August Burns Red - 'Guardians'

AUGUST BURNS RED // Guardians // Released April 2020

Reviewed by: Todd Jay

Upholding artistic pillars of tightly wound technical proficiency, airtight grooves, and pensive lyricism, August Burns Red fulfill a quiet, yet staunch 17-year commitment to a die-hard audience worldwide. The two-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated Pennsylvania quintet have preserved this level of integrity since first emerging in 2003. Band Members:

Jacob Luhrs – Vocals

JB Brubaker – Lead Guitar

Brent Rambler – Rhythm Guitar

Dustin Davidson – Bass

Matt Greiner – Drums

...everything about the way the songs are assembled is so balanced and well produced that it blasts the senses in many different ways.

#TruthTime I am biased.


August Burns Red is one of my favorite bands over the last 10 years (been listening for 15 years) I have REALLY identified with their material over the last ten, the lyrics are my spirit animal. With all that is going on recently (April 2020) I was one of the fortunate few that were able to catch them on their Guardians 2020 tour as the North American leg was cut after two shows (Cleveland and Grand Rapids) and boy were they poised to have a great run with Killswitch Engage (Luhrs stated to me before the show that "He's been really looking forward to this tour"). As a warm-up to Killswitch, ABR hit the stage and whipped the famed Cleveland Agora into a frenzy on March 10 and the crowd got a chance to preview a few of the new songs. Amazing night left me on 0 (zero) hours of sleep before heading to the airport for vacation and worth every single second.


Not only has this powerhouse band evolved, this CD has the maturity to match ABR leads the Metalcore genre like a CEO leads a multi-billion dollar company. This Lancaster, Pennsylvania group of musicians have crafted a mental health session that is desperately needed in 2020! Their ninth studio CD entitled Guardians (as Luhrs growls in the song Defender) "Delivers the Sentence" for sure. I keep trying to find SOMETHING to "make an industry statement" to feign superiority or comprehension of the material, but everything about the way the songs are assembled is so balanced and well produced that it blasts the senses in many different ways.


As I listened I would pick up on Greiners drumming and think OH! there, he stands out! Then Brubaker, Rambler and Davidson lay down ethereal string work and I think NO! THERE it is! and out of nowhere Luhrs shows his steely veteran resolve and controls every growl, every scream like a surgeon controls a scalpel. Legit how can this band get any better? If you don't care for this song? Give it 3 minutes, I guarantee you will LOVE the next.

The first track up is 'The Narrative', what struck me out of the gate was Greiners drumming, the production of his sound on this CD is unlike any of his other production. Lyrics uttered such as "put that spin on it" are so meaningful right now. Luhrs vocals fit in very well in all of these songs, they are like another instrument in the layer and so smooth (even in guttural screams). The best part of 'Bones' in my opinion are the time shifts and how the song was assembled to display the rhythms both vocally and instrumentally, their breakdowns are tight and tasty. There are some familiar sounds in there and like a fine wine they are more mature and well delivered. The harmonies OMG!

'Paramount' kicks off with a fun little muted guitar riff just as the vocals kick in and reach deep into your soul, "Are you walking through fire, you have a friend" and thats the way this band treats the human race. I can't get past the complexities in this song, like the rest of the CD they are all layered to perfection. Another thing to note in this song are the thundering drums that hold it together while the guitar solo (typical ABR for sure) slam dances over the top of it.  ‘Defender’ has been in my earhole for a few weeks, since it was released. This song drops you right into typical ABR tempo, out of all the songs it probably best represents the entire CD. If any radio station played music commercially (sans satellite) I would say this is the most commercially viable track, I could see this being used in any of EA Sports video games.


If anybody could accuse ABR of softening their material to appeal to a greater audience, it would be ‘Lighthouse’, there are melodies and some vocal harmonies in between the riffage that display maturity(?). Very clean vocals and backup singing with the first bass guitar breakdown by Davidson, so buttery smooth. Also the first track that has some spoken gospel by Luhrs "help those in need and you've said more than your words will ever say", words to live by.


Drums you say? Oh yeah, they got drums and that is EXACTLY how "Dismembered Memory' start and then layers in the rest of the instruments and vocals to assemble what is August Burns Reds usual pace with guitar chords and solos that accentuate the thunder. I love when a band uses string work to either accentuate the tone or use the same string work to continue to let vocals be the focus. Brubakers signature pinch is used a few times in this song which sure contributes to the success of the sound.

A song that starts out with melodic guitar work? Yep got that too,  just about the entire song 'Ties That Bind' finds its foundation in Brubaker/Rambler guitars, both rhythm and solo that are aurally pleasing. So many great breaks and guitar riffs in this song, I guess thats the best way to sum this one up. 


'Bloodletter' is reminiscent of earlier ABR material as it is super heavy hitting, the vocals are more of a growl and the bass guitar absolutely slams, just brutally bottoms out. Drums and guitars are certainly present in the song and I LOVE it. 'Extinct by Instinct' picks up where Blood leaves off, Davidson continues to lead these sounds with his insane bass solo, so freaking talented (and the guy can cook, check out his Instagram page). So far in the CD this is hands down the best breakdown, I can already see Luhrs dancing to this track when they do it live.


'Empty Haven' starts out with familiar sound that ABR could close a show with, Brubaker standing upon a riser in his signature flip-flops with one hand pinching out the guitar solo and the other fist in the air before Luhrs engages the crowd to sing the harmonies with him. The way ABR highlights instruments (drums) in one song while using them to accentuate in another is unrivaled, to have a vision for a song like this and how to engineer the pieces is what will render ABR in history as one of the greatest metalcore bands of all time.


It wouldn't be an ABR CD without that signature six minute song 'Three Fountains' starts out eerie and circles back around throughout the track. This song could be laid over a video of unpopulated streets (that we are seeing now), this material could not be more relevant: empty streets in Las Vegas, nobody on Fremont street, Times Square and everywhere is barren. Don't get me wrong there are heart pounding vocals but the grooves and breakdowns are what makes this song. Excellent way to close out the CD, if there was any song that I could listen to on repeat over and over again it would be this.  Lyrically it closes with: "This world we see is not flat or square".


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