August Burns Red ‘Death Below’ [Album Review]

Review: Benjamin Coe

U.S metalcore outfit August Burns Red have been crushing the heavy music scene across the world for near on 20 years. With nine fantastically solid albums tucked neatly in their belts, the boys from Pennsylvania are gearing up to release their tenth studio album, Death Below. Having previously dropped an album right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this time the quintet is ready to take the post-virus world by storm.

The album opens with a stirring call to arms from front man Jake Luhrs in the form of the track Premonition. Backed by quiet, ambient guitars and a solid drum beat, Luhrs speaks passionately of a terrible dream before diving head first into the 7 minute epic, The Cleansing. From the get-go it’s clear that the band are in fine form, Luhrs’ punishing roars complimented by the chugging riffs and wailing solos of dual guitar combo JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler who set out to prove once again that they are still some of the best metalcore guitarists in the game today.

Following on from the opening onslaught is the album’s lead single Ancestry, which features a powerful guest chorus from the one and only Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage. The two vocalists and their comparable styles are something of true beauty, with the clean choruses adding a completely different element to August Burns Red’s powerful delivery of their devastating musical stylings.

Something needs to be said about the rhythm section here too. Scattered all throughout the album are flourishes of a bass tone so impeccable it almost rivals the tone of Justin Chancellor of Tool fame. Bassist Dustin Davidson has done an incredible job along with drummer Matt Greiner to lay a deep and faultless foundation upon which the other members of the band can lay their undying talents. Be it the groove-laden Tightrope or the relentless rhythms of, well, pretty much every song on the album, these two work so damn well together it could quite possibly be the band’s greatest asset.

The subject matter on display is clear and obvious; a world divided, people struggling to find their footing post-pandemic and the obvious and widespread struggle of the last few years. Some may say that these subjects are becoming tired and overused, but I disagree. It is an ongoing situation, and the aftershocks of the pandemic are still reverberating throughout many parts of the world and almost every facet of society and they are dealt with here with such passion and conviction that you feel it deep within your bones whether you want to or not.

But I digress, let’s get back to the music. It’s not all blast beats and growls & roars from front to back. Death Below provides some more somber moments also, as shown in the introduction to the track Fool’s Gold In The Bear Trap, that greatly contrast the heaviness that the band are known so well for.

It just goes to once again prove the level of musicianship that’s at play here. I cannot stress enough just how underrated August Burns Red truly are.

Closing out with another almost 8 minute epic, titled The Reckoning, which also features another fantastic guest spot from Underoath vocalist Spencer Chamberlain, Death Below simply put, is a ride. While it may not break the mould or even win the band legions of new fans, it is surely a well-placed addition in the stunning catalogue of albums that this band have crafted in their two decades together.

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