Review Summary: An album chalked full of good breakdowns, hooks, and some of the best lyrics ever written by a metalcore band.
Today there is so many metalcore bands in the masses that 1 in every 25 you come across is truly something special. Metalcore is the fastest growing genre out there today just for the shear fact that it is so easy to pull off. Just because it’s easy though doesn’t mean there can’t be greatness to it. August Burns Red’s new album Constellations proves there can be good in a genre with so many failures. This album won’t bring the genre back to life or restore faith in it but it will give it some much needed reverence.
Jake Luhrs returns for a second album with August Burns Red after his debut with the band in Messengers. His vocal performance on this album is something to be admired over. It’s better than Messengers in more ways than one. His breakdowns and growls are some of the best I’ve ever heard for this genre of music. The album starts out with a pretty typical metalcore song. “Thirty and Seven” is nothing out of the ordinary. It has the fun guitar lines and hooks that August Burns Red is known for. The lyrics are once again pretty tasteful. “Existence” shows the deeper side of August Burns Red. With lyrics that bring the song together like “Are you at your wits end yet"” and “The walls of church don’t make it holy”, shows that ABR are in top form once again and writing everything that has a meaning.
“Ocean of Apathy” might be my favorite song off the album. The lyrics are yet again creative and Jake’s breakdown of “hold up. Hold on.” might be one of my favorite breakdowns of all time. The rest of the vocal performance is top notch too. The guitar playing by JB and Brett is so smooth, catchy and easy flowing that it’s hard not to rock back and forth or at least tap your foot during this song. It’s got a cool little guitar line in it too that really shows they aren’t just about metalcore but that they like to mix things up too. Although ABR is considered a Christian band, that isn’t their prerogative. They once stated that Christianity is a religion and not a type of music. They would rather just have people know that they are there for Jesus and not try to push the religion down people’s throats.
Most of the time there is nothing exciting about a repetitive song. But when the song is as brutal, crushing and symphonically good as “White Washed” then there is room for forgiveness. It is probably the most metal song out of all 12 of them. “Don’t say another word, you've crossed the line” is nothing less of a warning from Jake that ABR are serious this time. Most of the song seems to have some ambient lull in the song somewhere and that is where they get creative. “Marianas Trench” is another good song. The lyrics are creative and are also somewhat similar to the rest of the album. The guitars are catchy while the bass is yet again pretty unnoticeable. Tracks like “White Washed, The Escape Artist and Paradox are just the songs on the album that are meant to be metalcore and nothing more. They are just there for the metal feeling, not trying to be creative. The best song off the album comes in at number 7. “Indonesia” is packed full of great breakdowns and zippy guitar lines. It’s got the lyrics and drumming fills to boot too. The mid lyric of “he sleeps in the mountains of Indonesia” is one of the most brutal breakdowns of ’09. Tommy Rogers of Between The Buried and Me comes in to sing the harmonious, clean vocals for the song also. One thing I noticed on this record was they used nature as a theme. Lyrics were written about mountains, water, oceans and other random things. They don’t dominate the record with that theme but it is clear and present in it.
Coming in behind “Indonesia” for the number 2 song of the album is “Meridian.” It’s mostly an instrumental but they do throw in some lyrics which in this case were taken from the book of Jeremiah. The other 2 lines of lyrics were written by ABR themselves. They lyrics they wrote went together so well with the stock lyrics from the Bible that it’s scary. The song has a pretty simple feel to it as well. The guitar work is all subpar but it is catchy as hell and grooves with the rest of the instruments. The guitar line at the end is probably one of my favorites of all time and had stuck in my head all day. “Meddler” was the latest single to be released from the album. The guitars have more of a melodic feel to them along with the pounding of the drums by Matt. The lyrics aren’t anything special but it’s still a quality song by ABR. The closer “Crusades” is a great way to end the album. You could tell from the first couple notes of the song that this would be the last song of the record. This song is the first time that their Christianity really shines through onto the lyrics. The entire theme of the song revolves around death. Lyrics like “as the days go by, it’s getting harder to hold my head up high” and “I used to think I’d last forever” really signify that it is the end of this journey. They close the song with “say goodnight, say goodbye, this is the time to be with my lord” as a really great breakdown to end the album.
To be brutally honest I think this is one of the best albums of ’09. Sure the end half lags a bit but there are still some real quality songs on it. The best songs come from the first half but songs like “Indonesia", "Meddler" and "Crusades” really bring the second half together. The guitar playing is right up there with the best ABR have ever done. Drumming is great, courtesy of Matt with his creativeness and some pretty decent fills as well. Bass is yet again, like in most metalcore unnoticeable. My favorite part of the band is Jake of course. He can make a song sound like a war anthem in one part and then a metalcore ballad (if that can exist) in another. Some of the songs don’t define themselves on their own but as a whole they help the album flow well. There is some repetitiveness in the album but overall it’s really solid and deserves a place in the top 25 of 2009.