Sound — 9
After a #24 album on the Billboard Top 200, a relentless touring schedule, and a live album, August Burns Red finally releases their new full-length entitled "Leveler". They are one of the leading metalcore bands in the genre nowadays and their newest album doesn't show any waning of that leadership. On their last albums, I was very impressed by both "Messengers" and "Constellations". I liked the sounds of both albums, but none of the two reflected the sound of the other. "Leveler" is the savior. This record beautifully blends the progressiveness of "Constellations" and the brutal, odd-meter riffs of "Messengers", all along with its own new flavor mixed in (and maybe a bit of "Thrill Seeker"). The music is everything ABR fans have been waiting for. At least the ones who didn't favor one album over the other. Talking about the instruments, everything is crystal clear. JB's leads break through, and Brent's rhythm backs them up well. I definitely LOVE their now-frequent guitar solos. It is a great step-up being able to combine sick solos and heavy metalcore riffage. What I'm most excited about though is that I can finally hear the bass. As a bassist, I like hearing it on any record, but in metalcore, the bassist is usually given the slip and you can hardly hear any of them in the mix. The drums are also magnificent, but the sound of them is not everything. Matt shines even brighter on this record as one of the best drummers out there in modern music. Everything about his playability is just breath-taking. Now I'm going to go down the songs one by one: 01. "Empire" - Starts off with a fade-in feedback sound, unlike the last two albums where the guitarists just played a huge drop C chord. A solid song with a sweet solo, but sadly not much of a breakdown. 02. "Internal Cannon" - Awesome song. Starts off pounding at your head right away and then transitions to a heart-stopping, classic ABR off-meter breakdown. One of my favorites by them now. Then in the middle of the song, it goes into a very odd salsa-esque acoustic solo which is very cool and got good feedback from fans dubbing it "Salsacore". It then goes back to electric guitars, as JB plays a magnificent distorted salsa solo. 03. "Divisions" - Starts with another feedback fade-in, but Matt's drums quickly break the feedback and he starts the song. A fast, brutal song with great drumming, but halfway through it goes a little slower with a great solo and ending. 04. "Cutting The Ties" - Starts off with a tasty riff and goes into a quick, "White Washed" like intro, but quickly gets faster. There's some great drumming in this song also. It's pretty much a "Leveler" song with a "Constellations" influence. There's also a sick breakdown at the end but then the song kind of ends with a positive sounding chord progression. 05. "Pangaea" - The intro to this song keeps me hooked. I kept listening and it turns out to be a pretty solid song. Cool guitar work and SICK solo. Definitely listen to this solo. 06. "Carpe Diem" - This is the longest song on the album and it starts off a little slow with an eerie guitar duet. There's a cool, slow middle section with another eerie solo. The overall composition reminds me a bit of "Meridians". Dustin's (bassist) vocals are clearly heard in this one. They're a little squeaky but other than that, it is a good, epic song with a slight progressiveness. 07. "40 Nights" - Starts off heavy right away. Very "Messengers"-esque. Nice heavy riffs, the bass is clear, and there's some awesome licks thrown in there. I definitely like this one a lot. 08. "Salt & Light" - Another heavier song, but with a more normal chord progression at the start. It is also Great breakdowns, solos, and licks are littered (in a good way) all over this song. Awesome middle section. Beautiful song. 09. "Poor Millionaire" - On their website, ABR said that this is one of their most heavy songs to date. I agree. The drum solo at the start sounds like the start of the Matt Greiner drum solo YouTube video that was taken during the AP Tour. And then the guitars kick in. This is an unforgiving mix of heavy riffage, plenty of bass, and sick drumming. Jake's vocals are also nice and full on this song particularly. Sick breakdown at the end with Jake growling, "Coward!" 10. "1/16/2011" - A simple interlude song with some a beautiful solo and backing guitar. 11. "Boys Of Fall" - An awesome song that starts out brutal right away. Also includes the lyric "Where do we go to escape the end of the world?" which was on their website for a while. Leads into an awesome solo and a great breakdown. Great song for any August Burns Red fan. 12. "Leveler" - Here it is. The title track at the end of the album. It starts with an absolutely sick drum fill that might be able to beat the fill at the start of "The Eleventh Hour". As the last song AND the title track, I was expecting this song to be the epic, heavy ending, and it was. A great way to end an album. For those of you with the deluxe edition: 13. "Internal Cannon (Acoustic)" - Simply an acoustic version of "Internal Cannon". There's no vocals, but it is an awesome, soothing instrumental. 14. "Pangaea (Perf. By Bells)" - Bells is an instrumental band the that ABR's original vocalist, Jon Hershey (Looks Fragile After All) formed after he left ABR. They make an absolutely beautiful and almost unrecognizable version of "Pangaea". Another good instrumental. 15. "Boys Of Fall (Perf. By Zachary Veilleux)" - This is a piano version of "Boys Of Fall". It is ANOTHER great instrumental. I don't know where ABR got the idea to add instrumentals performed by other artists, but it was a great one. 16. "Empire (MIDI)" - As Jake Luhrs said, this is the totally stripped version of a song before anything gets recorded. This is what all the instrument players would play to until enough tracks had been recorded to play with. Pretty cool. I'm gonna give it the same score as the real "Empire" song.
Lyrics — 10
Being a christian band, August Burns Red wrote positive lyrics and lyrics about christian things. Sometimes the lyrics can still get to you when they're emotional enough. They also have some powerful meaning behind them. The lyrics fit well with the music also. Going on to Jake's screams though, they were magnificent. I think this is the best vocal record that Jake has recorded so far. His vocals don't sound processed anymore, they sound natural. Like how they do at shows. Most of the tracks also sound like most of the time there's only on vocal track going. His highs sound like how he does at a show and so do his lows. Listen to the "Home" album and you'll see. Brilliant job, Jake.
Overall Impression — 10
This is a fantastic record. In my opinion, the best by ABR yet. All the variety of tones, sounds and vocals are just perfect for me. The name of the album even sounds powerful in some way. I had only heard the title and I was sure it was going to be a great album. I was right. I don't know if you'll be satisfied, but I sure was. I was impressed by everything, the solos, the drums, the bass, and the vocals. I also LOVED the instrumental versions of "Pangaea" and "Boys Of Fall". The most impressive songs off the album for me were "Internal Cannon", "40 Nights", "Boys Of Fall", and the title track. I love everything and I hate nothing about this album. If I lost it, I'd definitely get a replacement. I guarantee if you buy this album, you'll love it.