August Burns Red On Tenth Album ‘Death Below’

‘We would say our slogan is angry music for happy people!’

Dustin Davidson of American metalcore giants August Burns Red is discussing their storming tenth album Death Below, a much darker output that previous offerings yet still undeniably and positively August Burns Red.

It does beg the question; is this a pathway the band are heading now?
I wouldn’t say that it’s just how the song writing came together. Speaking for me personally, ‘Backfire’ was the first song I wrote for the album. That song, and I don’t know too much about music theory, that song is primarily in harmonic minor which is a pretty dark sounding scale so that song kinda lent itself that way. With the blasting and stuff it kinda came together and for me personally I was stuck in that dark sound when I was writing in the early stages for that song. I’m not going to say and be committed to that’s what the sound will be but that’s certainly what the sound was like for ‘Death Below’. We wanted to intentionally have all the songs flow together but that doesn’t mean they all had to be dark but it was what we were feeling at the time and it gives this album its identity. That’s not how we are going to move forward, we are always going to write what we are feeling. It gives this album its identity and how it stands out in our catalogue from now on moving forward. ‘Whoa that was a dark record for ABR!’

The music is quite intricate, yet some of the songs seem to be written starting on drums rather than the bass, what is your song writing process?
For me it typically starts with guitar, I’ll write a riff on guitar, a nice section and then I might get stuck and at that point I’ll sit down on the drum kit and be ‘what intricate drum part can I write for this section?’ I have my own set up with mics so I can record myself. It’s not the best studio quality but it sounds great and is inspiring for me. So, then I will mess around trying out 3 or 4 different feelings for the part. That will often help me take the song onto where I want it to go to next. The drums really do help me transition and fill in the gaps. Also, sometimes it’s inspiring to have a guitar part, you don’t have the drums yet so to sit down, write it and you get so stoked what you write down and bridge it to the next part. I’m not capable of playing everything I put down but its super fun sitting down there and trying to figure it out. I’m way better with my hands than with my feet. If I was a pop punk drummer or something like that, I would be great but when I’ve got to do constant double bass or something like that, that’s not me!

Carson and Grant back on production duties, what is it about them you keep going back to?
Well, they have a bad ass new studio! Where were from, they have a brand-new studio. This album is unique in that we recorded it in several different studios while their new studio was being built. We were friends with those guys before we started working with them, Grant was in a band called This Is The Apocalypse, Carson played in a band called Century. We had played shows with them, so our working relationship was already established and already there. We loved their workflow and honestly felt like part of the process is to come back to them every two years and do a new album together, it’s started to feel routine and at home. They bring so much to the table in that they have an awesome studio, awesome ideas and their workflow is so good we get a lot of stuff done when we are there every day, all day, five days a week.

The lyrics of the band are always uplifting, yet the music contrasts, is that what you always set out to do?
Yeah, we would say our slogan is angry music for happy people! Cause the nature of metal is and sounds angry and aggressive and as you said, you delve into the lyrics and see you have a clear positive message. That has been clear with us since the beginning. We want to be a positive influence and be positive all round. So even if the song has a dark toll to it like Cleansing or Deadbolt, we find a way to wrap that up. Songs that are kind of brutal we find a way to tie it up and end it on a positive note. Very important to us.

Interview By Iain McCallum

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