Over the past couple of years, it has become apparent to me that there are two types of August Burns Red fans: the die-hard fans who support any and all changes, and the Constellations fans (the band’s 2009 release). The latter are especially appreciative of meaty breakdowns, odd-meter phrases, and complex lead guitar work. With that in mind, the band’s fifth full-length Rescue & Restore makes no attempt whatsoever to reconnect with their Constellations era fans. Rather, they took what they had going in Leveler and emphasized on it. Rescue & Restore focuses on experimenting and fusing a variety of musical styles and genres with the best aspects of metalcore. However, this is not to say that there are no heavy sections or intricate solos – they just didn’t focus on these things as much. The good ol’ ABR we all love is still there; they just came prepared with more surprises than some people are prepared to handle.
The first two songs are nothing new for the band, so they may draw more interest from fans of older albums. “Provision” opens up the record using a familiar formula which is still able to instantly captivate listeners’ attention, while “Treatment” continues the Latino-based vibes introduced on Leveler‘s “Internal Cannon.” It feels like these two opening tracks are merely meant to warm listeners up for what’s to come, rather than jumping right into deep waters. Nonetheless, both songs still have plenty to offer to listeners of all kinds.
“Creative Captivity” is all over the place – and I mean this in the best way possible. It opens up with the gentle plucking of a Chinese-stringed instrument, and by the time you get to the end, you might think that you’re listening to Sleddin’ Hill (an album of Christmas songs the band put out last winter). Oh, and then the song closes out with a majestic trumpet lead. I do believe this is the first time August Burns Red has incorporated trumpets into their music. Needless to say, the title of this song is very fitting. It is a prime example of how the band has progressed immensely over recent years.
Tracks such as “Sincerity” and “Echoes” feature some anthemic group vocals, similar to what we heard in “Empire” from Leveler. These lighter and more uplifting passages are still fairly new for ABR and are becoming more prevalent in their music. I expect most fans will welcome this evolving style, though fans of the band’s heavier work might feel a little let down by this. A few other tracks I highly recommend are “Beauty in Tragedy” and “Animals.” The latter caters specifically to seekers of technicality and throws some eerie Egyptian vibes around here and there. The odd-meter fiends JB Brubaker and Matt Greiner are still doing what they do best.
While this album is abundantly progressive and a major expansion for August Burns Red’s musical style, it feels like something is missing – and perhaps that is why. I can’t suppress the feeling that the band put too much effort into diversifying their portfolio instead of capitalizing on the assets they already possess. It seems that nearly every song has a soft break somewhere to separate the chaos, and it actually becomes somewhat of an annoyance after a while. Even though I wouldn’t categorize myself as a hardcore Constellations fan, I must admit that I’m beginning to miss the darker and heavier atmosphere of that record. At times during Rescue & Restore, it sounds like the band has lost sight of what makes them great. But of course, they always redeem themselves with a gratifying guitar solo or some of Jake Luhrs’ inhumanly low screams. I might also mention that it would be wiser for Luhrs to stick to screaming vocals and keep his distance from spoken-word territory. Neither of his two attempts at spoken-word on Restore & Restore are very convincing – mostly because his voice lacks the emotion engendered by his typical vocal style.
In conclusion, this record overflows with musical ingenuity. Even in comparison with the band’s extensive list of solid releases, it still holds its head above the water with ease. The simple fact is that the Constellations era fans will not receive this album as well as others will. August Burns Red continually pushes the limits of their genre, and their latest installment has set the bar even higher. So instead of criticizing them for not being as ‘brutal’ as they used to be, we should praise them for their ability to play such an incredible range of genres and proficiently incorporate them into their already-complex music. Unlike so many other newer releases in this scene, Rescue & Restore will not soon be forgotten. August Burns Red is doing things that nobody else is doing, and so I tip my hat to them for their daringness and audacity.