I first heard about August Burns Red in 2005 when their debut album, Thrill Seeker, came out in 2005 through Solid State Records. I tried to ignore them.
I didn’t disregard them because they were “bad”; I disregarded them because they were one of many in the nearly identical pack of then-new metalcore acts starting out during that era. I caught a new single from the band every once in a while over the next ten years but never changed my mind about committing to a good listen. Now, I’m sitting here listening to the band’s newest effort and kicking myself for being a stubborn metalhead who refused to give them a chance years ago.
Let me make this clear: If you ignored August Burns Red because of their genre, now is the time to shut up and listen to Found in Far Away Places. They don’t run with countless metalcore acts — they run miles ahead. They aren’t playing the metalcore of five years ago; they are reinventing metalcore for today. Breakdowns (for the most part) are now covered by NWOBHM-style* guitar solos and innovative instrumental segments serve as the new bridges. Most importantly, there is less of a need to be straight-up heavy all the time.
With this new album, ABR shows that the genre still has something new to offer if a band is willing to break a few boundaries. In pushing forward, August Burns Red’s musicianship leans closer to progressive metal than ever on Found in Far Away Places. This is especially noticeable on the tracks “Broken Promises” and “Everlasting Ending.” The latter features a remarkable guest guitar solo from Between the Buried and Me’s Paul Waggoner.
Fans of previous releases will remember the band’s use of violins and other unorthodox instruments on the occasional song. This time around, they aren’t used occasionally — quirky bridges are placed on ten of the 11 tracks. This is done most effectively in the melodic break during “Martyr” where the band manages to flawlessly weave in a violin; they make the violin sound as fitting as an electric guitar. It doesn’t sound distracting or out of place.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about some of the other interludes. While innovative, it becomes predictable that each track will have an ironic bridge mid-song where a melody is played once and not repeated anywhere else in the song. This is true in all but one track. For example, “Separating the Seas” takes a Middle Eastern turn at the 1:52 mark. It’s performed well and sounds fun but seems a bit too disconnected from the rest of the song to achieve its full potential.
It’s worth noting that lead guitarist and main songwriter J.B. Brubaker deserves every ounce of praise he has been given from the metal community and then some. This album brings some of the best solos to a genre once plagued with generic breakdowns and weak imitations of Meshuggah. Brubaker’s playing ought to be recognized by any fans of progressive metal or even the Iron Maidens and Judas Priests of the world. He alone makes most of the album worth a listen.
* New Wave of British Heavy Metal