August Burns Red - Constellations
Record Label: Solid State
Release Date: July 14, 2009
I admit I was wondering. I was hoping it could be possible, but deep down I already knew the answer. The question: How can August Burns Red create a follow up album to Messengers that would satisfy both fans and music lovers alike? The answer: they can't.
August Burns Red has a distinct sound in the metal-core genre, one filled with unrelenting breakdowns, high-speed playing, uncompromising lyrics and one of the best scream vocalists around. Messengers was such a highly acclaimed album due to the fact that they took their most amazing qualities as demonstrated on Thrill Seeker and fine tuned and focused that sound into what we have heard on Messengers. Messengers was and still is considered the best representation of everything that August Burns Red has done well up to this point.
On the first listen of Constellations, one might easily assume that this album is nothing more than a second-rate Messengers. However, August Burns Red are in a difficult spot. As many fans of quality music know, some of the greatest bands out there can barely make a living while some of the worst go on playing to huge crowds full of, "scene kids" as far as the eye can see.
Naturally, a band wants each subsequent album they create to represent growth and direction, but they still have to make money. On Constellations, we hear that sound exemplified. Songs that represent that growth are "Ocean of Apathy," with its clean guitar chords, spaced out drumming pattern, and a very interesting guitar line; "Indonesia," where we hear a singing line for the first time in ABR's history; "Meridian," a mostly instrumental song that demonstrates ABR's ability to make quiet yet dynamic music; "Meddler," and "Marianas Trench" with intentionally hooky guitar lines and face-melting solos that we always knew J.B. Brubaker had the potential to demonstrate. Lyrically, Jake Luhrs has produced a consistent and thoughtful effort as seen in songs such as "Existence," and "Thirty and Seven." As for the rest of the songs on the album, they are by no means below the standard of Messengers, which is an accomplishment to be celebrated. These songs should make ABR fans very happy, and are representations of what ABR has done best in the past without being droll repetitions.
Lastly, as far as production quality is concerned, it is their best sound yet. There is a clarity and brightness from the guitars yet to be heard in prior ABR albums. As always, the precision in the guitar playing is in no short supply. As a drummer playing subsequent blast beats after another, a clear yet controlled kick drum is essential, which is successfully accomplished on this album. When a drummer is as busy as Matt Greiner, it can easily drown out the work of bassist, Dustin Davidson. However, Davidson's bass playing comes through quite clearly and distinctly without creating a muddy sound.
So once again I pose the question: How can August Burns Red create a follow-up album to Messengers that would satisfy both fans and music lovers alike? The answer: they can't, but if any album has come closer it's August Burns Red's Constellations. Done with more care than most bands of this day, ABR has walked the fine line of celebrating the old while still striving for growth and exploring the new. They were able to produce songs that are up to the standards of Messengers for the fans and for themselves, yet they have also introduced new concepts that will foreshadow what is to come from this technically and musically proficient band. Constellations is a great album, but for those whose expectations it didn't live up to, don't lose heart. Constellations has demonstrated that August Burns Red have plenty more music to give and the best of this band is still yet to come.
The first few listens didn't have me overly impressed. I knew that it was a good record, but I couldn't stop comparing it to Messengers. I agree that Messengers, for what it is, is hard to top. Wall-to-wall breakdowns and nonstop intensity make it a classic in my mind. However, Constellations is a smarter record imo. The more listens I give it (including a couple today) furter solidify that opinion in my mind.
Sorry, it's nowhere near as loud and as in-your-face as Messengers was. My eardrums bled and vibrated in pain to Messengers. This just doesn't compare. I feel like ABR half-assed some of it. Don't get me wrong a few of the songs are amazing. But I just don't like it compared the good ole ABR.