August Burns Red – Leveler (Solid State Records)

Friday, 22nd March 2013
Rating: 7/10

A rather standard and predictable band, something must be in the August Burns Red brew, ‘cause they’re racking impressive sales figures (at least by 2011 standards) and primo concert tours. We’ll chalk it up to the never-ending devotion of the secular metal scene, who are about as fervent as any sub-section of metal. And once they’re behind you, look the fuck out. Such things (and more) line up perfectly for ABR and their fourth album, Leveler.

Most of Leveler runs like a standard metalcore album, meaning swiped Swedish riffs are in demand, and shout-along choruses. The band would be totally null and void if singer Jake Luhrs ever did full-on clean vocals, but thank Jesus he doesn’t. In fact, Luhrs proves to be more than just a screaming head, with some rather agile vocal thrusts put on display during “Divisions” and “Poor Millionaire.”

The band certainly has a firm grasp on melody, as evidenced by the opening guitar spirals of “Cutting the Ties” and the atmospheric portions of “Carpe Diem.” ABR gets a little cute with a samba breakdown during “Internal Cannon,” which manages to float quite well. Beyond that, the swaths of As I Lay Dying-happy riff-action goes a long way, with the two bands sharing more than their fair share of sound parallels on “40 Nights” and “Boys of Fall.”

No one ran metalcore into the ground more than the Christian metal scene, yet August Burns Red are really the only band of worth to make it out of that fray.Leveler isn’t remotely challenging, but its familiar template and pulverizing sonic scope are strong to enough to dip into the always-discerning “real” metal scene. That is, if you can deal with the band wearing polo shirts onstage and the non-Satan loving message. Strange how such things effect one’s musical preference…

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