Album Review :
August Burns Red - Leveler

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Band: August Burns Red

Title: Leveler

Label: Solid State Records

Release Date: June 21st 2011

Reviewer: Joshua Clark

Tracklisting:

  1. Empire
  2. Internal Cannon
  3. Divisions
  4. Cutting The Ties
  5. Pangaea
  6. Carpe Diem
  7. 40 Nights
  8. Salt & Light
  9. Poor Millionaire
  10. 1/16/2011
  11. Boys of Fall
  12. Leveler

August Burns Red has become a name that is pretty hard not to hear in the metalcore arena of music anymore. Upon each of the Pennsylvania natives past releases the band has steadily been increasing their fanbase. ABR over the past few years has pretty much skyrocketed to the top of the heap of metalcore bands and rightly so.

ABR has put out enough albums that you should have a good idea what you are in for. The band has always created more than satisfactory metalcore, being both extremely proficient at their individual instruments and putting some new life into a genre that just rehashes the same sound more than not, with the many sound alike bands swarming the market. Leveler, like past releases is extremely technical and filled with well-executed metalcore riffs and breakdowns. I have always thoroughly enjoyed the guitar riffage delivered by JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler, they consistently have provided some ear pleasing riffs and solos. The solos in this album sound great and are always a treat to hear. Drummer Matt Greiner I consider one of the better drummers in the genre and easily puts others to shame with his mastery of the kit.

So with Leveler, the band is pretty consistent with what they already do well and throw in enough experimentation and intricacies to keep you interested.
Did you ever expect to get salsa-esque segment in an ABR song? Well neither did I, but “Internal Cannon” delivers just that. At first I found it a little odd at first, but the band pulls it off and there is no arguing that is something different for the genre.
ABR has never had such a mix of heavier moments fused in with some softer melodic moments. I think the melodic moments combined with the more chaotic segments are a great contrast and are pulled off beautifully. This isn’t to say ABR has gone soft by any means but they do add some variety instead by showing a strong melodic side. This also makes the heavy parts even more impactful and that much stronger. I was blown away with the guitar solos sprinkled throughout the album, they left me thoroughly impressed and that was easily one of my favorite parts of the album.

While I have always thought that Jake Luhrs has had a solid scream I never found it to be that diverse. I also have appreciated how his screams have a little melodic flavor to them and it’s pretty easy to distinguish what he is screaming compared to some other bands. But I impressed on Leveler the amount of variety Luhrs had in his screaming, something I never would have said about him before. Messengers to Constellations I didn’t notice a big change with the vocals, but here Luhrs adds a lot of vocal variety to the bands sound and shows a lot of personal growth. Along with the guitar solos, this was another of my favorite aspects of the music.

Lyrically, I have always thought that ABR does a great job providing thought provoking and gripping lyrics. This is once again true and I think the songwriting is very strong on the album. The lyrics are as honest and poetic they have ever been, while never diminishing their God-centered focus.

While I don’t want to spoil all the lyrics and would rather you dive into them yourself, this is one of my favorite parts off the album, from the title track:

“The victim in me is dead. I am reborn. So even though you call me self-righteous and call my beloved treacherous, there is one thing to take away. Leveler, make level the road for the righteous. I forgive you, queen of hearts, for through me, He will show you true love.”

There really is not a whole lot to complain with on this album. Yes it sounds like some of ABR’s past material, but with how good their past stuff has been is that really a bad thing? With how proficient and talented these guys, are their worst songs would be some other bands best stuff. But I think they have added in enough twist and turns to keep things interesting and they pull everything else off well enough that it’s hard to complain. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this album start to finish, sure some tracks are better than others, but none really could be considered weak. Favorite tracks for me where “Empire”, “Cutting the Ties”, “Pangaea”, “Salt and Light”, and “Poor Millionaire.”

Overall: does Leveler live up to the hype? Even though I had my doubts that the band could pull off another stellar album, the band beat my expectations and ABR once again delivered a strong album. They stayed true to a sound that they have mastered and excel at. This band has well earned their position as one of metalcore’s top bands due to their hardwork and talent there should be no question that they earned that spot. It’s hard to say what their best album is and how this compares. ABR blasted onto the scene with 2005’s Thrill Seeker and followed with the outstanding Messengers and Constellations. Leveler is easily thrown right in there, allowing ABR to add it too their strong catalog of albums. I have never got into an ABR album as quickly as I have with Leveler. I usually have to give the songs a little time to grow on me and then I love it. But I have been able to jump right into this album and have been thoroughly pleased. For me this is one of the best releases of the year so far and easily could stay as one of my favorites for the year. Fans of ABR should definitely pick this up and any other heavy music listener won’t want to miss out on this one.

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