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on June 22, 2011
There's something special about August Burns Red (ABR). Thrill Seeker introduced it, Messengers proved it wasn't an anomaly, Constellations hinted at even more and Leveler showcases it for everyone to hear. Their fourth full-length proves that ABR still have room for expansive, heartfelt innovation and creativity. Leveler doesn't reinvent the wheel - there are no auto-tuned lead vocals or emo ballads or anything vastly different from the abrasive metalcore of the past three albums. But there is a palatable sense of maturity and growth in the songwriting as well as the overall sound of Leveler.

Constellations hinted at the maturity and growth in songs like `Marianas Trench,' `White Washed,' `Indonesia,' and `Meridian.' They weren't vastly different but they were different - a good thing. You still had the relentless fervor of past albums in songs like `Rationalist,' `Thirty and Seven,' and `Existence' on Constellations - also a good thing. But there were more obvious variations in song writing than ever before.

Leveler takes the variation and growth to a new level. `Empire' starts the album off with the familiar onslaught of constant force before it dissolves into a beautiful change of pace that peaks with (GASP!) actual singing (it's just gang vocals singing `ohh, ohhh, oohhhh') before delving back into an onslaught that mirrors the start of the song. It could be the best song the band has written. It is (personally) the most moving song they've written. `Internal Cannon' has a different kind of breakdown than what we are used to. `Divisions' kills it like you would expect. `Cutting Ties' opens with one of the coolest riffs I've heard from the band and sounds like it could have been on Constellations. And that's just the first four songs.

Other songs like `Carpe Diem,' `Pangaea' and `Salt & Light` aren't your normal fare either. But Leveler isn't like switching from whole milk to skim milk. There's enough of what you would expect from ABR on this album with songs like `Leveler' and `Poor Millionaire' to keep the band rooted in their trademark sound. The entire album is full of little twists and turns that (should) make the familiar ABR listener smile with pride and pleasure because the band released a unique new album and not Messengers pt 2 or more Constellations or another Thrill Seeker. (Although deep inside I have to admit Thrill Seeker pt 2 would be AWESOME.)

I know this to be true because I used to be `that guy' that wished every band `sounded like they did on _____.' But then I grew up - trust me - no one wants to hear a band put out the same album over and over. You try that and you end up sounding like Weezer - you try to sound like you used to but it ain't the same, no matter how hard you try. It's tough to admit, especially when you love an album so much (Pinkerton?). We all bemoan and wail when our favorite bands sounds `different' or `changes things up' or `experiments.' We long for Saves the Day to go back to the `Through Being Cool' sound or for the Get Up Kids to go back to the `Four Minute Mile' sound or for Cave in to make another metal album. Give it a rest. We're all growing up and so are the dudes in these bands. Some of the best albums by those aforementioned bands (Stay What You Are and Jupiter, respectively) would have never happened if the band didn't `change.' Instead we'd be stuck with rehashes and pale imitations.

Having said all that, August Burns Red hasn't radically changed. They've matured, they've grown and thankfully it shows in the continued progression of their music. Very few bands get better from album to album but ABR has with every release. A band is allowed a dud every now and then, but if a band isn't consistently getting better, then what's the point? If we aren't consistently growing and maturing as people, then what's the point?

August Burns Red has done it again. They have made another phenomenal album and they have, yet again, set the standard by which their peers will be measured.

* The bonus tracks are cool. The Bells track is great, the MIDI version of Empire is neat. The others are nice as add ons. Is it worth an extra $2 for 4 tracks? Probably.
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on June 24, 2011
Obviously, it's ABR, so the music is great.

I'm writing to mention some things about the vinyl edition. It is 2 LPs and the LPs are clear. A nice sturdy card with a digital download card is included with the vinyl edition. There is also a glossy lyric insert. The gatefold is a very nice exhibition of the album art.

If you have a turntable, pay a bit more for the vinyl edition - it's a great set all around.
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on June 22, 2011
First of all and most importantly, this is a really good album, with tons of excellent ideas! Most of these ideas work incredibly and make August Burns Red so much better than all their solid state peers. The technicality on this release is unparalleled by other ABR releases and every member of the band had to step their games up to pull off these songs. Everything you know and love about ABR is still here, just amped up a little and more experimental with riffs. They use many major keys and major scales to sound different than most metalcore bands. The sound is a band going against the grain, but staying true to their roots. Now the detractors for this album for me, are a couple of things. The vocals are everything you've already heard from ABR, and I know it sounds lame, but they need to sing sometimes!!! Some of these songs already sound happy because of the major keys. They are screaming for a counter melody and the hardcore approach, while awesome, is getting dated. The second is that they should really try to slow down a little, and let their amazing chops speak for themselves. Constellations was great because the band wasn't afraid to be a little simpler, so songs were more memorable. These songs dazzle and amaze, but can be so complicated that one needs several listens to be able to retain the song. These are small complaints and don't make Leveler any less levelling. August Burns Red have hit a solid stride, and Leveler is an excellent entry in their growing super discography.
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on October 28, 2011
Best August Burns Red record to date I think. Really well done. In particular I'm pleased with the deluxe edition which contains 4 additions tracks that add to the variety and creativity of the album. Definitely good!
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on June 24, 2011
The first 12 songs make a great album that so far sounds as catchy, creative and heavy to me as Constellations. The last 4 songs are a really cool exhibition of what their song structure sounds like with different instruments and without the vocals.

I think that they have expanded slightly in their ability to change up the mood and pace of the songs. I like the abrupt changes from heavy to acoustic or just pace and mood changes in general. There is possibly more extreme changes and math metal type of songwriting than in the past.

The part of the album that really makes this a definite improvement is the last 4 songs that offer something that really draws your attention to their songwriting because there is no metal or vocals and you will probably hear that you love their songwriting style even without those elements. The electronic song that is last is great. I wish they could collaborate a little more in the future with more electronic parts in their regular songwriting as well and the piano sounds great too. Of course that would likely mean actually expanding the number of members in the band, but it would be great to hear that throughout more of all of their songs. So that is what I think the album has the most to offer because if they don't expand in this way themselves it may at least inspire other bands to break a little more out of the standard mold that most newer metal acts seem to restrict themselves to.
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on June 28, 2011
it seems like all my favorite bands are growing up. i will always prefer the nonstop beatdown that is 2007's messengers, but constellations (2009) was an absolutely solid effort and expanded on the band's sound and capabilities. leveler marks the biggest change in abr's sound to date. i've got to hand it to the boys - the album is very unbecoming of a typical "metalcore" release, and being that abr are far from typical, it suits them. the cover art isn't inundated by dark "metal" imagery like skulls and axes and ridiculous illegible monograms; instead, it sports one of several cartoons hand-drawn by a friend of the band: a submerged vehicle, a destroyed gas station, maybe even some chickens if you bought the vinyl or digital. while it doesn't necessarily reflect the new sound (which boasts a latin-themed intermission (internal cannon), guest appearances by rock instrumental band bells, a stunning acoustic track with flamenco guitar, and even a midi version of a song compiled during the writing process) it serves as a marked distinction between what most metalheads expect, and rightly so.

the guitar work has improved so greatly that it deserves its own paragraph. brubaker and rambler stick to their classic sprays of ladder notes on the skinny end of the fretboard, but the rate at which they hammer the notes out has increased, and it just feels more furious than on past efforts. i hear a lot of classic influence in the new licks, and it's safe to say we might have found the same progressions in a Maiden song had they been band mates. there's less palm-muted chugging forming the backbone of the tracks, as it gave way to strings of tightly knit arpeggios and hammers. awesome stuff.

but make no mistake: there are plenty of genuine heavy riffs here, surviving along with the band's well-known odd meter timing, shifts, and syncopated blast beats. what makes the heavy elements so much more poignant here is the variety that surrounds them. there are several chill sections throughout the record, and it amplifies the crushing bits all the more. cutting the ties has one of my favorite heavy passages, partly because it's the first time brubaker & co. have actually built up to a breakdown, but moreso because it's bright. it's easy to write dark and ominous (excuse the reference) chugfests, but not often do you hear one that brings a smile to your face because it sounds joyful. pangaea is a likely candidate for the most assaulting song on the album: it's one of the longer cuts and offers nearly nonstop beating riffs and the guitarists' best solo work to date. a close contender for the title is 40 nights, which may be the best song abr has ever written (besides the eleventh hour, of course).

for fans of the more raw vocal style (see also: screaming), it's easy to identify the differences when a vocalist changes his style. jake luhrs sticks to his classic yelling, but expands his growls in to some of the darkest yet, and also gives his highs a nice ride to the upper limits of his capabilities - you can hear the pain in his voice as he's belting them out. the new album also sees him doing empassioned spoken narratives which lead alternately into more volleys of screams or - get ready for this - nearly singing, however brief it may be. bassist dustin davidson makes his vocal debut, lending a piercing scream that contrasts well with luhrs dominantly lower bellows.

salt & light is the best example of the band's new sound overall - it interrupts with luhrs inspiring speech over a backdrop of mellow guitars and drums. group vocals kick in near the end, proclaiming "we sing for you". i've got goosebumps RIGHT NOW listening to it. i can count on three fingers the number of times i've ever been this enraptured by a song.

august burns red continuously break the mold of expectations placed on a band not only of their genre, but of their stature. the group are not "little guys" in the metalcore scene. as far as fanbase goes, they're one of the most prominent after some of the heavy hitters. leveler is a milestone in their collection: a showcase of the skill, dedication, and, above all, passion for the music they create. for a band to be this talented, diverse, and still reach a wide audience, all the while evolving with every record, is a feat worthy of mentioning - and repeated listening.
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on July 27, 2014
I bought this for my son. He says, this is a really good album. He loves how there are special renditions of songs on this album like acoustic versions and one that is a midi version. There is a lot of creativity. The instruments are amazing.
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on April 3, 2014
ABR has been steadily growing on me in the past few years. Before Leveler, I had written them off as another raw band making noise in the industry due to their sheer passion. Promise seemed to be the word of the time. But you can call many bands promising, and ABR was not satisfied. Leveler trumps their previous work, Constellations by quite a bit, making it their best, and most technically sound album. Its difficult to judge a band's talent level, but ABR certainly lets us know that they can shred. And thats why though some call it metalcore, I call their music a blend of core with thrash. Its a lot of fun to listen to the fast-paced guitars mixed with the howls by singer Jake Luhrs.

Empire and Pangaea are my favorites, because they are simply fast tracks with colorful and fun instrumentals. Internal Cannon and Divisions are great as well.
If you are one of those that insist on branding them a "christian group" I offer you this: buy this album, because if all you listen to is christian metal, ABR is the best in the business, instrumentally.
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on June 21, 2011
Pre-ordered this album through ABR's vendor, with the added bonus of an album specific T-shirt. To my surprise, I received it a day before the actual release date. Right off the bat I could tell that ABR has been busy trying new things and looking for tweaks to enhance their sound. Of particular note, they've gone away from multiple breakdowns per song and have worked with adding slower, melodic passages to contrast with the inevitable sledgehammer of sound that will again hit you in the chops to finish off the song. Don't worry, there are still some breakdowns but they are much more satisfying in fewer numbers, trust me. The depth and breadth of ABR's sound is ever-expanding on this album. Jake is using more range all while still screaming and growling with his usual passion and conviction. Guitars and drums have all been jacked up a notch for this new album... faster, louder, more complex -- all better than ever before. This album demonstrates a more intentional and mature level of songwriting and you can tell. Songs like Internal Cannon and Poor Millionaire are prime examples of their willingness to up the ante and maybe even experiment a little with new styles. Leveler will assuredly be a great chapter in the careers of these guys and will likely get to 100k copies sold. Whether you are a new fan or an old die-hard, this album will impress. Sampling the tracks will NOT give you a good idea of the awesomeness within, you just need to buy it!
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on June 28, 2011
August Burns Red has always made waves, but with "Leveler", they are more like tidal waves. "Constellations" was a huge success for ABR when it released in 2009, and "Leveler" is no different. With this release, ABR takes their "tried-and-true" mechanics and alters them (for the better IMO). "Leveler" is more technical, entailing more breakdowns and more technical guitar work from JB Brubaker. This album also sees a change in Jake Luhrs (lead singer), in the sense that his vocals are paced, his growls are more distinctive (a little more than they have been in the past), and his delivery is on target on every song. The best way to describe "Leveler" is amazing. It's a must buy for ABR fans like myself, and with more easy-listening songs than before. ABR also tried some new techniques in this release including a "Jambi-themed" drum outro. Great album!

My favorite songs: 'Poor Millionaire', 'Empire', and 'Pangea'.
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