August Burns Red – Leveler
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Record Label: Solid State
“It'd be so easy to take the easy way out.”
Jake Luhrs screams these words in the middle of “Cutting The Ties,” the fourth track on August Burns Red fourth album, Leveler. After selling hundreds of thousands records over the course of their first three albums, it'd be easy for August Burns Red to just rehash some of their more successful formulas to continue this trend, especially in a genre that breeds familiarity and copycats. But towards the end of the aforementioned track, Luhrs belts out “Break free!,” which perfectly summarizes the mindset throughout Leveler.
The band's musicianship is at an all-time best on Leveler. From the auditory assault of opening track “Empires” to the methodical mid-tempo “Carpe Diem,” August Burns Red gives each track a distinct sound while never wandering too far from the ABR canon. What sets Leveler apart from the band's previous albums is the improved range of vocalist Jake Luhrs. He transitions from blood-curdling screams to deep guttural growls at the drop of a pin throughout the crushing “Divisions,” while his spoken word lyrics over the bride of “Salt & Light” set the stage for uplifting gang vocal chants.
At the end of “40 Nights,” Luhrs screams, “The Earth is about to crack! Brace for impact, run for the hills!” over a colossal breakdown that'll make you feel like you must follow Luhrs' directions. And Luhrs is not the only one to step up his game on Leveler. Guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler deploy some of their strongest riffs and chords yet. Songs like “Pangaea” and “Poor Millionaire” are both relentless in different ways. The former serves up some incredible melodies played at break-neck speed (the duo is paced by Matt Greiner's fantastic work behind the kit), while the latter is pummeling from beginning to end.
But the band's most impressive work is delivered on Leveler's second track, “Internal Cannon.” The song begins in chaos, as Luhrs' voice shreds through the high-octane pace of track. That is until the band ends up in a timbre they've never explored before, diving into a sexy salsa-tinged pre-chorus that launches into some seriously guitar riffs that takes the track to a whole 'nother level. Throughout Leveler, August Burns Red never stays stagnant, as they switch up the structure with perfect precision, ranging anywhere from gang vocals (“Empires” and “Salt & Light”) and frantic rhythmic shredding (“Boys of Fall”) to experimental mid-sections (“Internal Cannon” and the fantastic slide-guitar bridge in “Carpe Diem”). The Pennsylvania quintet is more than just meathead metalcore, which they showcase demonstratively throughout Leveler.
With Leveler, August Burns Red stays true to their sound while remaining fresh. The 12 tracks contain new dynamics and elements that are sure to please old and new fans alike, while Jake Luhrs' performance places him to the very top of best vocalists within the genre. August Burns Red continuously aims for your neck throughout Leveler, leaving you much like the destroyed habitat depicted on the cover.
Is it douche-y of me to be slightly irked that this band has so many damn scenekid fans despite being talented as fuck? Usually doesn't work out that way.
I could personally care less who their fans are, but I do hate the fact that since that is their core fanbase, they get lumped in with all of the other really crappy metal bands that are out there right now (especially by people who haven't given them a fair shot).
I love this band almost too much, not downloading the leak of this has been destroying me over the last few days haha... I haven't even listened to most of the songs they've released already. I'll be waiting outside of Best Buy to get this the morning it releases though! Solid review, Drew. Pumped for an ABR slide-guitar bridge!
Great review, Drew. I disagree with so much of what you tweet, and finally there's something we can agree on haha. Love this band, and this new album is absolutely killer. They're great dudes, as well. Last couple times I've seen them live, Jake has taken the time after their set to talk to as many of the fans as he can, which I feel like not a lot of bands do anymore.
I seriously can only get into half of this album. And that kills me to say cause I've liked these dudes since their first EP (I'm from their area), but this was the first album I've heard by them where some of the songs just seemed boring. I'm hoping that in time they'll grow on me.
I'm hoping that this album sort of expels my similar feelings. I thought that the intro to Marianas Trench was the best thing they've written. I want them to go into a more progressive style like that had.