For the last couple of years, August Burns Red has been one of the golden boys of the Solid State lineup. It seems that whenever high quality Christian metal is mentioned, August Burns Red is one of the first names you will hear. Nevertheless, my own opinion of the band has never been particularly high. When I think of August Burns Red, I think of cheap breakdowns and not a great deal of creativity. So with that said, I approached Constellations with somewhat of a bias against the band.
Fortunately, Constellations has caused me to rethink my view. Yes, there are still plenty of crunchy breakdowns that sound awfully similar from track to track, but this is a very tight album. The well-grounded traditions of chaotic guitar riffs, sudden rhythm changes, and hectic screaming vocals are all still present. But song structure has improved greatly from their previous albums. Also, the band has ventured out into the world of guitar solos. While none of them are particularly compelling, they are at least competent and provide some much needed variety.
In some ways, August Burns Red is your basic metal band. While they don't do anything new, they somehow manage to make the essentials sound much better than other bands. They have clearly put a lot of thought into every aspect of their songs and it shows. Unlike other metal albums, Constellations never drags. No particular tracks stand out above the others, but they are also almost all good. The only song that we could have done without is "Meridian," an overly-generic quasi-instrumental that never really goes anywhere.
The lyrical approach on Constellations is an interesting mix. "White Washed" is a very harsh condemnation of legalists, as is "The Escape Artist." At the same time, "Indonesia" is a touching dedication to a missionary who died in a plane wreck in Indonesia. The story behind the writing of this song is amazing, and worth reading. "Meddler" speaks of hopeless rationalism in the lyrics: "Oh God, we live in misery, lying here in desperation. We need you here more than anything right now. Right now. If everything's relative, then why the emptiness in our souls?"
Constellations has given me a new appreciation for August Burns Red. While still not an outstanding release, it is one that any metal fan can enjoy. Meanwhile, current fans of the band will find everything they liked in previous albums, plus more. This is not "Album of the Year" material, but if you're looking for new metal, Constellations is worth getting.- Review date: 7/14/09, written by Timothy Estabrooks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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