August Burns Red
"I definitely don't feel like we're the 'new guys' in the scene anymore. We have our sound figured out at this point," says
AUGUST BURNS RED guitarist JB Brubaker. "But it was time to break some rules."
Since the release of AUGUST BURNS RED's 2009 breakout album, Constellations – which landed the metal juggernauts at #24 on the Billboard 200 – the Lancaster, PA-based genre giants have found themselves in some rather unexpected places. From the cover of Alternative Press to Fox's "American Dad," from the sands of Dubai to the Warped Tour, from Japan to Australia to South America, AUGUST BURNS RED crisscrossed the globe time and again on the road to the top of the hard rock heap.
When it came time to record their fourth full-length album, Leveler, ABR could have played it safe, could have simply cashed in on their previous success by making Constellations II. Instead, after eight years and a quarter of a million albums sold, AUGUST BURNS RED scrapped the old game plan and followed their sound where it led them. The direction, as it turns out, was both forward and backward. On Leveler, the band recaptured the hungry, ferocious heaviness of their earlier albums, and at the same time bravely indulged some of the more creative impulses they had previously stifled. The breathtaking result is nothing short of a game-changer.
"The biggest risk we took on this album was not limiting ourselves to stay inside the standard metalcore box," says Brubaker. "If there was a part that didn't sound like a traditional metalcore part, we ran with it and made it as wild or unorthodox as we wanted. We've been motivated to progress as a band and push ABR in different directions, while maintaining the characteristics that made us the band we are in the first place." Illustrating that point is the album's second track, "Internal Cannon," arguably Leveler's most out-of-the-box track, which manages to stay utterly brutal while employing a samba clean section, a salsa-esque solo, and another section seemingly destined for a Quentin Tarantino film. It's definitely metal, but the jury's still out on the "core."
"I think that's one of the advantages to being on your fourth album," Brubaker says of the band's experimentation." We have a dedicated group of listeners who are supportive of us trying new things and breaking some of the unwritten rules of metal. It's a luxury we are very thankful for and do not take for granted."
Balancing out a rich surplus of inventive clean guitar sections and blistering solos on Leveler is crushingly heavy riffage not heard from AUGUST BURNS RED since 2007's Messengers. Also present is the virtuoso playing of Matt Greiner, already one of metal's premier drummers, who takes his craft in even more dynamic directions. "The drumming is more technical on Leveler," Brubaker says. "I'm confident that this is the best performance Matt has ever given on an album."
Also making strides on Leveler is vocalist Jake Luhrs, whose personal journey from a life of substance abuse to the frontman of one of metal's most talked-about bands was well-documented in AUGUST BURNS RED's band-defining cover story in Alternative Press. In reuniting with producer Jason Suecof, who also manned the boards for Constellations, Luhrs pushed himself to deliver a profound and emotive performance. "Suecof is great with vocals and I personally connect with him well," Luhrs says. "We do have our tiffs when it comes to producing vocals, but it's because we really have a heart for lyrics and vocals. We end up hugging it out."
"It was like stepping back into a laboratory with a mad scientist two years after that chemical explosion incident," Brubaker says of reuniting with the metal wizard. "We went with Jason again because we love how clean and crisp he makes our albums sound. His production is top notch and he brings great ideas to the table in all facets of the process."
With the release of Constellations, AUGUST BURNS RED became a band that could no longer be ignored. They debuted in the Top 25. They toured alongside peers like A DAY TO REMEMBER and LAMB OF. They co-headlined the AP Tour and, this summer, will serve as headliners for the entire 2011 Warped Tour, and will be touching down for tours in Southeast Asia, Europe and Russia. Most importantly, they grew and connected fiercely with a colossal legion of fans, as the three-quarters of a million "likes" on their Facebook page attests. And that is why, with the release of Leveler, AUGUST BURNS RED will prove to be an absolute pillar of their genre.
"Our fans keep this band above water. If we have fans, then we have ABR," says Luhrs. "I honestly didn't know if we'd get to this place, to call myself a touring musician and it be my only source of income AND it being my dream... wow! Music is our passion and it's what we want to be doing. We intend to keep doing it as long as we can."
The band grew out of high school practice sessions between guitarist Mike and drummer Matt, filling out the roster with singer Craig and bassist Jared to form blessthefall in 2004. They released a three-track EP in mid-2005 and added guitarist Eric to form their current lineup. Phoenix-area gigs with Greeley Estates and an openly religious orientation got the band local press and a deal with Warner subsidiary, Record Collection. The band then toured with Alesana and Norma Jean across the United States and Canada. Their debut album, His Last Walk, was released on April 10, 2007, to mixed reviews. The band completed the entire 2007 Warped Tour circuit nationwide.
Blessthefall toured with Escape The Fate, LoveHateHero, and Dance Gavin Dance on the Black On Black tour during September and October of 2007.
Blessthefall is apart of From First To Last's fall headlining tour, entitled "RATHER BE SLAYIN' N00BZ" starting November 1st with A Skylit Drive, and Vanna. Then after they'll be going on tour with Silverstein, this tour is their first ever UK and European Tour, with their first UK show at the Colchester Arts Centre on Novemeber 16th 2007.
Labels seem to matter a lot these days; in fact it feels like every week a new subgenere is invented, heralded and, usually, quickly forgotten. Although they were born out of the hardcore scene, for the past five years Boston, Massachusetts' Defeater have challenged the conventions of the genre by crafting music that takes an old-school formula and pushes it in new and ambitious directions without sacrificing an ounce of aggression. Case in point is the band's third full-length Letters Home, the culmination of these efforts and sonic evidence of a band who are at their musical and creative peak.
For Letters Home, Defeater enlisted drummer Joe Longobardi, who proved integral in the writing and execution of the album and also injected the band with palpable energy. "This is definitely the most comfortable I've felt as far as writing music together and a lot of that has to do with Joe," says guitarist Jay Maas—who along with vocalist Derek Archambault, guitarist Jake Woodruff and bassist Mike Poulin—make up Defeater. "Joe is a songwriter straight-up so he understands kick drum should be exactly where it has to be; he's super talented but he's not self-indulgent and he's always evaluating what serves the music overall instead of what's just flashy," he continues.
The writing for Letters Home began when the band returned from Australia last year and Maas—who is a successful recording engineer in his own right that's produced every Defeater album—started compiling dozens of hours of drum tracks which would eventually serve as the foundation for the disc. "I feel like we're all getting better as songwriters and we operate independently as one organism now, so we had a really cohesive understanding of what we wanted to accomplish with this record," explains Maas. "We asked ourselves what we loved about our first couple of records and realized they were a little bit simpler, so we kept that in mind when putting together these songs." From the driving, melodic opener "Bastards" to the relentless attack of "Blood In My Veins" and the carefully controlled chaos of "Rabbit Foot," Letters Home is an album that will inevitably help the band—who will be embarking on the Vans Warped Tour this summer—expanding their fanbase without pandering to their audience.
"We've been writing songs for almost two decades and we like a lot of pop-oriented music so I think as a band Defeater is getting to a point where we can write a record that embodies that while maintaining the honesty that's inherent in the music," Maas explains. "We're still being ourselves, we're just being the best songwriters we can." Lyrically Letters Home sees the band continuing an ongoing narrative about a working-class family living in post World Wold II America, although the story revolves around the patriarch of the family this time around. "I'm not influenced by bands who have done 'concept' albums as much as I'm inspired in a literary sense by writers like J.D. Salinger and Cormac McCarthy," Archambault explains when asked how this concept came together. "I love American Gothic Fiction and I tried to capture the descriptive nature of Salinger in the way that he can make the most boring ten minutes in an apartment the premise for an amazing story because of the way it develops."
Because the album is about a character with a backstory that involves war and destruction, the band knew going into it that Letters Home had to be heavy—and although it has it's unexpected moments of calm before the storm such as the shimmering guitar intro to "No Saviour," for the most part the album is an exercise in catharsis that's mirrored in Maas' production. "I built a new studio that's professionally designed and acoustically treated, so we didn't have to fight any sonic limitations," he explains. "It really made sense to make this a heavier record and by working with Defeater and producing other bands, I was able to take everything I've learned and apply it here in a way that made sense."
Admittedly Letters Home has its share of dark moments (try not getting goosebumps when Archambault sings, "I gave away my faith when I gave my brother a coffin,") but despite the bleak lyrical content there's an overarching theme of hopefulness that permeates the album as well as the band's current outlook as well. "I would say unanimously we're more proud of this album than anything we've ever done so I feel like regardless of how it's received, we feel like 'mission accomplished.'" Maas adds, "At the end of the day it's the five of us playing music together and that's why we got into hardcore in the first place, because there are no rules." Letters Home is much more than a hardcore record, it's a concept album that explores the concepts of loss, family and love in a way that transcends genres and the chances that Defeater take on the album both musically and lyrically will undoubtedly inspire bands who play various styles of music on a visceral and artistic level. But enough talk, Letters Home, was meant to be listened to, so cue up "Bastards" and let the Defeater take you somewhere new yet familiar, where the only limitation is their collective imagination
When speaking with the members of Arkansas hard rock outfit THE OVERSEER, one phrase comes up time and time again: "In the moment." But it's not because the hotly tipped band wants to focus on the here-and-now. It's because they want to transcend it.
It's become something of a mission statement for the band, the desire to make music that can elevate, that can transport the listener to a place that's emotionally honest ... and that can stir up one hell of a mess in the moshpit, as anyone who's heard their artfully pummeling riffage, savage breakdowns and vocal cord-rupturing vocals can attest. "I'd like to say that the music we write is more than just 'in the moment,'" says vocalist Anthony Rivera. "We're looking to write something that stands the test of time, that people can look back on and still enjoy 10 years from now."
Drawing inspiration from likeminded artists such as THRICE, UNDEROATH and AS I LAY DYING, THE OVERSEER delivers hard-hitting, uncompromising hard rock that belies the members' young age. This isn't "cash in on the latest trend" music, it's "sweat and tears" hard rock, with a little blood thrown in for good measure.
Showing they've got the work ethic as well as the talent it takes to make it in the musical big-leagues, THE OVERSEER have proven themselves to be completely devoted to the rock and roll life, even when it meant hitting the road for 400 grueling days in the last two years as an unsigned band. The relentless push to connect with fans around the country has been a dynamic and rewarding experience for the band - if not always glamorous. "There's really nothing like sleeping in a van in a different Walmart parking lot every night and showering once a week - or less," laughs bassist Bradley Riggs. "Touring is a challenge, but it makes it a lot easier when you can do it with guys who you completely trust in life. We've seen the world together and been through a lot, both great and terrible. We probably know each other better than we know ourselves."
All of that hard work paid off when the band achieved one of the goals the members had set from the beginning - getting signed to Solid State Records, home to so many of the bands that indirectly helped to shape THE OVERSEER's sound. With the ink still drying on the deal, the band set out to do what it does best - work hard. The members headed into Atlanta's Glow in the Dark Studios with Matt McClellan to record an as-yet-untitled debut album - the first taste of which was released to fans in January 2012 in the form of the hard-hitting lead single "Secrets."
Once the album is complete, it will be time for THE OVERSEER to do the OTHER thing they do best: Tour, tour and tour, taking their music and their spiritually-minded message to eager fans. "I expect great things to happen for us over the next few years. We believe in hard work and hopefully we can leave an impression on a our listeners and maybe become a musical influence to them in the future," Riggs says. "We know our most exciting days on the road are to come, and that keeps us moving forward."
Forget living "in the moment." THE OVERSEER are living for the future, and it looks like a bright one indeed.