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JFH Music Review

August Burns Red, 'Death Below'

August Burns Red
Death Below

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Metalcore
Album length: 12 tracks: 53 minutes, 53 seconds
Street Date: March 24, 2023


Metal and all of its core variants that have splintered and cracked from its foundation is currently enjoying a renaissance of sorts. After years of seemingly growing stale and being put on the musical backburner in favor of pop radio artists and more progressive acts, we are seeing a return to form. Not only for the genres, but for specific record labels such as Facedown and Solid State Records. It's out of the latter that the metalcore behemoths August Burns Red have arisen again after 2020's Guardians to once again exert their brutal dominance over the scene at large.

From the opening seconds of "Premonition," the clean guitars fade into the building and discordant aggression marked by lyrics at first spoken and then crescendoing into angst filled screams. The flow that "the world will never be the same" segways perfectly into the true opener of the album, "The Cleansing," a rousing song about taking back control of our lives and persevering through times of hardship. This is a familiar theme throughout much of not only Death Below but even ABR's discography, so it's familiar territory, but one that is needed in an otherwise-at-times dark scene.

The album offers four different guest features, each of which bring a different slice and flavor to the sound. The first appearance is Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage fame on "Anscetory;" his cleans are a welcome change to the otherwise driving nature of the album. This is not to say that the album suffers from the lack of variability overall in the vocal department; Jake Luhr's vocals are as strong as ever throughout the entirety of the record. "Tightrope" and "Fool's Gold in the Bear Trap" follow, continuing the theme of taking back control of your life with "Tightrope" especially dealing with the negative effects of unchecked mental health and the destructive consequences that can flow out from them. The gem of the album follows when the driving discordant rhythms and cord progressions hit you full in the face to kick off "Revival." This is the "Whitewashed" or "Meddler" of Death Below and will most likely be a fan favorite performed live. "Sevink" follows and brings the speed down slightly in its opening refrain enough to provide the listener a breather.

"Dark Divide" and "Deadbolt" send you back into the aggressive fray just as soon as you feel like it might be safe, and provide some of the most amazing guitar work that Brent Rambler and JB Brubaker have put together over the band's storied career. The album closes on a slight down note with the song "Reckoning," in its essence an overly long generically lyrical song about struggling and doing one's best. Spencer Chamberlin of Underoath is the guest feature and one that I highly anticipated, only he takes far too long to appear on the song long after the average listener will have probably checked out. I am probably in the minority in saying "The Cleansing" would have served much better as the album closer and "The Reckoning" trimmed down with Spencer's feature happening sooner.

On Death Below, ABR continues to push out positive lyrical content. Even if, at times, the generic way the lyrics are written in an attempt to appeal to the mass audience can leave one left wanting a little more, there are definitely strong moments. "Accepting a loss wont be the end/ You can always get back up and fight again" from "Backfire" provides a strong call to action that we all need at times in our lives. It's so easy to only see the failures and the defeats, by looking past the hand that reaches out to us to help us back up. If there is one thing ABR does well within their lyrics, it's delivering the sentiment that even in dark times, there will be better days.

Overall, Death Below shows ABR at their best and doing what makes them the metalcore giants they are as well. Outside of the few missteps where it could be argued that song placement and length should have been changed, this will probably go down as one of their best since Rescue and Restore. Hope and perseverance have always been a huge focus in ABR's music and it's a welcome thing to see that same focus and intentionality still present throughout the entirety of this entry and album cycle.

- Review date: 3/19/23, written by Matt Baldwin of

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. Record Label: SharpTone
. Album length: 12 tracks: 53 minutes, 53 seconds
. Street Date: March 24, 2023
. Buy It: Apple Music
. Buy It: (CD)
. Buy It: (Vinyl)
. Buy It: Amazon Music (MP3)

  1. Premonition (1:54)
  2. The Cleansing (7:48)
  3. Ancestry (feat. Jesse Leach) (4:51)
  4. Tightrope (feat. Jason Richardson) (4:14)
  5. Fool's Gold In The Bear Trap (3:05)
  6. Backfire (4:23)
  7. Revival (4:29)
  8. Sevink (1:23)
  9. Dark Divide (4:58)
  10. Deadbolt (4:20)
  11. The Abyss (feat. JT Cavey) (4:35)
  12. Reckoning (feat. Spencer Chamberlain) (7:53)


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