Review Summary: August Burns Red finally succeed in expanding their sound into territory that is both appropriate and meaningful.
As much as they have insisted with each release, August Burns Red have never really progressed their sound over the course of their nearly ten year career. Sure, new instruments have been introduced (as well as completely out of place salsa grooves such as on the pretentious and deceptively generic "Internal Cannon"), but ultimately their formulaic song structure has been beaten to death since Messengers
, one melodic breakdown after another. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though, nor has it been a complete failure. Constellations
was at least an honest effort, and, for the most part, a refreshingly new take on their sound. Songs like "Meddler" and "Marianas Trench" have stood as some of their best to date, showing that the band could creep out of their comfort zone, but the mix of keeping the heaviness of their Messengers'
sound and trying a new one never really succeeded in coming together as a completely cohesive work. The follow up, Leveler
, further illustrated this problem. As it tried desperately to escape its roots by replacing it with a mess of experimentation, the results were songs like the aforementioned "Internal Cannon" and the dueling vocals of "Carpe Diem," which highlighted the bassist's cringe-worthy scream. What made Messengers
so effective as a metalcore record was that it didn't try to be anything more than a complete aural hammering, and an extremely solid one at that. "Truth of a Liar" and the single "Composure," introduced me to the genre and blew me away with the pure crushing intensity of their sound, and so with August Burns Red's fifth album I hoped they would return to what they did so well with Messengers
. But while Rescue & Restore
is not a return to form, it shows August Burns Red finally getting the proportions right.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect to Rescue & Restore
is that whereas the use of strings, congas, and acoustic guitars seemed pretentious and out of place on Leveler
, and fell flat on Constellations
, it works on Rescue & Restore
. Each instrumental interlude and orchestral arrangement comes off as the band diversifying their sound because the songs demand it, not for the sake of sounding different. Tracks "Spirit Breaker" and "Creative Captivity" use eclectic instrumentation to the benefit of the song, with "Spirit Breaker" rising and falling with strings, and "Creative Captivity" being propelled upwards to stratospheric heights with a horn section finale. This in no way impedes upon the heaviness that has drawn so many fans over the course of their discography either. Fans of Messengers'
devastating breakdowns and aggressive guitar work will find songs like "Provision," "Count it all as Lost," “Sincerity,” and "The First Step" to be some of the heaviest written to date. The difference between Rescue & Restore
and their last two albums is that this latest release knows when and where to implement the experimentation, and when to withhold it.
Not only is Rescue & Restore
a success in song writing, but it exhibits the band members at their absolute best. Matt Greiner's drumming is as impressive as ever in its sheer magnitude, but more importantly in its placement and shape on the record. It never feels dull, cliché, or predictable for the genre, which frankly is a feat unto itself and one that really sets Matt apart from his contemporaries. More so than previous records, JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler are defined less in their roles as being the lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist, respectively, and each one brings forth interesting and diverse work to the album. With the exception of the Leveler-esque (both in title and sound) "Fault Line," each guitarist has branched out from their sound more than ever, writing parts in different keys and styles than previously explored. Another welcome addition is the audible bass guitar work, which really shines throughout the record and makes the listener wonder why it was ever diluted so much on their past releases in the first place. However, while all of the members have noticeably improved since Leveler
, the true MVP of the album is lead vocalist Jake Luhrs. Not only has his voice improved drastically, utilizing different pitches and tones, but his lyrics are some of the best yet. The tracks "Animals" and "Beauty in Tragedy" are surprisingly heartfelt, with Jake expressing his faith in more thoughtful and empathic ways than previous records. In "Beauty in Tragedy," Jake cries out "I can hear your voice. I can't hear your voice," expressing his doubts in his beliefs and, unlike Leveler
, these personal reflections sound neither uninspired, nor banal.
The true achievement with Rescue & Restore
is that it shows a talented band finally expanding on their sound in just the right ways that are both appropriate and meaningful. Perhaps this is the work of the producer guiding the band in the right direction. Perhaps the band has finally identified when their experimentation works and when it simply doesn't. Either way, it's about time a band as talented as August Burns Red succeeds in what they clearly have had the ability to do all along.