Hey Spinning Thoughts family! Hope you’re all doing well in the midst of these crazy times we’re in. For me, a little bit of intensity and a heavy is exactly what I needed and I found it in August Burns Red’s ninth studio album, Guardians, out as of April 3, 2020 via Fearless Records. The effort is a big step for the Lancaster, PA. natives as 2020 marks 15 years for the band and Guardians is their heaviest release yet, top to bottom.
The album starts off with “The Narrative.” The guitar work is absolutely insane and the riff that plays over the verse line, and continues through the interlude, is equally powerful, taking on a totally different feel when played behind the vocals compared to when the double bass kicks in. At any rate, this song is fierce and gets the album started on a very heavy note. The transition is seamless to the first single, “Bones,” another feverish track that is heavy and pushes forward throughout. The song features over-the-top vocals that you can envision being chanted out in a live show (hoping we are fortunate enough to see that in the near future). The overlaying guitar line descending into the wide open, echoing chorus is as catchy as metal can get.
“Paramount,” another pre-released single, starts off with a serene melody that turns heavy, but keeps an upbeat feel to it. The lead line rings out over top and is largely clean, offsetting the heaviness of the surrounding vocals. “Defender” sets itself apart with precise transitions, switching back and forth in tempo and beat structure, lending to a different feel in each segment of the song. The breakdown morphs into a brief melodic, major key melody before erupting into one of the heavier moments on the album.
“Lighthouse” is the first real metalcore feel on the album with a chorus that is catchy as hell. The first real appearance of clean vocals on the album is a welcome palette cleanser. The Coheed and Cambria-inspired guitar screeches and open bass in the breakdown are the highlights here. “Dismembered Memory” is one of my favorite tracks on this album. The build here is great. The intro guitar that echoes throughout is so technical and the song builds heavier around it. The chorus brings it back to the forefront in a higher octave, which is a really cool piece of instrumentation. “Ties That Bind” is a slower-paced song that doesn’t lack intensity. The dual vocal call-and-response in the chorus is unique and the song has a catchier feel to it.
“Bloodletter” is a trip in the opposite direction and is as heavy as they come. The vocals are aggressive and the riffs are in unison with the bass and guitar to give a deep, hollow and heavy feel. This is easily the heaviest song on the effort. “Extinct by Instinct” is another track driven by a solid guitar riff, but this time we experience some dissonance and a sophisticated dueling-guitar approach throughout. There’s also a tremendous bass line that moves opposite of the guitar making for a unique run that spans a broad range. “Empty Heaven” possesses big arena/anthem vibes and a larger-than-life appeal.
The album’s final track, “Three Fountains” had my attention from the beginning. The melancholy, slow riff let me know this track was going to have an insane build. The first minute and a half methodically adds instrumentation to the slow, haunting riff. Once we reach the top of the build we get a short, intense segment before releasing the throttle into a slow beat and jazzy guitar solo. The song builds back up for an intense final run before leaving us as serenely as it came in. A glimpse of hope.
August Burns Red remains one of the most musically talented and intense bands around. Guardians is a much heavier endeavor, with darker overtones, than previous releases. An intense record is exactly what I needed to keep pushing forward in these tough times. I hope it’s some consolation for you too!