Leveler Review

artist: August Burns Red date: 06/22/2011 category: compact discs
August Burns Red: Leveler
Released: Jun 21, 2011
Genre: Metalcore
Label: Solid State
Number Of Tracks: 12
August Burns Red are dancing the line between an old familiar sound and something completely new. They just need one last push to finally cross over.
 Sound: 7.8
 Lyrics: 9
 Overall Impression: 8
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overall: 7.7
Leveler Featured review by: UG Team, on june 22, 2011
8 of 11 people found this review helpful

Sound: The instant I started up "Leveler", my hopes for August Burns Red's newest album were almost completely dashed. The feedback on "Empire" faded in, and the first riff on the entire album sounds eerily similar to a specific riff from "Up Against The Ropes", a song which came off of ABR's hallmark album "Messengers". Starting out a new album with a riff that sounds almost lifted from an older song really makes a bad first impression. But when you've been writing the same style riffs for over eight years, you're bound to have some similarities. I began to worry if this was going to be an album full of rehashed riffs and old songs played backwards. Old dogs with old tricks and all that jazz.

But I listened further than the first minute, and I'm glad I did. "Empire", which starts out as an iffy track, ends up having one of the most memorable bridges in the album, thanks to a truly epic choir-esque chorus and lots of uplifting riffs. When I heard that, I made up my mind to go through with the rest of the album. By the end, it was easy to see that while it is true that the boys in August Burns Red are still jumping through some of the same old hoops, they've certainly learned quite a few new tricks over the years. While they're not exactly pioneering anything new for the world of music, they are incorporating new elements that previously weren't a part of their sound. So while the album is chock full of melodic metalcore pedal riffs and open-note breakdowns, I can't deny that they've definitely progressed in their songwriting. Leveler really changes things up quite a bit throughout the album.

There's moments in the album where I can't even believe I'm listening to August Burns Red. "Carpe Diem" sounds like a completely different band. The song has nothing in common with the metalcore sounds of all their other tracks. It's hard to describe what it is, actually. It's slow, atmospheric, yet heavy. Almost sounds like an attempt on post-metal, with a bit of post-rock influence thrown in. It's a curve ball; really, I wasn't expecting anything quite like that from these guys. "Internal Cannon" makes fantastic use of clean guitars with a western-esque instrumental break, followed by a solo which features tasteful use of a wah pedal. Taken out of context it would seem completely irrelevant to the rest of the song, but when you listen to it, it works. And then there's "Cutting The Ties", where the band redefines posi-popmoshcore with the extremely upbeat outro. Whether or not the term "posi-popmoshcore" existed before now remains a mystery.

Production was handled by both Jason Suecof and the band themselves. The style is almost identical to "Constellations". Unfortunately, the production on "Constellations"/"Leveler" is nowhere near as unique as the organic sounding tones from "Messengers". This irritated a lot of fans when "Constellations" was released, and now it's gotten fans thinking that "Leveler" is basically a "Constellations Part Two" (it isn't, as far as I'm concerned). Now don't get me wrong, I think the sound is great. The tones are thick and fiery, and the drums aren't those played-out Slate samples that everyone and their moms are using these days. But it just doesn't sound as unique as "Messengers" did. Nothing felt more right than Tue Madsen's work for this band. But that was literally four years ago, I suppose it's time we all stop living in the past. // 8

Lyrics: Jake Luhrs has not only become a better vocalist over the years, he's also really displaying some serious range on this record. His voice gets unrecognizably low on "Divisions", and in "Carpe Diem", his screams go higher than ever before. I always thought he sounded slightly unorthodox when he started singing for the band back in 2006, like he had to put way too much effort into screaming to get the sound he had. He definitely sounds much more in control on "Leveler". Perhaps it has something to do with how much strain is put on his voice while touring. We all saw the ugly side of that on ABR's live DVD "Home", which was painful to watch. He most likely learned from his mistakes. Lyrically, I've always been a fan of the band. The lyrics are what first turned me on to their music. A lot of people look down on August Burns Red for being a Christian band, and they assume that every song is going to be a bible lesson. From what I've heard, though, that isn't true. The lyrics are hopeful, positive, at times dark and heartbreaking, but hardly ever preachy. Granted, there are some places where you could say otherwise, but for the most part, the lyrics get my seal of approval. // 8

Overall Impression: The title track of this album pretty much describes how I feel about this album. Near the end of the song, there's this great big buildup, very reminiscent to what they did on "Redemption". But instead of going out with a bang like it should have, the music just stops. It leaves you with a "that was pretty cool, but it could have been so much better" kind of feeling in your gut. If you ask me, I'll tell you straight up: I liked this album. A lot more than I thought I would. But it isn't the best in their catalog and it does have room to improve. Right now ABR are dancing the line between an old familiar sound and something completely new. They just need one last push to finally cross over. When they do get there, I think they would have the potential to write their best album yet. Until then, "Leveler" will just serve as a reminder as to why so many other metalcore bands try to be the next August Burns Red. // 7

- Jay Brown (c) 2011

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overall: 9.7
Leveler Reviewed by: metallicaflavor, on june 22, 2011
4 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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. // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 9
Leveler Reviewed by: unregistered, on june 24, 2011
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Alright so I'm going to go ahead and say it, August Burns Red is my favorite band, but I'm going to try my absolute hardest not to be biased in any way. First off, "Leveler" is my favorite album by the band to date. It's got some songs that are heavier than anything they've ever written, some songs that are more melodic than ever before, and some that are in between. One thing is for sure with all the songs is that they are all packed full of emotion. The band also tries things in Leveler that aren't typical metalcore, which in my opinion works pretty well but not 100% of the time. I've noticed some people have been complaining about the production quality, but in my opinion it's fantastic. Everything is very well balanced and nothing is too overpowering, and you can actually hear the bass! In "Constellations" my one complaint with the production quality were the guitars, they weren't as full sounding as Messengers, but in this album the guitars sound fantastic! 01. "Empire": A great way to start the album. A nice mix of heaviness with melody. The main highlight of the track for me is the group singing, it fits so well and adds so much to the song. This track also has a great solo and ends with a great breakdown. 02. "Internal Cannon": This song, along with "Carpe Diem" are probably the most daring of the album. This song features a few salsa-esque interludes, which I honestly didn't care for too much, to me they were just too out of place, but the guitar solo right afterward totally makes up for it, the wah pedal in it sounds way cool. I would have to say it is my favorite guitar solo in the album. 03. "Divisions": This song was a standout track for me for a few different reasons, first off, it is a lot different than any song they have written previously. It starts out with some drums and then the guitars come in strumming a chord and it sounds almost like something Underoath would write. Secondly it has one of my favorite riffs in the album at 0:46. Lastly this song conveys so much emotion from beginning to end, especially toward the end when Jake screams, "I made you carry the casket of an innocent man when it should have been me". 04. "Cutting The Ties": I really enjoy the riff JB plays during the intro of this song. This song is has a small clean interlude followed with Jake saying a few spoken words. The breakdown toward the end of this song really stood out too me, it's pretty dang heavy. The riff right after it is also really cool sounding too, makes for a good end to the song. 05. "Pangaea": JB and Brent went all out in this song. This song is a great mixture of techinality with melody. The solo in this song is definitely a highlight. The lyrics of this song are also a pretty cool concept, it's about missing someone across the ocean and asking Pangaea what it has done. 06. "Carpe Diem": This song is kind of like "Leveler"'s "Meridian". I love the concept it has of using Jake and Dustin as two different people communicating with each other. The song is a lot more chord based than one would expect from ABR. The song definitely isn't my favorite on the album but I love lead guitar(s) at the end of the song (I'm sure most of you have figured out I'm a guitarist by now). 07. "40 Nights": This song is just okay to me. There was nothing that really kept my attention too much until the end when a nice breakdown comes in and Jake screams, "Goliath, we're screaming your name. Goliath, we're coming for you". 08. "Salt & Light": This song was one of my favorites. It's definitely a more melodic song and it gives off that same sort of happy vibe that "Meddler" gave off on their last album. My one complaint for this song was a spoken word section. Jake just doesn't have the right voice for that in my opinion, it wasn't terrible but it just kinda catches your attention. The ending brings in yet another group vocal part singing, "We sing for You". I really enjoyed and kind of wish it went on a little longer honestly. 09. "Poor Millionaire": One of the heaviest songs on the album. Matt Greiner dominates on the drums on this song. This song is full of breakdowns for all you breakdown lovers out there. The highlight is the breakdown at the end where Jake screams, "Coward. Coward. Where is the life in the life you led?" 10. "1/16/2011": Full on filler track. I was pretty let down by this song. Yeah it's pretty, but it's only 52 seconds. It doesn't feel like too much effort went into it. 11. "Boys Of Fall": Awesome awesome awesome song. Full of beautiful guitar work. There is a beautiful solo that goes straight into a heavy breakdown with Jake screaming, "He is God, we are just men, who are we to question?" This song has my favorite outro on the album. I can't even describe it, you just have to listen to it. 12. "Leveler": In my opinion the heaviest song on the album. Definitely a standout track for me. Full of heavy breakdowns with Jake getting his voice lower than ever. I just wish this song wasn't the ending track, I think "Boys Of Fall" or "Salt And Light" would have been better ending tracks. The ending of this song and album is just too abrupt for me. // 9

Lyrics: Jake kicks butt on this album. He has such a wide range and really shows what he can do on this album. He portrays the emotions in his screaming that the lyrics are bringing fantastically. He sure can write lyrics too. He uses loaded words that just make the breakdowns that much heavier. For example on, "Empire", during the breakdown he screams, "Skyscrapers, Earth Movers, Ground Breakers". The one complaint is what I already said, I wasn't digging the spoken word stuff too much. // 9

Overall Impression: August Burns Red stepped it up with "Leveler". They've come very far as a band, and show no indications of slowing. I can't even imagine what their album would be like. It's going to be hard to top "Leveler". Almost all of the songs on this album are impressive, but the best of the best in my opinion are: "Divisions", "Salt & Light", "Boys Of Fall", and "Leveler". // 9

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overall: 8.3
Leveler Reviewed by: Kwyjibo2006, on june 22, 2011
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: August Burns Red have done it again. Two years after their crushing third album "Constellations", the Pennsylvania quintet are back with "Leveler", an album that plays to all the band's strengths while throwing in a few curve-balls along the way. The band again enlists the help of producer Jason Suecof to weave through another 48 minutes of crushing metal. Opening track "Empire" builds on the band's signature sound, with some back-breaking heaviness before clicking into some gang vocals. Lead single "Internal Cannon" stands out not just for its brutality but also for it's latin (salsacore?) in the second half of the track. In "Divisions", vocalist Jake Luhrs screams his heart out over Matt Greiner's simply fantastic drumming. The first half of the album closes with "Pangaea" and "Carpe Diem", the former beginning with a sweet galloping riff and some of the best drumming on the album. Guitars run amok through the four and a half minute track, with some great melodies, harmonies and even a solo, something the band only really started exploring on their previous effort. "Carpe Diem" is easily one of the darkest songs in ABR's catalogue. Its central riff will remind you of the final two minutes of their near-instrumental "Meridian" off of "Constellations". Once again, Luhrs shreds his vocal chords to new heights before the tracks soft interlude of Dustin Davidson's bass over some simple chords and, what's this?, some slide guitar. It might sound like a rehashed "Constellations" track to some, or even just a breather before the next 6 track assault, but "Carpe Diem" acts as a great closer for the first half of the album. The second half of the album continues with crushing riffs in the form of "40 Nights" and the recent live staple "Poor Millionaire" (see the catchy opening drum beat). After the short interlude "1/16/2011", the band goes straight for the throat with the riff-happy "Boys Of Fall" and the title/closing track "Leveler". The album ends with cries of "I forgive you" before Greiner's snare and Brubaker and Rambler's guitars sound one final crunch. // 8

Lyrics: By now, it's pretty common knowledge that August Burns Red are at the top of their game in terms of musicianship. While it's certainly true that the band are just as tight as ever on "Leveler", the true standout this time 'round, in this reviewer's opinion, is vocalist Jake Luhrs. The band only really began exploring his range on "Constellations", but Luhrs is screaming his heart out throughout this album. From the deep gutteral growl of "Skyscrapers, earthmovers, groundbreakers" on opening track "Empire" to the absolutely insane shriek of "What have I done?" on "Divisions", Luhrs vocal tactics are all over the place on this album. There's even some more spoken vocals on "Empire" before the band slams into some gang vocals, which make the track an obvious live choice for years to come. It's almost as if Luhrs was trying to outdo himself after his, let's face it, less than stellar performance on the band's recent live album. The lyrics themselves also seem to be more personal than ever before on "Leveler". Some lyrics are clear references to the band's Christian roots, such as "the author wrote a story in the sky" in "Empire", but some lyrics, like "I know silence is a hard answer when all you want is a sign" off of "Cutting The Ties" or "A star can't be seen unless all the sky decides to be dark" from "Boys Of Fall" will ring home for more than a few listeners. Overall, the band as a whole have never sounded better, but Jake Luhrs especially gives his best performance yet. // 9

Overall Impression: Make no mistake, "Leveler" will divide fans. Some will think it sounds too much like "Constellations" Pt. 2 while others will be weary of the new styles, such as the Spanish leads on "Internal Cannon". Some will think the soft sections sound forced while others may even think the album lacks originality. Fans of the band's last album should enjoy "Leveler", while fans of "Messengers" will find plenty of breakdowns to bang their heads to. But there is one thing that any listener can agree on: In a genre not exactly renowned for its creativity, August Burns Red still manage to offer up a solid, mature and heavy metal album, one that separates itself from some of the more mediocre aspects of the genre. The entire album goes straight for the throat, and leaves you, pun definitely intended, leveled. // 8

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overall: 6.7
Leveler Reviewed by: TheBDanAbstract, on june 24, 2011
0 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sound: Welp, it's August Burns Red. That we can be sure of. The follow up to 2009's "Constellations" is here, aptly named "Leveler". The album is almost exactly what you'd expect from August Burns Red at this point; fast drumming under pedal tone riffs, odd meter breakdowns, arpeggio leads rang out behind chugs, the whole nine yards. The album begins as "Empire", with a signature August Burns Red pedal tone riff... Almost eerily similar to the one found smack dab in the middle of "Up Against The Ropes" from 2007's "Messengers". Right here is where I start to worry. The riff similarities aside, it is obvious that the guys are trying to add some new elements to the formula. The Latin-esque interludes on "Internal Cannon" and the one smack dab in the middle of "Carpe Diem" (which sounds like no other ABR song I've ever heard) are a nice change of pace, but some come off more as pretentious and forced than they do genuine and inspiring (sometimes even meaningless and unnecessary; see "1/16/2011") Overall, the August Burns Red formula is still here, with a couple of new tricks thrown in. August Burns Red have all the potential in the world to become one of the best metalcore bands of our generation, but these old dogs continue to use their same old tricks. August Burns Red are still writing on their same old level on "Leveler", and a few clean parts and interludes aren't changing that. // 5

Lyrics: The main reason I keep coming back to August Burns Red are the lyrics. While most Christian bands can write stuff that is insanely preachy, August Burns Red write some of the most genuine lyrics I've ever read. Uplifting and meaningful as always here on "Leveler". Frontman Jake Lhurs has turned up the intensity to 11 for "Leveler". His vocals are as dominating and as brutal as ever, but then some. He has quite a bit of new found range as he displays in "Carpe Diem", "40 Nights". // 9

Overall Impression: Like I said before, it's August Burns Red for sure. It hasn't blown me away, and it shouldn't blow you away either. For the August Burns Red loyal, it will be a wet dream, but for fans of seeing artists progress and evolve, you'll be severely disappointed. August Burns Red come up short this time, creating another similar sounding album throughout (not to mention similar to their older albums). Highlights of the album: "Empire" chorus, "Salt & Light" chorus, "Carpe Diem", 2nd interlude in "Internal Cannon", leads in "Boys Of Fall". // 6

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