August Burns Red are currently one of the staples of the modern metalcore scene, and its easy to see why. The Pennsylvania 5 piece have consistently produced records to critical acclaim. Masterfully combining crushing riffs, inspiring solos, relentless drumming, and vocalist Jake Luhrs’ immense screams. ABR has spent 17 years as the leading light in what is regarded as an increasingly stale genre. Their various musical blends have kept them at the forefront of their craft. Whether it be genres of metal, or satisfying instrumental bridges. Their latest album, Guardians, is no different.
Described by the band as their most “collaborative effort”. Guardians draws upon the talents of every member of August Burns Red to produce an album that is as intense, technical, and inspiring to listen to as previous albums.
As with any August Burns Red release, the instrumental work is almost flawless. Their rhythm section impeccable as ever, while the warm distorted guitar tones add a fiery atmosphere on top of them. The albums opener The Narrative sets the pace really well, providing a fast but steady beginning. Its a song where everything seems to fit brilliantly. Captivating guitar riffs blend with immaculate drumming, while screams are fitted into the mix fantastically.
Following on from this, Bones, doesn’t let up on the immense energy built by The Narrative. Bones hops between slower, more stripped back passages, gritty verses, and an inspiring chorus. Creating what I feel is one of the most memorable songs on the album.
Never ones to let up once they’ve got going, the albums third track, Paramount, is absolutely brilliant. Possibly my favourite track on the record. The distant, echoey opening, and soaring solos, mixed with its hopeful chorus all combine to provide one of Guardians more melodic songs.
Now, when it was first released as a single, I wasn’t blown away by Defender.
It seemed very much a one trick pony of a song. Fast, technical, and heavy as any August Burns Red song should be. The real excitement comes towards the end, when it rears its weighty head. About 2 minutes in, Defender gets heavier and sludgier than any other song on the album. All while Jake Luhrs shows off some great low screams. Its here where Defender really stands out from other songs on the album. Similarly, Bloodletter is also one of Guardians heavier tracks. Providing a more deathcore sound throughout the first half of its 3 minutes and 40 seconds. This is however, broken up by a melodic and impressive solo and rounds out with recognisable and distinctive staccato chugging.
Roughly halfway through, we reach Lighthouse. While the verses are typical ABR. The chorus takes on a much slower pace, with backing vocals complimenting the unexpectedly clean(ish) singing. Fans of songs like Spirit Breaker are also sure to appreciate the clean instrumentals and spoken-word bridge found halfway through.
Dismembered Memory, Ties That Bind, and Empty Heaven both provide exciting riffs, and the signature August Burns Red sound. Despite being technically impressive, they get lost among some of the more adventurous songs on the album
Extinct By Instinct ,on the other hand, comes out as one of the albums lighter songs. There’s a notable lightness and smoothness to the solos that dance above the almost bouncy rhythm section. While its airy, distortion free interlude is underpinned by a bass line that hops up and down the fretboard. Making for one of the albums most appealing moments.
Guardians final song, Three Fountains, takes on a much slower, more emotive approach. Unlike the rest of the album which thrives off its aggression and impressive guitar work. Three Fountains stands out having a predominantly more simple instrumentation. The focus seems to have been put on portraying emotion. Rather than showing off the immense skills of the musicians behind it.
As a whole, Guardians is an album that’s well put together. August Burns Red have combined jaw dropping talent with skillful song writing. Creating an album that’s varied and compelling to listen to. A feat that isn’t always easily accomplished. I will happily say that some of the songs lack a little, and fail to stand out. But there is a whole lot of brilliance in Guardians to make up for it.
Highlights: Extinct By Instinct, Defender and Paramount
Guardians is out now via Fearless Records and can be purchased here.
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