“The metalcore genre should always be tested and flourishing — and if it’s not — that’s the musicians’ fault and they need to do a better job,” August Burns Red guitarist J.B. Brubaker recently said about growth in their genre of music. On the band’s newest effort, Found In Far Away Places, it means moving away from familiarity and conventions, and diving deep into outside-the-box, thought-out musicianship. With this 53 minute-long monster, it’s obvious that a ton of thought went in, as what came out is the Pennsylvania natives’ most collective, crafty concoction to date.
Rescue & Restore thrived emotionally thanks to pungent lyrics and Jake Luhrs’ honesty both in writing and execution. While it marked a high point for the band, one perhaps only rivaled by the monumental Constellations, the instrumental potential it revealed kickstarted some thought to how else they could stretch the metalcore genre. As good as that record was sonically, it wasn’t perfect, suffering mainly from a lack of identity as a whole and vapid songwriting here and there. That release may have matched the frontman’s straightforward mentality, but its follow-up shows improvement in those areas with its stylistic complexity and brute force, both from track to track and as a whole. The entire disc moves like a mountain, working its way up to the peak by the middle and gliding down to the bottom in a chilling, yet refreshing close.
As the first single, “The Wake” provided the best inward look at this. As a song about taking better care of the environment, it leaves behind a “wake” in its guitar motions and precise drumming and acts as a base camp and tone-setter for the record. Following that track’s lead, both “Martyrs” and “Identity” are crushers about the effects of hypocrisy and selfishness on others, with the latter setting its sights on what it means to “stand firm” and find one’s self in a world that often says otherwise. The two meaty tunes follow the formula of building up, slowing down into a surf-style interlude, and then coming back with the super-tight, relentless energy the group has flaunted since 2007’s Messengers. That approach continues to work, too, as “Separating the Seas” takes a break from the stingy melodies and domineering guitar leads, allowing for Jewish-style instrumentals to speed things back into ABR’s full form.
The record continues to rise with “Ghosts,” its most personal offering. Left in its “wake” is a message about homelessness and what equality means from the perspective of the oppressed, and a craggy build-up allows Luhrs and the gang to chime in with an absolute musical bombardment. What helps with the song’s resonance is layering and expansion; A Day To Remember vocalist helps with this, as his cleans and screams add yet another dimension to the band’s sound. It’s obvious in this track — and the next two also — how much of a strength vocals are on this record, due to a focus on harmonies and textures that help the songs rise and fall with immaculate flow. On Leveler and even Rescue & Restore at times, the transitions weren’t as smooth as they are here. A lot of it should be owed to the way the vocals guide the music, and some of it, too, is the band fully embracing their tweaked style of metalcore and all of its scattered Western vibes.
Those vibes reappear in the second-half descent, with an enhanced fervor and visceral feeling incorporated into the songs’ deepest levels. “Twenty-One Grams” is the stand-out instrumentally, while “Blackwood” is a lyrical roundhouse kick, showcasing Luhrs’ ability to release sheer anger and provoke change as well as he provides hope to the broken. Its post-rock-twinged melodies help drive home its attacks on the prosperity Gospel and the way it fails to effectively treat many important issues. “Grams” mirrors that track’s thematic relentlessness with a compact firestorm of metal tendencies, from Matt Greiner’s shaking drum hits to Brubaker and Brent Rambler’s glamorous guitar chugs. It all beautifully fades into angelic strings, setting up for a melodic finale in “Vanguard.”
The ender perfectly sums up one of the many things this album does well: surpassing conventions. Flipping the formula so well represented throughout the first 10 songs on its face, the song is fronted by a sonorous guitar solo and backed by a mix of cleans and screams. The change is most obvious in the dynamic it creates in correlation to the rest of the release. The quintet really stresses how all of the songs seem to play into the whole — not contrasting so much in compositional makeup, but rather working to the movement of the record itself. It’s why the textbook formula the band often follows isn’t a burden. Plus, with so many unique riffs and melodies, things are almost always interesting. Like Brubaker said back in March, fresh ideas and stellar songwriting are the keys to success in the metal genre, and the band’s fulfillment of these makes Found In Far Away Places one of the year’s — and perhaps decade’s — best metalcore records.
Metalcore | Fearless Records