Metalcore is regard by many critics and fans to be one of the most oversaturated music genres in business today. More brutal breakdowns? Yawn. Growled/screamed verses with sung choruses? Been there. An album full of tracks in drop D? Done that. No question about it; August Burns Red, as a band considered by many to be one of the best in the genre, had a monumental task ahead of them when it came time to make their 4th record.
Leveler kicks things off with the anthem “Empire”, which is simply your classic August Burns Red tune. The only thing new here are some gang vocals but it’s still an enjoyable track sure to be a fan favorite at shows. As vocalist Jake Luhrs growls “Light up the sky! / We’re going where no man has gone” one can’t help but wonder if the same will be true for the rest of the record. The second track, “Internal Cannon” also begins in classic ABR style, complete with a brutal breakdown right off the bat. But wait, things slow down…to a salsa drumbeat? Surprisingly it works. Midway through the song, the salsa beat resumes, building up to a thrilling climax.
The other ten tracks are a mixed bag, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some experimentation is present, but the band never deviates terribly far from the ABR sound its fans know and love. Lyrically, the tone ranges from desperation and righteous anger to rallying cries of hope. The former is expressed in “Poor Millionaire” when Luhrs growls “Draw a line in the sand / You bastard / look at what you’ve become” and the latter in “Cutting the Ties” when he exorts the listener to believe that “Patience is a virtue / You will be revived.”
Production is crisp, yet raw. The talents of all band members are highlighted without detracting from the “real”-ness of the sound. One can almost picture an explosion in movement among the band’s audience when Jake Luhrs screams “Let’s go!” in “Internal Cannon.”
In short, if you are looking to have a blast and listen to ear candy that actually has some depth, Leveler accomplishes both points. You can catch August Burns Red as one of the headliners on the Vans Warped Tour, hitting major markets all across America summer of 2011.