August Burns Red Offers Up a Musical Refuge With Guardians
Latest Album Provides a Sanctuary for Our Souls Along with a Glimmer of Hope
Music has always served as a great healing force for the universe providing an outlet for human emotion in ways that other art forms simply can not. It can comfort us when we are down or unite us in a common cause. A song can instantly take us back to a certain time in our lives, helping us relive a special memory and providing a connection to a faraway time and place. Music can lift us up in joy and celebration and serve as a healthy means to release our pent up anger and frustrations. Today, in the middle of a global pandemic, our world needs music like never before. August Burns Red has just given us a gift with their new album Guardians, an eleven-track masterpiece of modern metal that offers us refuge in these weary times and hope for humankind through the encouragement of being there for someone reaching out for help.
“There’s a loose theme of being there for another person who’s reaching out for help,” explains Rambler. “This individual who saves the day acts like a guardian. The idea recurred as we put everything together. It was a great summation of what we were talking about.”
The Pennsylvania quintet has been bringing their musical message to the masses since 2003 when drummer Matt Greiner hosted band practice at his family farm. The addition of lead vocalist Jake Luhrs in 2006 took the band further in the right direction which led to their fundamental Messengers album in 2007. ABR has held onto its core values for seventeen years amassing a diehard audience. In 2014, they cut a deal with Fearless Records and found mainstream success with 2015’s Found In Far Away Places. With influences from Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan to Between the Buried and Me and Hopesfall, ABR has been churning out their own brand of American metalcore with thoughtful lyrics, technical proficiency, and crunching riffs all driven by an underlying melodic base that has garnered them much critical acclaim and well over 100 million streams worldwide.
For the new record, ABR allowed themselves more time working on the music than on any of their previous albums, recording the material over two separate sessions at Think Loud Studios in York, PA with their longtime producers Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland. This provided more time for fine-tuning of the record as well as the opportunity to really push their creative boundaries like never before.
“After the first session, we had months to think about what we might want to change,” recalls Brubaker. “We never had this much time and liberty for production. It enabled everyone to be more critical and think about putting an individual stamp on the songs. Think Loud was also the nicest facility we’ve ever tracked in. We had tons of room to work and be creative. We’re super proud of the final product. Dustin and I collaborated more than we have in the past as well. Typically, one person will write a whole song and send it to the band. We all got to contribute here.”
Guardians begins with “The Narrative,” a track that showcases the signature growls of frontman Jake Luhrs with an almost ethereal quality driving the melody. In fact, the underlying melodies are really the driving force behind the album with songs like “Bones” really standing out.
“As people, we will think our way of life is better or worth more than another culture’s way of life,” continues Rambler. “Sometimes, we insert ourselves way too much into another’s customs or traditions, which can be harmful. We’ll come in and think we can do everything better, but we ruin things. It was interesting for us to think about.”
Don’t miss the fantastic breakdown during “Paramount” with its oh, oh, ohs and what is perhaps the lightest and most melodic song that August Burns Red has ever done, “Lighthouse.” If you’re looking for one song to sum things up it would have to be “Defender,” which is heavy as hell, a blitzkrieg of guitars from JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler with phenomenal lyrics. “I need a defender/A voice that shakes to clam the quake/I need a defender who bends and breaks in my place.”
“That was the first song I wrote for the record,” recalls Brubaker. “I set out to write something more structured than what we typically write. It turned out to be one of the heaviest songs we’ve ever written.”
“Lyrically, I wanted to write about being able to reach out to someone,” says Greiner. “We all need a person who can take the punches for us when we need them to. We need a defender who bends, so we don’t break. The music matched perfectly.”
“Dismembered Memory” runs the gamut from an almost hypnotic guitar rhythm to a fast and hard hammering while “Extinct by Instinct” features a break with a nice tempo change that builds at the track goes on. The rhythm section deserves a shoutout as well, most especially on “Empty Heaven,” with thundering drums and bass from Matt Greiner and Dustin Davidson that push and push the backbone of the song driving it to a frenetic pace. The album closer “Three Fountains” is a plethora of sounds, layer upon layer, as it builds and builds to an evocative conclusion, a perfect ending to the record.
With Guardians, August Burns Red continues to push themselves creatively with some of their heaviest music and deepest lyrics to date. The album plays effortlessly and seamlessly, a refuge of sorts, which is something we could all use a little more of in these unprecedented times.