‘Guardians’ album review
artist: August Burns Red
release date: April 3, 2020
star rating: four out of five
review by Levi Yager
To the ABR fans of old, this album is for you. It’s raw, chuggier and has fiery blastbeats throughout. Guardians brings me back to when I first got into August Burns Red. It echoes the untamed energy heard on Messengers and also makes for something fresh and new. This time, the band isn’t as concerned with playing around in their progressive or prettier sounds but instead buckle down to deliver some of the most intense metal of this year.
The best section of the album is in its first half. The string of hits from track one through four are nearly flawless. “The Narrative” is the opener and starts the album dialed to eleven. It’s classic ABR at its finest, with stellar guitar riffs and unrelenting drums. If you’ve never listened to this band before, “The Narrative” is a great introduction. One of my favorite tracks on the album has to be number three, titled “Paramount.” It picks up with spidering electric guitar work that becomes part of a pummeling buildup. The musicianship is mind-bending here, especially the drumming, and everything is fast and simply exhilarating.
The remaining highlights are scattered throughout the back half of the record. Actually, nothing on Guardians is really a letdown, but a few songs definitely come across as more generic than others. A couple heavier cuts that stand out later on are tracks six and eight, “Dismembered Memory” and “Bloodletter,” respectively. Both of these songs totally rip, with “Dismembered Memory” being one of the most brutal all-around and “Bloodletter” a gritty, grueling rager with explosive screams and a crushing atmosphere. Of course, the breakdowns are just pulverizing. We get two structural standouts at this point as well; back-to-back tracks “Extinct By Instinct” and “Empty Heaven” have some the coolest, most innovative arrangements on Guardians, featuring mesmerizing melodic changes and even a bit of low synthesizers mixed in.
The 11th and final track is “Three Fountains,” which is a decent closer and finishes out Guardians with just as much energy as witnessed in the rest of the album. Honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s a highlight, but it still has interesting and enjoyable moments, especially in the bridge. As with a few other songs on the record, such as “Lighthouse,” this song also includes some cleans in the form of gang vocals, which is neat.
Whether you’ve been a listener for years or have not yet graced your ears with the sounds of ABR, I encourage you to look into this album. It’s not perfect, but it’s got so much good stuff packed in there that it’s too much to pass up. Yeah, the lyric writing isn’t consistent in quality, but it’s sufficient at least, and some songs, like “Defender” and “Empty Heaven,” have truly inspired and thought-provoking imagery in their lyrics. All in all, while Guardians isn’t August Burns Red’s most complex or impressive album, it’s a welcome return to their earth-shattering roots that have defined mosh pits for over a decade.