Album review: August Burns Red – Guardians

Guardians offers some incredible highlights that will become immediate favourites, along with others that blend too much into each other

August Burns Red’s eighth album, ‘Guardians’, opens with The Narrative, which features the technical proficiency the band is known for along with vocalist Jake Luhrs’ brutal growl. This song is incredibly fast paced from the opening note and the energy doesn’t waver. In fact, the pace and ferocity only build. Its chaotic, energetic and sets the pace for the rest of the album. 

Following in the same fashion is Bones; an immediate highlight on the album. In this track, Dustin Davidson leads a funky bridge on bass which transforms into a soaring chorus. The song features one of the many epic guitar solos that are scattered across the album. It’s an incredible journey and the instruments lead the charge.

From one highlight to another, Paramount starts with menacing whispers and galloping guitars leading into a heavy wall of instruments. Again with many parts, this song has a choir section and another incredible guitar solo.

Next up is the single Defender, which also has an excellent animated short story video clip. Brent Rambler, who makes up the rhythm part of the two-man guitar team, says that being a comic book fan, he could see the lyrics made a great story and says the song is about having someone who will always be in your corner: “The ones who know what’s best are the best to have around / An understanding man doing the best he can to comprehend / A voice that shakes as he calms the quake / We need a defender who bends so we don’t break.”

ABR are as well known for their incredible musical talent as they are their thoughtful lyrics and Lighthouse is a fantastic example of this lyricism. Maybe it is because the world is so crazy and dark at the moment and as humans, we search to make meaning of the craziness, but far out this song is pertinent: “Take another look around / There’s so much lost to be found / People everywhere are hurting even though they’re down and out / There’s so much lost to be found.” Lighthouse is more melodic vocally speaking than other songs on the album, with the anthemic melodic part leading into heaviness, slowing down to a fantastic bass and percussion section, and a goosebump-inducing spoken word part. This song is a call to arms to get the world out of this dark time, and it was written well before COVID-19, but it feels like somehow the band knew the world would need a light to lead us into better times.

Finishing the album is Three Fountains, which starts with warm guitars in a lovely minor key. The song is slow and melodic in parts with gorgeous strumming and instrumentation and lyrics like: “When you forget who you are / You don’t just lose yourself / You become like everyone else.” Then, as always, comes the furious stuff. Then, just past the three-minute mark, the song breaks into an incredible minute long instrumental section that showcases JB Brubaker’s lead guitar talents and Matt Greiner’s technical drumming. What a way to finish out the album.

Guardians is long at just over an hour and 11 songs, and to be honest, it could have had fewer. The mentioned songs are incredible, but the remaining ones honestly blend together a little. They all follow the same formula of starting intensely, building up to breaking point, then comes the drop and into a breakdown. The album would have been excellent with only one or two of these songs. The exception to this is Extinct by Instinct which features a flamenco/classical guitar type break and even some strings. This is not to say the album isn’t great and the talent and technicality in this album is evident. The album is still very much worth your time and the musicianship and lyricism will drag you out of the depths of your isolation blues. Quite a few of these songs will be making it into people’s daily playlists and will be played on repeat.

FFO: The Ghost Inside, The Devil Wears Prada, Haste The Day

Guardians is out now via Fearless Records/Caroline Australia.

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