Release Date: March 24, 2023
Review by Sheldon Hubbard
Brazen and bubbling with a heaving metallic surge… August Burns Red presents Death Below, their tenth studio album released in a now hulking 20-year anthology. I could fill scroll upon scroll with sparkly adjectives to describe the sheer weight this record holds, but I will stick to one main aspect here: opportune.
Consider the lyrical content throughout the album. You have this wavering narrative of overcoming both inner and existential turmoil (something so many of us can relate to), while being presented with a certain… (for lack of a better phrase) call to action. A ‘change now in order to grow beyond,’ kind of message.
Fueled by frenzied instrumentation, those Lancaster County fellas are squeezed to the brinks of their creative prowess. By that, I mean, every element of the album feels intrinsic. Placed on purpose to compliment each evocation that rings and reverberates through Earth’s oldest language…song. Albeit, song that is ladened with thunderous strings, hammering percussive might, and extreme vocals that surely dissipate through your ears and into your every atom…but song it is!
As technically marvelous as it is brooding, we find ABR shedding skins of unquestionable anguish in terms of personal and interpersonal interaction.
With ourselves, with the world, with those around us… “Our time must not yet end…together, together, together we will mend…” these lyrics on “The Cleansing” (track 2) plead while the instrumentation slows to a ferocious rumble of blast beats and soaring riffage. JB Brubaker is quoted by Genius (via Apple Music) saying, “This song speaks of this unseen evil or force that’s taking over mankind and just destroying us and the planet. And then there’s this person in the story of the song who rises up and rallies those who have survived into reclaiming the earth and basically conquering this evil.”
Overall, I feel that this themeology creeps into the rest of the album through faceted channels (those being, each track). In darkness (whether emotional, spiritual, mental, what have you) there can be diverse effects on how each individual operates in response to both inner and outer qualms. To accompany these musings of devastation, repentance, and realization…ABR hones their storied experience as sound-shapers into a riveting onslaught of expression.
I have truly searched for any signifying criticisms about this album, but what ABR has scored here is a platinum token of how creativity and sheer human resilience can not only heal us from what was…but give us the opportunity to recognize how we can grow further into what will be.
Although it is the bombastic tipping point of the record before the “Sevink” interlude (track 8), this quotation from the seventh track (“Revival”) presents a climactic lesson in self-actualization:
“Teach me to see in the night / I’m no longer simply existing / I’m pursuing a new mission…” If you are a metal fan whatsoever and looking for some fresh, fiery inspiration…I implore you to crank this record and cry, scream, sing, and thrash your heart out. A killer new record and some living room moshing will do you wonders (just clear a space first!).