tune chug-a-lugs. Little bits and pieces have changed though, such as the choral overdub in “Empire” or the clean Latin-melody bridge in “Internal Cannon”, but since both of these songs open the album the melodic quirks they bring are lost among the album's next ten tracks which play out in a similar fashion to their previous release Constellations
, which was just a slightly more palatable version of their first two albums. And that's the biggest problem with Leveler
and August Burns Red in general. Regardless of however fun their songs are, after four albums of basically the same sh
it you can't help but feel like you've heard it all before, be it from them on a previous album or from a scores of other bands that sound exactly like them. Further more, where August Burns Red's earlier albums radiated with a youthful energy that helped make up for their shortcomings, on both Constellations
and even more so on Leveler
that energy has mostly dissipated. That's not to say that it's completely gone, but in the album's first half there's nothing that really moves. It's all too mechanical. It's not until around the album's half way point with tracks like “Pangea” and “40 Nights” that August Burn Red sound like they are actually enjoying themselves. Luckily the aforementioned tracks and the brilliant “Salt & Light”, with its rapid fire drumming, hook filled melodic guitar runs, and gigantic, heartfelt sing-along of an ending, manage to breathe some life into Leveler
but it's not enough to save it.
August Burns Red have reached the limitations of the metalcore rule book that they have been glued to ever since their debut. It's obvious that they've tried to spice things up a little bit over their last couple of albums but it's only enough to keep them afloat for so much longer. If August Burns Red continue to pull from what has to be a now close to empty bag of tricks they're set to turn from consistent to cliché.