August Burns Red, Leveler
Just under two years ago Lancaster, Pennsylvania natives August Burns Red unleashed what many consider to be their best album, Constellations. Speaking as a huge fan of the record, I said many times they couldn’t top it. Constellations was nearly flawless from beginning to end, a fierce tirade through metalcore that defined the band’s career. Yet just last week, the band has released their fourth album, and Leveler seems to have surpassed the greatness that was (and still is) Constellations.
ABR has always been known for stretching the limits of the metal genre, from gigantic breakdowns littered through every track on Messengers to the constructed chaos of Constellations. This new album showcases ABR taking even further steps out the box, and even returning to what the band was known for at their start. There are definitely elements of the band’s debut, Thrill Seeker in Leveler. Vocally and musically the band has improved even more. The raw sounds are back, the chaos is more wicked than ever, and lyrically, there is nothing to feel but amazement.
One major difference on Leveler is the addition of Dustin Davidson’s screaming vocals to compliment lead singer Jake Luhrs. There are at least four tracks on this go around that Davidson can be heard clearly, and a few times it’s just him screaming. This adds another element to the ferocity of the band, since his screams are much sharper and unconfined than Luhrs. There are certain times throughout the album where ABR leans on almost thrash metal, with just utter chaos happening behind Luhrs’ passionate vocals. The other major change is the addition (or continued use, if you will) of lead guitarist JB Brubaker’s solos. Most of the tracks have a solid section of classic shredding and each time, they are more tasteful than ever before. Solos add such a new dynamic for a band like this, and it works in their favor every time.
As far as individual songs go, the most innovative is the second track, “Internal Cannon”. The song incorporates a Spanish feel in the beginning breakdown, and elsewhere on “Carpe Diem”, there is a prolonged slow building bridge that is reminiscent of Between the Buried and Me. Also, “Poor Millionaire” may be the group’s heaviest track to date, with deep drops and breakdowns galore throughout the entire track. In comparison to other albums, and especially compared to Constellations, nearly all the tracks on Leveler have a distinct and sometimes abrupt end, in comparison to most of the tracks on Constellations needing to be ended with a fade out, adding a lot more structure to the new record.
Overall, ABR has constructed what I consider to be their greatest collection of songs into Leveler. Always pushing the envelope in metal and metalcore, ABR will continue to reign as one of the best innovators in the genre.