ALBUM REVIEW: August Burns Red – Death Below


For a band that hasn’t changed their sound much over the course of almost twenty years, Pennsylvania quintet August Burns Red miraculously continues to stay not only relevant but one of the most widely respected acts in modern metal. 


They have yet to release an album that doesn’t hold up to their legacy, all thanks to whatever special secret sauce they pour into every one of their instant classics. Whether that be the lusciously moving guitar melodies, brilliant use of dynamics to tell a story, or the emotionally charged yet structured vocals, they never fail to deliver the goods everyone craves from them – and Death Below (SharpTone Records) reinforces this for the tenth time in a row.


As soon as I hit play and the slow-building opener ‘Premonition’ began, I already had the feeling this album would continue their pattern of never disappointing. It only goes uphill from there as vocalist Jake Luhrs throws some intensifying spoken word over the eerie yet lush guitar chords. His delivery has a poetic and theatrical flow that had my ears glued to my headphones straight away.


‘Fool’s Gold In The Bear Trap’ lives up to its title with its deceptively long and chill intro that suddenly erupts into volcanic screams and blast beats over halfway through its runtime. Ambient guitars and a smooth bass groove continue on just long enough to believe it’s an instrumental interlude track, until all hell breaks loose and Luhrs starts unleashing his black metal highs. 


Although August Burns Red excel at everything they do, what keeps me consistently coming back to them are virtuosos JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler. They make every guitar riff count (and I mean every riff), showing off their best abilities in every song while still pulling off cohesive arrangements. This could play a big part in how the band are so accessible throughout a wide spectrum of the modern rock and metal communities; they never lose the heaviness, and while clean vocals are normally kept to a minimum, the guitars provide shreds that sing and rouse the same feeling as impassioned vocal performances. 


In addition, metal marvel Jason Richardson of All That Remains (formerly Born Of Osiris and Chelsea Grin) is featured on ‘Tightrope’, throwing some proggy sweeps and legato runs on the gourmet instrumentals like his own signature spice.


Normally when a band releases a song in the six-to-eight-minute range, the general consensus is one of two things: that it either drags on with too much repetition and filler or is an absolute masterpiece worthy of every second it holds. The first and final full-length tracks on Death Below, ‘The Cleansing’ and ‘Reckoning’, fall under the latter. Each one is an aural voyage through dramatic shifts in energy and tempo, thrilling guitar lines, thumping drum fills, and pure emotion-driven vocals. On top of all that, Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain adds his own touches to the closer, ending the record with a visceral vocal battle between two of metalcore’s greatest icons.


Meeting all expectations while still turning heads with their raw talent and collective artistry, August Burns Red is the metalcore gift that keeps on giving. As some of their longtime peers attempt to force fuel out of an empty canister, they’re always in full supply. 


The band definitely still have their status locked in for the foreseeable future.


Buy the album here:


9 / 10