Review Summary: Shot through with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of adrenaline, Rescue & Restore is a notable peak in modern metalcore and August Burns Red's best release thus far
To many casual observers, the modern metal scene (particularly the ‘core subgenres) is something of a mystery. Some metal fans believe the sound is too 'lite' in comparison to traditional metal, whereas many others struggle to even understand the appeal of musical heaviness as exhibited by these styles, believing the sound created to be nothing more than an insufferable aural assault. What such individuals tend not to realize, however, is that there is indeed a form, structure, and even appreciation for the elements behind the heaviness. A band who employ heaviness and brutality strictly for their own sake hold no aesthetic value for the majority of music enthusiasts; without substance, it is just noise. As if to confirm the point of the nay-sayers though, a number of recent ‘core bands have failed somewhat in this regard, creating the same brand of music and displaying a somewhat itchy trigger finger for unimaginative breakdowns. The trend is somewhat disturbing as it seems to be ousting the bands who are more deserving of listeners and thrusting them unceremoniously into the shade, and at their expense an emotionless, insipid replica of a thousand other metal bands sits pretty. August Burns Red may not have been fully able to single-handedly buck the trend with Rescue & Restore
, but they have hurtled back onto the scene with all guns blazing. In fact, 'guns' may be too neat a weapon to liken to ABR’s style. The trigger is pulled, entry wound, exit wound, over. A more fitting implement to use in metaphor would be a sledgehammer, a blunt tool used to bludgeon, pummel, and otherwise domineer the senses of any willing listeners.
The more-considered and less-expansive metalcore sound of previous studio release Leveler has been recalled and the intrinsically melodic sound of Constellations
and the albums that came before have been stylishly aggrandized and re-implemented into Rescue & Restore
. This is a delight for many of the band’s fans who felt the last release was a step down in quality. As listeners of the band will be aware though, the band’s sound has remained largely the same right through from their first album, albeit with added tweaks according to the progression level of the band by album (ABR are clearly very good at gauging this progression). The album thunders along confidently, flitting impressively between metalcore brutality and soaring pockets of melody, sometimes almost hidden behind a layer of distortion. This motif, a neatly unpredictable chugging pattern with a gracefully penned melody dancing behind it, is the most prominent song style found on the release, sometimes accompanied by a crafty solo or replaced by a vicious breakdown. Despite the fact that this trademark is reused constantly, each rendition is startlingly different, sometimes displaying opposing structures or even upending the craft of the style altogether. The most fundamental success of this aspect of Rescue & Restore
is the fact that every one of these elements joins with a sense of snug cohesion, like a multi-dimensional puzzle. Melody and brutality go hand-in-hand and vocalist Jake Luhrs is at the top of his game; a gravelly yet tumultuously high tone soars over the music, forming a singular, barbarically efficient entity.
Any track of the album will attest to its sharp, destructive attitude, and each and every one of these tracks is unique in clearly specific ways. A sense of warmth seems to pervade the release beneath the brash exterior, and this is yet another string to the band’s bow. The spoken word asides in 'Spirit Breaker' and 'Beauty In Tragedy' are noteworthy examples, elbowing aside the harshness for an emotive reading, only to plunge the listener into another fit of pugnacious rage immediately after. Many listeners attribute this warmth as being a result of the band’s Christian stance, as some of these ideals spill over quite prominently into their music. It is a possible explanation, but one has to wonder what kind of witchcraft ABR have utilized to allow amiability and brutality to merge so subtly. Even tracks such as 'Echoes', which display a broad, sweeping sound possess an unnameable sense of intimacy that really translates, even in the form of a studio recording. Additionally, the clever use of group vocals on tracks like 'Sincerity' help to escalate compositions stylishly as they build towards an impassioned breakdown. This track especially compounds metalcore sensibilities into a fractal and unpredictable tantrum of whirlwind guitars and thunderous drums, but still manages to maintain striking emotion beneath. The vocal style used throughout ABR’s career has an unusually expressive quality to it, especially in the realm of metalcore. Luhrs can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of metalcore’s best vocalists, but there is a barely audible sense of hoarseness that sits under the louder vocalizations. This is by no means a negative comment; this subtlety renders the screams emotive and heartfelt, and regardless of whether or not a listener is aware of the lyrics, the transmittance of emotion from artist to listener is faultless.
Technically, the album showcases all of the impressive intricacies in the sound the band is known for, with all band members performing well, especially lead guitarist J.B. Brubaker. The success of the sound as a whole is only equal to its individual components, after all, and in this regard the band functions impressively once again as a tight-knit unit. The skill of the band in adjusting conventions ever so slightly to accommodate their sound continues to impress, with songs such as 'Fault Line' showing still more of the promising initiative in the form of a crushing breakdown and yet another enjoyable melody. Such melodies are found on every song of Rescue & Restore
, attaching themselves to the body of the compositions and weaving their way around every other facet of the music. It’s breathless, even intriguing to endure, and never tentative in its intentions; it either attacks with full force or not at all. Even such instances as the solo early in 'Animals', which features the main chugging rhythm interwoven with a high-toned and technically impressive solo feel like organic evolutions in the song’s sound rather than an unnecessary addition. The tracks gallop from one movement to the next, and each facet feels important to the experience as a whole, as if the release would not hold nearly the same import if it were relieved of but a second of its musicality. This is perhaps the greatest success of all; creating an album that feels truly 'complete'; the combined maturity of 10 years of songwriting.
There are those who will deride the release over the fact that it is not 'real' metal or some other comparatively pointless argument, but this seems almost disrespectful considering the amount August Burns Red have really pioneered their sound in recent years. It lacks none of the energy of its predecessors, and it most definitely signals a progression by the band, particularly when compared to last release Leveler. It is as if the band have been re-invigorated somehow since the release of Leveler, and have stepped up their songwriting in almost every aspect, fine tuning it and finding the ideal balance of all the elements to create a distinctly heavy and yet oddly endearing record. It’s filled with thoughtful instrumentals, abrasive and thickly distorted musicality, and an almost commanding sense of authority. The metalcore game might be on its last legs now, but Rescue & Restore
feels like a step through the looking glass and back into the days when the genre was still in its infancy. It feels true to form and arrayed with staples of the genre, but is also infused with a songwriting style that feels intricately penned and assuredly modern. August Burns Red have managed to create their finest album to date and also supply the genre with the sharp kick up the backside it so desperately needed.