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Music Reviews

Death Below

August Burns Red
Released: 03.24.23
Review by Sean Mott | March 23, 2023 at 1:00 PM

“If what I’ve done imprisons me, then your will sets me free”

August Burns Red brings us their tenth studio album, Death Below via SharpTone Records this week.

The Lansing, PA-based metalcore veterans have been a mainstay in the scene for nearly two decades since their inception. They’ve topped Billboard charts, are twice GRAMMY-nominated, and have toured and played festivals around the globe, so where do they go from here?  

The album is bookended by two near-eight-minute tracks. The First, “The Cleansing”, feels a bit lengthy, but the second, “Reckoning”, is grand, ambitious and epic in a way that doesn’t make you feel the extended duration of the song. Then lead single, “Ancestry”, featuring Jesse Leach (Killswitch Engage), really sends the album into overdrive. Leach offers his signature voice to a massive chorus that is the perfect contrast to the relentless riffs that carry the rest of the song. “Backfire” has an almost early Killswitch Engage vibe, but still remains true to August Burns Red, with Jake Luhrs’ anthemic vocals shining over Matt Greiner’s patented drum talent and the always impressive stringed instruments provided by guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler and bassist Dustin Davidson.

Leach isn’t the only feature, the record also has contributions from Jason Richardson (All That Remains), JT Cavey (ERRA) & Spencer Chamberlain (Underoath). Jason Richardson provides his epic guitar prowess in “Tightrope”. JT Cavey lends his enthralling voice in “The Abyss”, with the song lending an almost ERRA-like sound with an ABR twist. Spencer Chamberlain brings his distinctive vocal stylings to the previously mentioned album closer in an instrumental reprieve in the middle of an otherwise relentlessly heavy song. With each feature, the band really leans into the style of the guest contribution giving us a feel of their respective bands while still feeling like August Burns Red.

With a genre blend of pure metalcore, death metal and progressive metal, once Death Below really gets going it doesn’t let up. That doesn’t mean the album doesn’t allow itself to breathe, though. With every fast riff or drum part, it’s paired with melodic stretches that are something out of an epic video game score, especially in the tracks “Fools Gold in the Bear Trap” and “Dark Divide”. Flowing seamlessly from one punishing song to the next, the band creates a sonic vision that hooks you in and doesn’t let go.

The band stays true to their core sound, delivering some of the most impressive technical writing in the genre whilst continuing to evolve and test their boundaries rather than becoming stagnant and repetitive. When most bands follow trends and try to become more accessible for mainstream exposure, August Burns Red remains steadfast in delivering albums true to themselves while growing as a band to stay relevant in the zeitgeist.

Stand-out tracks are “Ancestry”, “Backfire” and “Reckoning”.

Other than a slow start to the album, Death Below is another solid addition to the band’s continued legacy.

Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it?: Buy it. This album is everything you love about August Burns Red turned up to 11.

You can catch August Burns Red on their headline tour with The Devil Wears Prada and Bleed From Within this April and May. 

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