- Spirit Breaker
- Count It All as Lost
- Creative Captivity
- Fault Line
- Beauty in Tragedy
- The First Step
When it comes to the music world there are inovators and there are those who go, “that was pretty cool, lets do something like that.” August Burns Red has always been on the trendsetter side of the equation, but with Rescue and Restore, they are making a statement about that fact. Feeling that the metalcore genre has become overly saturated with too similar riffs and tones, ABR “turns a critical eye to the oft-maligned genre, leading by example to prove that bands can still find exciting new ways to expand the genre without simply falling into repetitive trappings.”
“Rescue & Restore is about challenging other bands and ourselves, as well as fans of this music, to want more
than whatever happens to be the current buzz,” explains guitarist and principal songwriter JB Brubaker. “We’ve
done our best with each new album to try to push our sound in new directions and we’d like to see our peers do
the same. People need to realize that there’s not much of a difference between a metalcore song that has a
couple breakdowns with a repeating chorus and the latest Lady Gaga song. This genre used to be better than
that. It can still be better than that” (ABR official Press release).
Considering such bold statements, Rescue and Restore needed to live up to more than just the inevitable hype of a new album, it needed to blaze a trail. It would be impossible to fashion an album around such a bold mission statement and then rest back into the all-too-familiar trappings of the genre. As fans already know, however, ABR never stands in one place. Fans know never to expect the same thing twice.
Rescue and Restore lives up to the bold mission statement of leading the metalcore genre to new destinations. Despite the global popularity of their last full studio album Leveler, ABR does not simply rehash or repackage their past work, but seeks to lead the genre itself into new and more creative soundscapes. A perfect example of this can be found on the aptly titled “Creative Captivity,” which opens with a seemingly Asian themed sound, the Spanish sounding guitar work on “Treatment,” strings on “Spirit Breaker,” and oh so much more.
That being said, ABR does not delve into experimentation as much as, say, Becoming the Archetype did on Celestial Completion or Hope for the Dying did on Aletheia. The core of this record is still that signature August Burns Red sound that created a global fan-base for the band. It still has those signature deep growls and guttural moments, and of course it has some of the best musicianship across any genre…Just don’t be surprised by the fact that you’re just as likely to hear Jake Luhrs break into Me Without You-esque spoken word as you are to hear him obliterate his vocals.
Rescue and Restore begins with “Provision.” “Provision” begins to introduce the dual themes that come across as the album moves on. It is both tied to what the ethos of the record itself is, and it incorporates a challenging spiritual message. Lyrics like, “Losing it all lead me to You,” and “it’s times likes these you forget to remember who you are… I’m just as much the problem as the man behind bars, he did with his business what I do in my heart.” It is at this point in the review that I usually mention something about the musicianship on a particular song, but… this is August Burns Red. The musicianship across the entire album is varied and phenomenal.
“Treatment” follows with an above-par metalcore excursion set apart by the spanish guitar influenced interlude. The song takes a hard look at faith and states, “stop telling us what happens when we die, start helping us… while we’re still alive.” The song asks us to weigh our motives when it comes to how and why we interact (and share the faith?) with others.
“Spirit Breaker” is not afraid to break pace mid-stream and just enjoy some beautifully somber melodies. This is one of the key tracks to look for spoken word to make an appearance. While the use of it adds flavor to the song as a whole, the way in which it is read sounds a little stilted, as if Jake were reading a letter someone else wrote (yes, I realize JB does much of the writing, but you get the point).
“Count it all as Lost,” which may take it’s title from Phillipians 3:8, starts out with a harrowing admission that, “I want to believe these words are more than letters to me… (but), I keep breaking my promises… I need You here.” The song is a great redemptive track that focuses on the lostness of our broken state set against the promise of new life. As with “Spirit Breaker” there is a great musical break, though not as divergently “Spanish” in sound.
“Sincerity” hits hard with some great metalcore that doesn’t diverge, but certainly leads the pack in skill and execution (and has some fantastic lyrical depth). The great diversion is left to “Creative Captivity.” Tying itself most closely with the theme (mentioned above) of the album, this is a song not afraid to explore. As mentioned above, “Creative Captivity” starts out with an edgy Asian melody that quickly blends into a rock flavor with muted screaming behind it.
More than any other track, “Creative Captivity” needs to prove what the band is setting out to do by leading the metalcore genre. Had this track fell flat, so would their message. Luckily, the absolute mastery of instrumentation and light use of any vocals at all seem to beckon and cry out for more experimentation and instrumentation across the chug-a-chug-a’s and double bass pedals-centric genre. “These colors must never fade,” seems almost a warning to other musicians, while “we will fight to save this…this is a cause worth fighting for… we will rescue and restore,” prove the central battle cry of the album. Nicely enough, the track concludes with horns blaring.
“Fault Line” takes a step back and looks at the idea of carrying the banner from an intimate perspective. The lyrics, “If I could do more, I promise I would, but this is your time… Scream your sorrow, proclaim your love, just don’t call me your hero,” are a direct challenge to the musical world to step up and innovate.
“Beauty and Tragedy,” a track that lives up to those two divergent word pictures, features some of the best musicianship (which is saying something) on the record, while also packing lyrical dynamite. From the rolling thunder to the very real feeling of cold air coming through the speakers, Jake once again uses spoken word (this time much more effectively) to proclaim, “tomorrow the world will be a little colder, but I’ll be sure to breathe for both of us… I can’t hear your voice, but that’s ok, because I can feel you in my heart.” The way atmospheric elements are used in cooperation with the spoken word track almost reminded me of some of the better moments of Blindside’s The Great Depression or With Shivering Hearts We Wait.
“Animals” is pretty straightforward. There is a little bit of fry screaming (or closer to it), and some very interesting guitar licks. The message “we are not animals” points to a more eternal worth each person should look towards. “Echoes” begins with simple, yet deep, guitar work that continues to show just how massively talented ABR is (but, you knew that). The incorporation of clapping adds to the environmental sounds prior to the onset of the screaming, as well. The line, “celebrate new life,” repeated throughout, points to a future for the band’s beloved genre (as well as the condition of the human spirit), and implies that there is still much more to come.
In closing the album out, “The First Step” cements this bold two-fold declaration of hope for music and for the human condition through Christ with hopeful proclamation. “We’re so scared to take the first steps…why? The ground you walk on isn’t a straight line…don’t let the world pass you by.” As the closing song, “The First Step” is basically the hero moment. It is Maximus telling the evil Commodus that he will have his revenge in this life or the next. It is William Wallace telling the scared masses that “they can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom.” The words “we will replace the old guard with the new,” are spoken with such passion that they would certainly be fitting if they were coming out of Russell Crow’s Jor-El in the new Man of Steel movie.
The message is clearly, “we aren’t afraid to pick up the mantle and wear it… but, don’t follow our path, blaze your own. We’re still moving forward. Come with us, let’s move this thing forward together.” As a closing track, this is very effective. You leave the record emboldened and ready for the battle that is yet to come. You walk away energized and ready to take the high ground.
Overall: In the end, Rescue and Restore balances two themes with one outcome. This is a record about the brokenness of the human condition and the staleness of the metalcore genre. Yet, it is a battle cry to both. For our lives, there is restoration and rescue from the maker of our souls. For metalcore as a genre, it is a bold proclamation to step it up, innovate, and blaze new trails. The message is clearly, if not a little cocky, we’re going to take this thing to new levels, so either come alongside us or get left behind.
As with any August Burns Red album, this self-assured message is backed up with such massively powerful and skillful musicianship that no one should take issue with ABR claiming the mantle and calling their genre to arms. Rescue and Restore is just exactly what it sets out to be, it is a tight and cohesive musical experience that isn’t afraid to innovate musically and then look at their peers and say, “Okay, now it’s your turn.”
RIYL: For Today, Ark of the Covenant… August Burns Red (I mean we compare most other heavy bands to them, so that should say something, right?)