Sound — 8
August Burns Red aren't happy about metalcore. Just take a look at what guitarist JB Brubaker had to say about their new album: "'Rescue & Restore' is about challenging other bands and ourselves, as well as fans of this music, to want more than whatever happens to be the current buzz.
"People need to realize that there's not much of a difference between a metalcore song that has a couple breakdowns with a repeating chorus and the latest Lady Gaga song. This genre used to be better than that. It can still be better than that."
The chest-thumping, self-congratulatory camaraderie of hardcore and metalcore is certainly a musical barrier at times. Losing that sense of brother and sisterhood would be a tragedy, but perhaps too many are preoccupied with "doing it for the love" and too few are striving to break the mould. August Burns Red have always been set on a pendulum which swings between colourful, progressive explorations of the genre and rather safe (non)interpretations, so they can only complain to a certain extent. The ambition today is clearly to set that straight and put everybody on course to greener pastures, but with such a high bar set they can't settle for their usual consistency. This has to be better.
"Provision," "Treatment" and "Spirit Breaker" set a precedent for emotional intensity, with each techy riff, fiery scream and off-kilter prog tangent bleeding drama from the start. The super-charged modern production keeps everything ticking over, but things are a little too serious early on. Something about it wants you to force you into thinking that everything is a big deal. The quality of the riffing and Brubaker's catchy guitar leads save the occasional moments in the first half when things get a bit much nonetheless. Ironically, nothing seems overinflated in the second half, when the band start to toy with strange and more imaginative ideas and come good on their promises of progress. "Beauty in Tragedy" successfully shifts a pair of dark, melancholy themes into a major-key triumph and "Animals" is a technical noodler in the freshest way possible, but they really spread their wings on "Creative Captivity." The song will get column inches for its use of trumpet, strings and other unusual instruments, but it's full of imagination in other, more important ways. Matt Greiner's effortless snare grooves lead the five-piece on a journey which has highs and lows, stays true to style but not to formula, gives each member a moment in the sun and stays tight at under five minutes. Very impressive stuff, and once you start to feel the band's passion on that track the rest is a lot easier to get along with.
Lyrics — 8
Jake Luhrs is perhaps the only member of the band who compliments the record by going full throttle from start to finish. He sounds ready to tear his throat out after some of the highs, and there's powerful screamo influence in the specks of pitch which creep into his more dramatic deliveries. There's a tendency for the tough, monotonous breakdowns to be accompanied with audible lyrics and they're not always the best, but sitting down with the liner notes and an analytical brain will help uncover some great writing as well. The highlights are "Count It All as Lost," a cry for help with short, stark sentences, and "The First Step," which describes the band's musical mission through the broader issues of societal and political evolution.
Overall Impression — 7
This will only be an instant hit for fans who know what to expect and why to expect it, or people who are yet to familiarise themselves with the metalcore landscape that this is supposed to be reacting to. "Rescue & Restore" will inevitably pay off for anyone though, as long as you're able to feel the band's attitude rub off from what can be quite dense and rapidly changing music. They deserve plaudits not only for the technicality of what they play but the reasons they apply it: to move a song on or to add melodic colour, never to impress people. Does it turn the genre on its head? Not exactly, but it's a livelier, more creative tilt at it than anyone else has managed since the start of this decade and certainly August Burns Red's best record so far. If they still want to change the world in two years' time then on this evidence, we ought to hear them out.