Sound — 9
If you've never heard of ABR, and you like breakdowns, this is your new favorite band. With that said, I hope no one is scared off by the thought of just another metal core unit, with predictable boring breaks. Because there is nothing predictable about this band. The first thing one notices when popping in "Messengers" for the first time, is the drumming. From the ridiculous pacing to the progressive time signatures, the drums anchor the sound of this album. There are few drummers that can actually take the lead in a band, and this is one of those cases. During verses and breaks the drums begin to take on rhythmic structures of their own and you find yourself listening to the guitar riffs to keep your place in the song. This actually adds a very unique dynamic to the sound as a whole because you find yourself following the lead of the drums instead of a bass line or riff. There is constant guitar riffing going on throughout the songs, and most of these riffs are straightforward phrases that follow the "1..2..3..4.." structure of the song. At first I didn't think it a good idea to have such rhythmic riffs, but after a couple listens I found that it contrasted with the bass drum's rhythm so well, it sounded like two opposing times played over one another. August Burns Red got a new producer for this album after having already legendary metal producer Adam Dutkiewicz produce their first CD. The new producer definitely highlighted what this band does best, giving this album a devastating low end that will blow you away.
Lyrics — 7
ABR acquired a new frontman between this album and the last and the change is definitely a good one. The new singer has decent range and lots of intensity that gives this album an edge. My only complaint is that he doesn't showcase his range and dynamics enough. His verses often turn monotonous, a fault that many metal core bands have already fallen victim to. The lyrics are definitely powerful, dealing mostly with the downfalls of complacency and ignorance, but past that there isn't much interaction between the singer and the musicians.
Overall Impression — 9
For a second release, "Messengers" brings a lot to the table. While it refines and strengthens ABR's unique sound it helps to give a little bit of life back to the metalcore music scene. The tracks that stood out to me were "Composure", "Up Against the Ropes", and "The Blinding Light". Even though "Messengers" is heavy in breakdowns, this album is by no means one dimensional. Each track has a flavor of it's own that is as brutal as it is beautiful. Look for this release to take August Burns Red to the forefront of American metalcore.