Sons of Thunder Reviews: August Burns Red – Leveler
Welcome to a new feature of Team Orthodoxy, Sons of Thunder Reviews, where Chris (CatholicChris) and Mike (AnotherEpigone) give their brilliant, sublime, and sometimes contradictory reviews of new Christian Metal.
This time the Sons are checking out the latest Solid State Records release from August Burns Red. This band has been a part of their friendship for many years, so this review is deeply personal. Lets see what they thought!
The Epigone’s Review:
August Burns Red has been one of the most respected bands in Christian metalcore since they exploded onto the scene with 2005’s Thrill Seeker. This band holds an enormous amount of real estate in my musical heart of hearts, as their debut album came at an important time in my life; a time when I was turning back to God, a time when I was first becoming a man, and a time when I was discovering the sublime beauty of Christian metal! My nostalgia for Thrill Seeker is enormous, and so the question for me with each new album is always, can they match that greatness ever again?
After weeks of nonstop listening, I’m just going to come out and say it. YES. Leveler is actually better than Thrill Seeker. It is the best August Burns Red album, period.
When I first heard August Burns Red’s newest album “Leveler”, it forced me to stop for a moment and listen. Their newest album really takes the listener down a different path that the diehard ABR fan is used to. As the Sons of Thunder, Mike (anotherepigone) and myself have been listening to this band from the beginning. Seeing them live 6 times over the course of 6 years has allowed me to see the men in this band grow as musicians, and I’ve looked forward to every release since I heard “Thrill Seeker” which was released in 2005. After the release of “Constellations” in 2009, I personally was disappointed as I felt the record was quite generic, and really brought nothing new to the table. “Leveler” on the other hand changed the game for August Burns Red, which is a pleasant but much needed surprise. The album has something for every type of listener. For those who love their chuggy metalcore breakdowns, fear not! They are still plentiful in this record and are sure to make you two-step. For those with an ear for something a little different, ABR takes a few chances in this album to break the cycle of the typical Metalcore genre to provide some tasty progressive metal influenced interludes, like those found in the song “Internal Cannon” that please the more eclectic crowd. If you are looking for skilled musicians in all of their fields, you will find a happy home with this album.
The title “Leveler” comes from their title track, which finishes the album. Alluding to Saint John the Baptist, it speaks of a “Queen of Hearts” bent on the song writers destruction. Some creative license was taken and sort of derailed the beauty of this reference when speaking about how, if he did not follow the Lord, he would destroy her. Lyrically, that made no sense. But it still got the point across in the end that he forgave her and that God would find her. Lyrically, I felt like the lyricists intent was to write an album of lyrical one liners. It feels as if many of the songs were written with the intent to make them anthems. Though some can be considered worthy of the title “anthem”, including the lyrics in the song “Salt and Light” which repeat at the end “We sing for you” eight times, it gets almost monotonous when almost every song ends in an quasi-anthem.
I would like to point out however that I feel this is most likely the most “God” focussed album I have seen released by this band. Songs such as “Divisions” which says “Oh God, I’m speaking to you. You said we are redeemed. Oh God, I’m speaking to you. You said we are set free…”. The song “Poor Millionaire” declares “Tyrant. Ring the bells of repentance, awakening from your deathbed”, and the song “40 Nights” says “Life, death, dreams, wealth – nothing lasts forever. Greed, envy, gluttony will amount to nothing. Nothing lasts forever.” This album spends a lot of its focus recognizing the brokenness and self-love of fallen humanity while calling people to turn their lives around and says in “Boys of Fall” that “…all we had we lost. All we gained is chaos. Where we belong is with You. All we have is You. Where we belong is with You. All we have is You. Where we belong is with You. Please rescue us.” They recognize that God is who they need, and not themselves.
The overall production of this album is typical for any release coming out of the Seattle based, SolidState Records. Nothing is left wanting in terms of quality with this release. Some may question the “Overproduced” sound, however it plays well while driving in a car with the windows down and doesn’t sound like you’re listening to music in a trash can. To be honest, “drivability” is always an important factor for me.
The overarching flow of the album is one of it’s weak points. I feel, along with the anthem mentality, that one song does not connect well with the next. All of the songs are quite different from one another (which can also be considered very good if done correctly). However to me it’s not an album that I can sit and listen to on repeat for that very reason.
In conclusion, August Burns Red’s “Leveler” took risks that I thought would never happen with this band. I feel they have now opened the door to new areas of musical exploration as a band that they had closed with “Constellations”. Overall I was pleased with this album and would encourage metal fans to listen to it, albeit with an open mind. Though the anthems were a little too plentiful and lyrical content nonsensical at times, I thoroughly enjoyed this album and look forward to what they will be doing in the future.