August Burns Red – Death Below (Album Review)

august burns red death below album review

August Burns Red – Death Below
Released: 24th March, 2023

Line up:

Jake Luhrs – Vocals
JB Brubaker – Guitar
Brent Rambler – Guitar
Dustin Davidson – Bass
Matt Greiner – Drums 



Lancaster, USA band August Burns Red have crafted a legacy of thoughtful and empathetic metalcore, with Grammy nominations and stacked tours as evidence of their success. Despite having a very familiar core sound, their ability to morph and adapt, sometimes within a single song, has meant their new albums are still worth checking out even after 20 years. Album number ten, Death Below, continues the tradition of heavy/melodic songwriting with some particularly proggy bookends and a desire to spread a positive message and slay all newcomers with a not-so-gentle reminder that they’re one of the genre’s godfathers.     

Case in point is track two, the almost eight-minute long ‘The Cleansing’, which kicks off with agonising blast beats and growls but heads down a bass solo tangent that’s absurdly groovy. It’s a technical masterpiece of how to create movements in a metalcore setting, without feeling like it is tacked on or dropped in. It segues from the intro track, ‘Premonition’, to lead singleAncestry(featuring Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach) with such a fidelity that the three become one long suite of beautiful noise. ‘Ancestry’ is the most accessible of the three, with a really melodeath set of riffs and the dueting vocalists singing and screaming alongside each other. 

Whilst the heavy stuff is glorious, the band pause on songs like gorgeous ‘Fool’s Gold in a Bear Trap’ that is less Meshuggah pounding and more Porcupine Tree-style ethereal melody… until the drop when it’s BLAST BEATS and blackened shrieks. Six-stringers JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler work with Dustin Davidson to keep things remarkably composed while Jake Luhrs goes absolutely ballistic into the mic. They segue again into the death-core ridingBackfire, a brutal song set to stun. Just ridiculous after the intro to ‘Fool’s Gold…’ started somewhere so different. This one ends with choral vocals, a sign the band are keeping up with similarly expansive deathcore acts (*cough Lorna Shore *cough). It’s straight into groove breakdowns of ‘Revival’, another killer one that is throwback to their roots. It slows down to jam with a thick bass line as the guitar melodies dance over it, giving Luhrs room to sing a bit and then fire up the shrieks again. 

The progressive elements are central to the experience on Death Below. Between the longer songs, the way each track drifts into the next and the instrumental ‘Sevink’, a short bass solo that begets the djent staccato of ‘Dark Divide’. The leads actually harmonise with a vaguely Asian influence on what is an otherwise thumping track that features all sorts of proggy twists and turns. In some aspects, this keeps things interesting but also requires some attention. Outside of a couple of tracks, like the (relatively) straight forward ‘Deadbolt’, the songs don’t stick with verse-chorus-verse for too long and the fact they also transition to the next song seamlessly means you need to keep an eye on track titles to know where you are up to. I’m all for this, though I understand if some find it too much work. 

After several years of pandemic interruptions, there is loneliness and desperation to the lyrics but a celebratory sense to the music. Mainly the band has a few guests along to jam. All That Remains guitarist Jason Richardson adds his own lightning-fast shredding to ‘Tightrope’, joining forces with the Rambler/Brubaker combo – a track that will cause much air guitar and fingers to bleed should you try to emulate them at home. Vocalist Luhrs is also generous with his guests this time out. ERRA’s JT Carvey brings his own djent/prog influence to the technical wizardry on ‘The Abyss’, his rasp combining with Luhrs effortlessly. Likewise Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain chimes in on closing track Reckoning. It’s the eight-minute bookend to ‘Premonition’/’The Cleansing’ opening duo. It kicks off fast and heavy but is another glorious excursion through emotions and moods, with the full on metal assault leading into a more delicate jam between guitar, bass and drums, before clean vocals add to the jazz-metal vibe. 

After twenty years August Burns Red are very comfortable with who they are but unafraid to throw in some different spices to their metalcore dish. Death Below isn’t the kind of commercial leap that might suddenly bring in new fans or see them rocket up festival bills but has some good hooks and some brilliant musicianship.

They continue to be technically proficient, making Death Below a great album that rewards repeat listens. 

August Burns Red Death Below

August Burns Red – Death Below tracklisting

1. Premonition
2. The Cleansing
3. Ancestry” (featuring Jesse Leach)
4. Tightrope (featuring Jason Richardson)
5. Fool’s Gold in the Bear Trap
6. Backfire
7. Revival
8. Sevink
9. Dark Divide
10. Deadbolt
11. The Abyss (featuring J.T. Cavey of Erra)
12. Reckoning (featuring Spencer Chamberlain)

Rating: 8 / 10
Death Below is released on March 24, 2023 via SharpTone Records. Pre-Order here.
Review by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram). 

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