There’s a certain quality to August Burns Red that makes them unique. Is it the emotional lyrics that tear your heart apart or the insane musicianship and quality of a band that takes you on a different emotional journey? Is it the fact that they both intertwine and complement each other to make a band that sounds like no other? New album Death Below is another, darker, chapter in the ABR story.
Written and recorded during the backdrop of Covid with guitarist JB Brubaker confessing that the uncertain times was an ingredient in the band’s music. The album is a tale of ‘uncertainty, fear, outrage and triumph’ and does features some notable guests including Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach on Ancestry and Spencer Chamberlain of Underoath to make a few.
What of the music though? Opening track Premonition starts with a gentle strum and distant wailing solo as the sound builds in ambiance and despair which just over a minute later switches into The Cleansing, which is a classic in itself. Starting with the rage of 1000 wild horses, the eight-minute masterpiece switches to a driving rhythm as Jake Luhrs vocals scream over the top in pain. Yet hold onto those horses as a choir weaves it’s way through the tapestry of the song as it slows then explodes to an uplifting sonic conclusion that feels like floating away on a boat in the ocean.
The aforementioned Jesse Leach duet Ancestry hurtles at you like a careening race car at with faulty breaks. The switch in vocals are dynamic as the songs allows moments to head bang away before a breakdown that makes the floor shake.
Tightrope has brilliant swinging rhythm to it as the band deliver a stomping performance making this one I want to hear live.
This album actually has a lot of songs that already could translate live such as the rocking number Backfire and Revival which is built around a classic blues riff just one hundred times faster with an exciting dynamic break to keep you on your toes.
As the album enters the final stretch, the band themselves continue to push themselves whether it’s vocally on Dark Divide, which also comes with a guitar solo forged in the depth of hell or the venom spitting The Abyss before finishing with another eight-minute epic with Spencer from Underoath on Reckoning. The vocals complement each other as the release valve is opened and the energy spurts out to the stratosphere.
August Burns Red have always been a band not afraid to sing about the things that affect them, and musically match that in ways few can. The backdrop of the last few years has allowed them to go deeper and darker. It’s allowed them to stretch the vocal capabilities as the music balances between getting heavier still yet softer at points.
Death Below is a side of August Burns Red we have seen in patches in the past, a dark side that is compelling and intriguing, a side that needs to be heard, so, turn it up loud and really listen, it’s a hell of a journey.
Album Review By Iain McCallum