When you think about it, August Burns Red have quite a lot to answer for. Despite the fact they’re rarely mentioned alongside the Meshuggahs and SiKths of the scene, they are arguably pretty close to be as influential as either of them. Technical metalcore bands have become somewhat of a disposable commodity thanks to the unadulterated influx of them. It’s the new way for otherwise characterless metalcore bands to pretend they’re expanding their sound. But forget about the copycats, August Burns Red have been playing this gig since 2003. But do they actually hold up against their contemporary rivals?
The issue I’ve always had with the band is how they have tended to stall on moving on from their metalcore roots. They have a signature sound and they clearly don’t intend to make any drastic overhauls in their sonic palette. Which is fine. But at the same time, they clearly want to take their signature sound somewhere. Each album since Constellations has made some attempt to be a little more progressive with varying success, and it seems to be a main crux with Found In Far Away Places. The album’s main single, ‘Identity’, shines out as the best example of their experimentation. Adding a reverb-y, Western flick-esque interlude into one of the most lyrically intimate tracks of your career sounds a little odd on paper but for some reason it really works in this instance. Not only is the song cathartic whilst remaining hard-hitting, it also has the most incredible guitar solos I’ve heard this year. I’m talking full on knee-sliding, fret molesting, unabashed ego playing. The comeback of soulful note bending has got to make a comeback in metal after this.
Unfortunately the rest of the record isn’t quite par with this phenomenal peak. The tactic of limiting your experimentation to a mid-song intermission, as they do so often, quickly becomes an obviously lazy way of adding otherwise unrelated ideas with little to no artistic merit. The main offenders are tracks like ‘Separating The Seas’ and ‘Majoring In The Minors’ where the sudden song break just ends up killing the momentum. It’s these moments where ultimately the inclusion of the ‘experimentation’ actually acts as a detriment to the song’s quality. On top of all this, these unexpected passages don’t even sound particularly good. In fact, ‘Separating The Seas’ might have the most awkward inclusion of strings in a metalcore song I’ve heard in a long time, and that’s saying something considering the entire of Fearless Records back catalogue.
And to make matters worse, the more standard sounding August Burns Red cuts don’t really impress much either. Maybe I’m being a little harsh. There’s nothing horribly wrong with songs like The Wake and Twenty-One Grams. In the context of technical metalcore as a whole I’d say that these tracks are above average. But in the context of August Burn Red’s discography as a whole, they’re just far to aching familiar to whole heartedly recommend. They might not be explicitly bad tracks, but what sets them apart? Remember, tech metal is essentially a competition. Who can shred the fastest? Who can play the most confusing time signature? Who’s guitar tone can induce a prolapse the fastest? Sadly, August Burns Red aren’t winning any of these categories anymore.
Highlights: ‘Identity’, ‘Found In Far Away Places’
Similar to: Texas In July, Parkway Drive, The Devil Wears Prada