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Album Review

You wouldn't think a genre of music based on pummeling, distorted guitars and raspily raging screams would be a hotbed for Christian artists. But you'd be surprised. Some of the most influential acts in the burgeoning metalcore scene— As I Lay Dying, Underoath, Demon Hunter, The Devil Wears Prada and Haste the Day—are chockablock with committed believers growling decidedly countercultural messages about faith and forgiveness.

We should add another band to that list as well. Hailing from the heart of Amish country, Lancaster, Penn., the metalcore quintet August Burns Red has steadily cultivated a fervent following since its inception in 2002. The band's third studio album, 2009's Constellations, earned rave reviews and a Top 25 debut. Now, Leveler, leavened with messages of perseverance that are as hopeful as the band's sound is ferociously brutal, levels another aural blast at fans.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

While some of its lyrics are a bit opaque, "Empire" seems to suggest that we should view our creative endeavors in light of the fact that only God's work is eternal ("The Author wrote a story in the sky, and the earth below/ … We have only what we're given"). The song rightly exhorts us to ponder the legacy we're leaving behind ("Our decisions affect our descendants").

"Internal Cannon" narrates the story of a struggler crushed by guilt and shame who chooses to relinquish his failures and find hope in forgiveness: "I'll never stop fighting/ … I won't dwell in unhappiness, grasping humility, asking forgiveness." Likewise, the struggle-filled song "Divisions" concludes with a desperate man's prayer for deliverance and forgiveness ("Oh God, I'm speaking to you/You said we are redeemed/Oh God, I'm speaking to you/You said we are set free/We are the weak/The pain is the devourer/It's devouring me/Forgive me"). "Pangea" longs for wholeness and relational reconciliation, and the title track talks of a wounded person's choice to forgive instead of seeking revenge ("My heart thirsts for vengeance, but my Father has taught me forgiveness").

"Cutting the Ties" encourages a hardened prodigal ("Beneath the tough facade, I know that we are getting through") not to capitulate to the temptation to commit suicide ("It'd be so easy to take the easy way out/Compassion is a beautiful thing, so show some for yourself/ ... Life is a gift/Remember this/Break free/Patience is a virtue/You will be revived").

"Carpe Diem" involves a compelling back-and-forth conversation between a young man committed to pursuing his dream and an accusing naysayer out to crush those aspirations. "40 Nights" warns against buying the lie that today's reckless choices won't have consequences later ("You're living for today, but your future is looking bleak/One day it'll all come crashing down/ … Greed, envy, gluttony will amount to nothing"). "Salt & Light" appropriates Revelation-like imagery as it describes the ultimate victory of God's people ("We want to hear trumpets roar with words that trample the pagans' cavalry/Pummel the darkness with light/ … We will march with full force").

"Boys of Fall" mourns the loss of the four high school athletes who were killed in a car accident in Manheim, Penn. The song plumbs the depths of grief, asking, "Is there a way to live again through this tragedy," then affirms, "He is God/ … All we have is you."

"Poor Millionaire" calls a deceptive, scheming Christian shepherd to account for preaching spiritual truth outwardly but inwardly pursuing a greedy, self-serving agenda: "Where is the life in the life you live?/You are the poor millionaire/ … A lifeless empire, a lifeless heir."

Objectionable Content

Lyrics on two tracks could be heard as profanities. Regarding the word choices on "Poor Millionaire," frontman Jake Luhrs told rockedition.com, "There's some pretty brutal lines in that track, but that's what was on my heart, so I wrote it." He's likely talking about one word used to describe the song's counterfeit spiritual leader: "You b‑‑tard/Look at what you have become." In similar territory, "Leveler" describes someone's temptation to exact vengeance: "If I had not decided to follow Him/ … I'd put you through the same h‑‑‑ you put me through." "Salt & Light" includes a graphic image of martyrdom ("And if my throat were cut from ear to ear, I hope these words would carry on").

Summary Advisory

August Burns Red lead singer Jake Luhrs certainly isn't afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the subjects the band tackles. Talking about some of the in-your-face lyrics on "Poor Millionaire," Luhrs says, "I put them in there for people to understand how serious I am about that song. I want it to be like, 'Oh my gosh, did he really just say that?' Not for shock value, but for you to understand the seriousness of what I'm talking about."

Make no mistake—this band is very serious about the subjects it sings about. There are some "brutal" moments here, as Luhrs points out. But they probably won't be too off-putting to fans of this sonically bruising genre; I suspect most attentive listeners will interpret them exactly as Luhrs intends. Along the way, those fans will also be treated to August Burns Red's double-barrel metalcore affirmation of faith and forgiveness, determination and hope.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range







Debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard pop chart.

Record Label

Solid State Records




June 21, 2011

On Video

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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