Hard to believe its been 15 years since August Burns Red released Thrill Seeker. Once the young frontrunners of metalcore, they’ve matured into one of heavy music’s mainstay bands, never breaking a sweat or faltering in a steady stream of albums. It’s been three years since Phantom Anthem and things haven’t really changed much in the August camp. They’ve never been ones to shake up their sound between records and there’s no reason to start now. Like Slayer, AC/DC and now August Burns Red, sometimes people just want to hear the classics.
Not to say that Guardians is redundant (it’s not). There’s plenty to chew on for the diehard fans and several new tracks that would be great as introductions. For being the most popular metal genre of the 21st century, metalcore is often hard to nail down in a single definitive song (think “Talk Dirty To Me” for glam or “Raining Blood” for thrash). But Guardians first single “Defender” makes a strong claim for itself. Between beatdowns, blastbeats and a shout of “who will…deliver the sentence!” right before the drop, this might as well be Metalcore 101.
At this point in their careers, August Burns Red could probably balance hardcore and metal elements in their sleep. But it’s still a pleasure to hear them do it over and over again on album highlights like “Paramount”, “Lighthouse” and “Ties That Bind”. On the heavier end of the spectrum is “Bloodletter” featuring one of the heaviest breakdowns the band has ever put their name to and a savage performance from vocalist Jake Luhrs. On the other end is “Three Fountains” the delightfully Deftonesian closer whose massive production and guitar leads bring to mind more progressive acts like Katatonia and Dark Tranquility.
“Three Fountains” is the most interesting thing August Burn Red have done in years, but it’s doubtful it’s here to stay. As previously stated, this is a group who have made their name in consistency. They’ve still never topped 2009’s Constellations (a tall order for any band) and there’s no doing that without changing up their sound, as they do here.
But does anybody really want that? We hear flashes of it on Guardians, like the quiet plucked bridge on “Extinct to Instinct”, but what we’re here for is songs like “Bones”. The song is a riot start to finish, sure to start mosh pits today and till the end of time, and it’s what August Burns Red do best.
Metalcore acts from the 2000s have split into two camps in recent years. Some like Bring Me The Horizon, Wage War and The Amity Affliction have gone all in on the poppier side of their music in an attempt to leave metal behind and draw in new crowds. The other half, the Killswitches, Parkways and Triviums of this world, have embraced their new roles as torchbearers for an entire generation of metal fans, blasting with all cylinders as they plunge headlong into the new decade. August Burns Red comes out firmly in the latter camp and Guardians is their statement. Sure, it’s the same old stuff. But it’s just as important now as it was 15 years ago.
New groups sick of the last century could find much worse jumping off points of influence then Guardians. And it’s hard to find better praise then knowing you are inspiring bands like you once were.