If you are like me, the singles released for the latest output from August Burns Red did not fill you with great confidence. For me, they were enjoyable, but underwhelming. I recognize the reasoning behind these very safe choices, but let me tell you that they do little to share the real wonders that are under the hood of this hot rod. Honestly, we only got a peak at the spark plugs.
Once the album was streaming through my ear holes in full, my expectations for continued experimentation were once again fulfilled. "Martyrs" has a really interesting interlude that takes the sound in a jazzier direction amidst the typical (but always impressive) bursts of hammer-ons and breakdowns. The electronic intro to "Vanguard" puts previous fun with MIDI tracks to good use, but this song has plenty of other tricks. Bells, killer rock solos, gang vocals, clunky bass; and all the while maintaining that crushing metalcore sound we know and love.
The use of slide guitar showcases well-chosen influences of Poison the Well's later work. Sure, it's something August Burns Red have utilized before on tracks like "Carpe Diem," but Found in Far Away Places takes it to the next level. In a similar vein is the spaghetti western vibe featured briefly on "Identity" and more expansively on "Majoring in the Minors. These elements also reminded me of The Chariot's unexpected, but completely compelling "First." "Identity" and "Separating the Seas" bring back string arrangements for some interesting interludes and a killer conclusion.
As far as the songs that do stick more rigidly to the genre, there are far more combustible materials available. "Everlasting Ending" is incredibly melodic and would have been at home on Rescue and Restore with its cathartic mix of aggression and sorrow. Blissful guitar work on this one. Then there are the blazing "Broken Promises" and "Blackwood." The former is one of a few tracks sporting riffs that reminded me of As I Lay Dying in their heyday, although the latter's backup vocals conjure pre-unpleasantness Lambesis as well. Here and there the guitar work can become a little too familiar to ABR's previous albums, but even those moments were still quite enjoyable.
All in all, this is the level of quality I have come to expect from the last remaining metalcore band that's worth a damn. There are countless ripping solos, engaging vocals, and as always, thrilling drum and guitar work. In a scene now bloated with poppy, watered-down bullshit; August Burns Red are here to remind us what metalcore was, is, and can grow to be. Stream it on Spotify and iTunes. Buy the CD for $7.99 at FYE.