Raw energy. Pure passion. Uncompromising philosophy. These are the things that filled my ears when I first heard Constellations by August Burns Red. I was a tepid fan by this point in 2009, having heard a little of their earlier work, but this album blew me away. Seldom had I heard such technicality married with such delivery. Most importantly, this album came at a time that I and some of my friends were struggling with questions of ultimate meaning.
It was at this point in my life that I was exposed to many of the voices of the “new Atheist” community. Though I was sure of my convictions and certain of my faith, their largely-scientific attacks tested my worldview. Being the logical person I am, things have to make sense to me. I have no choice but to admit if a view I espouse doesn’t hold water. Tracks like “Rationalist” and “Thirty and Seven” reminded me that a worldview not anchored in something outside itself is futile. I don’t know if vocalist Jake Luhrs was going through similar struggles at the time, but his words emboldened and solidified me during that period. In “Rationalist” he proclaims to the militant scoffer that everyone puts their faith in something:
All that is real is blurred by your notion of reality
Nothing is real
Color is black, is white, is color blind
Tucking away what’s true, what’s tangible
You skeptic, you. You believe in unbelief
You skeptic, you. Now you’re the hypocrite
In “Meddler” he opines:
If everything’s relative
Then why the emptiness in our souls?
Profound lyrics aside, this album is a masterpiece. This was the work that vaulted August Burns Red into my top five favorite bands. The drumming is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The guitars, while not overly complex, battle in each song, taking unexpected turns and jerking the listener through interesting sonic rides. There are just enough quiet passages amid the aggression to stave off monotony, and I can’t help but headbang when the powerful breakdowns thunder. In short, it is the kind of album that defines the metalcore genre for me, and it has garnered dozens of listens for me over the years.
I acknowledge that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Constellations addresses deep questions with unwavering commitment to truth and incredible musicianship along the way. You can find the roaring tracks and intriguing artwork of Constellations on Spotify and Amazon.