The Pennsylvanian metalcore outfit August Burns Red is a household for many metalcore fans. With their syncopated and mildly technical take on the genre, they took listeners by storm in the mid-late 2000s with Messengers, followed by Constellations, the two albums that are often cited as their best. However, the follow-up to the power duo, Leveler, showed that the sound had been pushed to its limit and didn’t have anything else to offer, as it saw the band experimenting with their own style in an attempt to reinvent themselves. While it wasn’t really a disaster, Leveler was rather directionless and stale, and its successor Rescue & Restore wasn’t able to, well, rescue or restore the band’s sound.
Some might have written off the band after their previous release, others might be on the verge of doing so, and thus their latest, Found In Far Away Places, is at a precarious position. As the band’s sixth album, a decade after their debut Thrill Seeker, it stands to either completely lose its audience, or bring the spark back that made them special in the first place. Most bands fail this test, so it’s easy to be skeptical coming in to listen to this album, but somehow August Burns Red have more than delivered. Not only have they found that creative itch, they’ve successfully carved themselves a new niche and simultaneously mastered it.
This is a bold proposition, as not a lot of bands can redefine themselves in a way that improves on what they were, more than a decade into their career, after two disappointing albums. But ABR have done it. Found In Far Away Places has them taking the ideas they’ve been toying with for the past two albums and implementing them successfully and consistently. They’ve integrated irreverent-yet-awesome banjo/surf rock breaks, prominent use of lead guitar, be it ambient or melodic, and other elements that they’ve experimented with but never fully realized in the past. This does come at the expense of a slight reduction of their more hectic syncopation from the early era of their career, but that has been seeping away from their sound for quite a while now, and they still do it often enough to remind the listener that they’re adept at playing with rhythmic concepts. The end result is a unique, invigorating and fresh brand of metalcore that transcends the genre’s typical conventions and is overall a blast to listen to.
The production is stellar, and it bring out the best of every instrument. The guitar work is ABR’s usual more-creative-than-average-metalcore playing, always avoiding the obvious melodies and going for more memorable and inventive licks. Most songs are play out with both guitars playing a rhythm, often harmonized, then leads come in very prominently, either playing a melody that becomes central to the section, or an atmospheric lead that augments the rest of the band. Most songs have a diverse assortment of riffing, ranging from big chords to fast, snappy pedal lines that the band have mastered over the course of their career. While on a surface level a lot of this isn’t too novel, the way everything is put together to form coherent songs that flow very smoothly from riff to riff is what makes the album great. Many bands in the genre often fall into the trap of having the next part of a song being extremely predictable, and generally a lot of their writing being very formulaic, but that’s definitely not the case here. The tracks are all full of surprises, developing either into completely unexpected directions or building up very firmly on ideas until they reach a blissful climax. The songwriting on Found In Far Away Places is amazing, the band have somehow found the formula after struggling for two albums, and it’s totally worth it. Towards the end of the album the band seems to run out of steam a little bit, but the songs are still varied and the album ends on a high note, so this isn’t really an issue. The vocals, while having improved over the course of the albums Jake Luhrs has participated in, are still not the strongest suit of the band, but what he’s lacking in terms of vocal punch he makes up for with good placement and great lyrics. Combined with the hyperactive and constantly varied drumming, the final mixture of elements in this album is an unbelievably satisfactory one.
This might be a bit controversial since the band’s earlier albums are very dear to some people, but Found In Far Away Places can easily be considered to be the band’s best album. The songs are just too good for this not to be the case. It’s also impressive due to how the band have completely and successfully reinvented themselves after where they were, ended up more introspective, more skilled and stronger than ever. People often throw out the term “matured” when bands get older and make less active music that’s rather uninspired but is slightly more pretentious, but August Burns Red have truly matured with this album, fully realizing what they’ve been trying to do for years, taking the best aspects of their sound and honing it all together into a coherent opus.
August Burns Red – Found In Far Away Places gets…