I loved Pennsylvanian quintet August Burns Red, purveyors of fulminating Metalcore with an extra double-shot of espresso in the form of dynamic, rabble-rousing screamer Jacob Luhrs. Then came the queer melodies and repetitive codas of the comparatively anodyne Leveler and Rescue & Restore (both Solid State Records)…
‘The Wake’, the opening gambit from seventh studio album Found in Far Away Places (Fearless), possesses the ferocity of former years: the extra edge to JB Brubaker’s rapid, Eastern-tinged leadplay assisted by Rob Greiner’s bludgeoning sticks and Luhrs’ tar-stripping larynx. The juddering, scything attack of ‘Martyr’ is a further improvement: trademark staccato breakdowns invaded by a gentle lead and string section break, while Brubaker’s delicate, intricate patterns show his continuing evolution.
The mix of light and shade is given a real kick in ‘Identity’, technical savagery traversing the same road as some seriously emotive guitar; an out-of-place 50’s Country / Rock ‘n’ Roll mid-section, however, raises eyebrows. The chaotic battery of ‘Separating the Seas’ is similarly affected by a tango / polka-style bridge, and all of a sudden we’re back in the silly country of the last two albums. The machine-gun riff of the Jeremy McKinnon-graced ‘Ghosts’ is brutal, and even the faux-emotion of the clean vocals is acceptable in the intensity of their surroundings. The howling melodies of ‘Majoring in the Minors’, however, can’t save it from a ludicrous ‘cartoon western’ interlude.
Here, it seems, we have a band who have grown so keen to display the breadth of their invention and myriad influences that utterly pointless incursions into whimsy appear de rigeur: breaking any flow and leaving us wondering what in the blue blazes is occurring.
The soaring, moving lead breaks of standout track ‘Broken Promises’ are far more fitting and more organic, whilst the wanton aggression of ‘Blackwood’ and ‘Twenty-one Grams’ is beautifully tempered by Brubaker’s increasingly judicious, occasionally dainty solos. Repeated plays focus the listener on the overwhelming positives of the album but, lads, for the sake of all that’s holy, stop the excursions into surreal fancy. They cheapen the memorable output of a largely incredible band of musicians.