They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If true, then in many ways the genre of metalcore has become the equivalent of insanity – hundreds of bands repackaging the same structures, same guitar riffs and scream-sing choruses to the same effect.
To borrow a popular '90s motivational phrase, AUGUST BURNS RED would like to "stop the insanity."
The band's latest album, Rescue & Restore, is a colossal effort which turns a critical eye to the oft-maligned genre, leading by example to prove that bands can still find exciting new ways to expand the genre without simply falling into repetitive trappings.
"Rescue & Restore is about challenging other bands and ourselves, as well as fans of this music, to want more than whatever happens to be the current buzz," explains guitarist and principal songwriter JB Brubaker. "We've done our best with each new album to try to push our sound in new directions and we'd like to see our peers do the same. People need to realize that there's not much of a difference between a metalcore song that has a couple breakdowns with a repeating chorus and the latest Lady Gaga song. This genre used to be better than that. It can still be better than that."
With so many bands in the heavy music scene seemingly intent on madness, AUGUST BURNS RED aren't afraid to branch out, weaving in elements of other influences from punk to indie to rock. Throughout the album's 11 tracks, the band artfully blend piano, cello, violin, trumpet, various percussive elements and more into their sonic arsenal, taking their music to new aesthetic heights and contorting the boundaries of heavy music.
"At the end of the day we are still a very heavy band," Brubaker says. "Rescue & Restore still has plenty of really heavy stuff, techy odd meter riffs, and all the stuff that people have come to expect from us, it just has a lot more surprises along the way."
Rescue & Restore marks AUGUST BURNS RED's fifth proper album, fleshing out an impressive body of work that also includes a live record, a collection of B-sides, and a 2012 holiday album, Sleddin' Hill, released over the band's lauded decade-long career. Since launching out of Manheim, PA, the industrious outfit has successfully transitioned from shake-up-the-field upstarts to one of the biggest names worldwide in the genre. On stages across the U.S. to Europe, Japan, Australia, South America and more, from renowned fests such as UK's Download Festival to the Warped Tour, which they join again in 2013 as a mainstage act, AUGUST BURNS RED have spent years taking their music and message directly to fans, and in the process have grown into one of the leading forces in the modern metal scene, a fact bolstered by their 1.4 million Facebook fans and more than half- million albums sold.
AUGUST BURNS RED cemented their status with the June 2011 release of their fourth studio album, Leveler, which rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts – debuting at #11 on the Billboard 200 in addition to entering the charts as the #1 Hard Rock album and #2 Rock album. Adding to the stellar debut is the incredible durability and staying power Leveler has displayed, having become the band's fastest-selling album to date by a significant margin.
But while Leveler was a commercial and critical success, anyone expecting the band to retread old ground is clearly not familiar with AUGUST BURNS RED. "I think our listeners expect us to try new things and know that each new album won't be a carbon copy of the previous one," explains Brubaker. "I believe we managed to write our most diverse record to date, one that longtime listeners will love, and a record that will hopefully inspire some other bands to try new things and encourage us to continue to push the boundaries in our own music."
With Rescue & Restore, ABR have proven that it is possible to reshape music in a way that challenges listeners, reinvigorates fans and puts art first. Even if some people don't realize that music needs to be saved from falling neatly into easily digestible boxes, this band is doing its part anyhow without a hint of cynicism. There's an earnest sincerity behind AUGUST BURNS RED's desire to continue to warp the constraints of what it means to be a metal band.
"With every album we want to get better as musicians, as songwriters, as performers. We all genuinely love what we are doing and that is great motivation to always try to improve and expand," Brubaker says. "I think our best days are still ahead."