This review is going to look a little different. Typically I write about releases that came out within the last month, but this review is in support of a friend of mine at Metal Federation. He’s just reached 1500 followers and I’m super stoked for him. If you haven’t checked him out, follow @metalfederation on Instagram for more music reviews and recommendations.
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Another point of difference is the style of writing. At first, I used this blog as part of my senior project in college and so I tried to write more academically, which is quite difficult. Now that I’m done with school and am doing this for myself, I want to write more personally. This is meant to be my take on the music, not just a pedagogical study, and so I’m changing the format a bit. I also have a few more changes in the works, so stay tuned!
Rescue & Restore by August Burns Red (ABR) was released back in June of 2013 through Solid State Records, one of my favorite labels. They’re made up of vocalist Jake Luhrs, guitarists Brent Rambler and JB Brubaker, bassist Dustin Davidson, and drummer Matt Greiner. ABR is one of my all-time favorite bands, metal or otherwise. Though I’m a massive fan of theirs, I didn’t get into them until around 2016 after Found In Far Away Places came out. (An absolutely brilliant album, by the way.) I’ve listened to much of their older stuff, especially the remixes of Messengers and Constellations, but, for whatever reason, I never listened to Rescue & Restore (R&R). Jumping into R&R was very exciting for me as I’ve only heard good things about it. After listening to R&R a few times now, I was right to be excited.
Right out of the gate, “Provision” hits like a jackhammer. It’s definitely one of the heaviest songs on the album and showcases everything great about ABR: creative lead lines, syncopated rhythmic chugs, swift drum parts, beastly vocals, progressive structures, and purposeful lyrics. The message in this song is so powerful. The song addresses what it’s like to be a victim and yet make the best out of the circumstances. However, the character in the song doesn’t stay in the mindset of a victim, but chooses to move out of it and take charge of his life. What really sticks out to me is the line: “I’m just as much the problem as the man behind bars / He did with his business what I do in my heart.” I’m not sure which of the band members wrote this song, but it seems to me like the point here is that what we allow to grow in our inside “hearts” (i.e. what we think about and how we think) is just as important as our outward actions. Thus, though we may be victims of circumstance we still get to decide how we react to those circumstances. This will always be a relevant theme.
“Treatment” continues the sonic aggression set in the first song. However, halfway through the track, a classical interlude brings down the energy. An acoustic guitar and a beautiful string section carry the next minute that steadily builds back into high-speed intensity. From here the dynamics switch back and forth for the rest of the song between straightforward rhythmic pushes and melodic instrumentals, easily being one of the most progressive songs on the album. Again, the lyrics hit a home run by calling for an end to hate and bigotry and instead push for acceptance and diversity.
“Spirit Breaker” starts with a beautiful string section before the guitars kick in full force with the chorus. It’s one of the more melodic songs on the record yet features ABR’s great ability to switch gears on the drop of a dime. The most remarkable part of this song is the spoken word in the middle which is a nice change of pace. An epic bridge follows and then the song ends with a groovy drum pattern, one of my favorite parts on the album. The character in the song is in a dark place in his life. It sounds like it’s coming from the point of view of a soldier who’s overseas, but I think the meaning can also be related to someone suffering from depression or facing a particularly rough set of circumstances. In the middle of his darkness the sun shines just a little and gives him hope to carry on, ending on a much more positive note than where it started.
“Count It All as Lost” keeps the typical ABR musical madness at an all-time high. At about a minute in it features one of the best riffs on the entire album, though a simple one. What stands out again is their dynamic song writing, moving from blazing fast blast beats to head-banging riffs to melodic interludes. I appreciate how ABR is one of the only bands not afraid to throw in a “soft” instrumental in the middle of a song. They’re one of a few bands who can actually pull it off without getting boring. Lyrically, the song is an expression of needing outside help to make it through life. The title and last lines of the songs are inspired directly by the book of Phillipians in the Bible, written by the apostle Paul. I think the song explores mankind’s need for God. It is a call to God for help and guidance instead of trying to make it through life alone.
“Sincerity” speeds off immediately and doesn’t stop to slow down through the entire song. The lyrics talk about some kind of savior, a man who is described in several different ways. He is said to have bravery and yet be like a lighthouse. “He brings comfort to the masses in the name of compassion” and “clears the path for the broken down and defeated.” “What’s seen as defeat is His philosophy.” Stanzas such as these make me believe that this song is actually meant to be a description of Jesus Christ. The lyrics paint a strong picture of what his character is described to be in the Bible and they’re powerfully written.
“Creative Capacity” is my favorite track on this album. It’s mostly instrumental and features instrumentation that you wouldn’t expect to hear from a metalcore group. Even the vocals are lower in the mix, as if it’s meant to be another instrument instead of sitting on top of the mix. I’m not sure what all the extra instruments featured are, but I did recognise the strings, trumpet, and possibly a xylophone. They all fit in perfectly somehow. It’s an absolutely beautiful track. Even the lyrics, as seldom as they are in this song, hit a poignant and heroic note. The album even gets its namesake from this song.
“Fault Line” begins with a lead line reminiscent of one of their older tracks, “White Washed.” Though the line at first sounds haunting, it later takes on a more hopeful sound at the end of the track. To break things up ABR adds another dynamic drop in the middle and builds it back up just to blast into a heavy breakdown. I read a little bit about the lyrics and apparently one of the other band members wrote this track about their vocalist Jake Luhrs. Luhrs’ inspiration to their fans and the rest of the band inspired the words. From what I know about Luhrs, I think his character is best captured in the lines, “Whisper your grief, scream your sorrow, proclaim your love, just don’t call me your hero.” A brilliantly written track that gives a nice sneak peek into the chemistry of the band.
“Beauty in Tragedy” starts with a great little drum intro from Greiner before it quickly takes off. At about a minute and a half in, the dynamics drop again and another emotional spoken word passage takes hold. The track ends on a high note, with a speedy drum part and an uplifting guitar melody before it all fades into a chorus of voices. Though it features many thrash elements, “Beauty in Tragedy” is one of the most stunning songs on the album. Lyrically it grapples with the death of a loved one and the grief of carrying on after their passing. This song also holds one of the most poetic lyrical passages: “One morning I’ll wake up to you / One morning I’ll hear the angels sing / On that morning, we won’t be worried about the weather / Nor will we, mind, where the hands lay, on the clock tower.”
“Animals” is another track that rarely slows down and features a slight Egyptian twist. It continues the album trend of slowing down in the middle to a more ambient interlude before blasting into high-gear riffage again. In this track, Luhrs screams against pride. and With lines like, “You were wrong / You judge the faith, lives, and actions / Based on your insecurities,” he rips down judgemental attitudes from their pedestal. This song is an absolute banger.
“Echoes” is probably the prettiest song on the album. It begins a little differently with a swirling intro in 7/8 time. The intro gives way to a melodic verse before a crushing breakdown hits. A calm interlude that features the same swirling guitar lead from the intro keeps the song from getting stale. This track in particular has several ups and downs, building and releasing tension until the final release at the end. Similarly, the lyrics start with a palpable angst and desperation and end with a harmonious anthem that makes you want to shout along. I think the song is about ABR’s desire to be on the road and connecting with fans. It’s their heart to sing with people and share life together.
“The First Step” closes out the album with one of the most chaotic songs on the album. The majority of the song is just frantic, greatly enhanced by Greiner’s speed on the drum kit. The final lyrics state: “Without competition, there is no progression / Society won’t wait for statues to break free of their brass case / Evolve or die.” I think they end purposefully on this note, sonically creating a sense of urgency, and lyrically begging their listeners and the world to move forward in understanding and knowledge.
I’m so glad that I took the time to fully listen to this album from start to finish. In my opinion, Rescue & Restore set the stage for August Burns Red’s future albums. This album created their formula that they would use moving forward. The lyrics on this album are absolutely stellar. I had to hold myself back and pick out only my favorite ones to share or else I probably would have shared the whole thing.
One of my favorite things about this band is that they’re just good people. They play some of the best metal out there yet they feel so wholesome. They’re just a bunch of really good guys making quality metalcore. I always feel hopeful and happy after listening to their music and R&R is no different. I 100% recommend this album to anyone wanting to listen to talented progressive metalcore with an uplifting message.
Find August Burns Red
Rescue & Restore Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6cIQFY2BILI2VL264yfv89?si=iJxkyAcBTVGALo4j6HosGw
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