Returning to the music scene again in 2009 with their third record, Constellations, August Burns Red continued to add to its loyal following. Constellations is widely regarded as the band’s most successful record and quite possibly their breakthrough into the metal “in-crowd”. Keeping in tune with Messengers, ABR continues the odd-meter riffs and devastatingly heavy breakdowns, fit for a massive mosh pit. However, Constellations marked an ending for the band. Growing increasingly estranged from the attitudes of contemporary metalcore bands, J.B. Brubaker commented “I feel like anyone who can pick up and play a guitar and learn to play a metalcore riff and any drummer who can learn to play a thrash beat over a breakdown is doing it . . .” This has fueled their desire to be more progressive in their musical endeavors. You’ll hear less of the straight riff/breakdown songs and more of the unusual on 2011’s Leveler, 2013’s Rescue & Restore, and their latest and most technically advanced, Found in Far Away Places (2015).
Constellations (2009): 12 tracks, 47 minutes.
As always, ABR’s lyrics are deep and meaningful. “White Washed” is a scathing reprimand against those who put their own personal choice before their beliefs and values, as well as condemning legalism. “Marianas Trench” mourns following this culture to its destruction. “Open your closed mind. Close your open mouth,” says “The Escape Artist”; a timely reminder. Paradox features a Proverbs-esque adage, when Luhrs growls “He that keeps his mouth keeps his life. He that opens his lips too wide shall bring on his own destruction.” Among the only lyrics of “Meridian” are a quotation of Jeremiah 31:2. “If everything’s relative, then why the emptiness in our souls?” cries “Meddler.” “Crusades” sums up the record well, with lyrics similar to an epitaph. However, “Existence” contains some of the best lyrics ever written by August Burns Red: “The walls of a church don’t make it holy” and, even better, “It’s what we know we aren’t, that makes us who we are.” This is a beautiful picture. We know we’re not perfect, but that’s what makes us who we are in Christ. When we recognize we need Him, He calls us His children.
Fans of August Burns Red will usually point to “White Washed” and “Marianas Trench” as being some of their best material. They’re hardcore and both feature talented riffing. J.B.’s composition on the latter being very smooth and ambient, something he doesn’t do too often. The record gets off to a rough start compared to Messengers with “Thirty and Seven” not garnering nearly as much of a hype as that of “Truth of a Liar,” but “Existence” picks up the pace with an exceptional solo. The middle of the album features the most variety, from the slow intros of “White Washed” and “Marianas Trench” to the heavy breakdowns of “Paradox” and the epic “Meridian.” A few of the songs, like “Crusades,” feature scaled down sections.
Overall, Constellations is a good album. While it didn’t strike me as much as Messengers, that may be because I’m more familiar with it and wasn’t as shocked at what I found. Nevertheless, the lyrical quality of the songs on this collection is equal with what the band produced in Messengers. If the album as a whole isn’t profoundly striking, there are still some songs worth listening to. “Marianas Trench,” “Meridian,” and “Existence” are examples of my personal favorites. 7.5/10.