In keeping my New Year’s resolution of being more positive, I’m going to start focusing more on the things I love and which grow me… which, in this instance, would be the band August Burns Red.
Now, I am a huge August Burns Red fan, and I won’t even pretend otherwise. The day I accidentally came across their song, “Composure”, spawned admiration and a love affair which has grown with each release until the present day.
My reasons for loving ABR can be summarised in a single word: antidote.
1. They are an antidote to metalcore mediocrity
If a ‘metalhead’ is reading this, it is probable that upon reading the word “metalcore”, they rolled their eyes just a tiny bit. The genre has come to be derided as being generic, and, apart from a few names here and there, a lot of bands are argued to be carbon-copies of each other.
Listen to their latest release, Rescue & Restore (and their entire discography, in fact), and you’ll see how ABR is distinct. They have, over the years, managed to develop a signature sound while experimenting with and infusing other genres into their music.
You know how some artists have very unique voices: your Bob Dylans, Winehouses etc.? That’s ABR for me. Even when my playlist is on shuffle, I know instantly when their song is on.
2. They’re an antidote to Christian banalities
One of the main gripes I have with what, I guess, would be called “Christian music” are the happy-clappy platitudes which infest the genre. You know what I’m talking about: “Jesus, I love you”, “Lord, you’re my everything”, “Even through the storm, I will praise you”, etc. Christian music is lacking the kind of emotional honesty found in other genres as, instead of singing about how they really are, Christian artists sing about how they think they’re supposed to feel.
Whether it’s in the lyrics he writes or in interviews, Jake Luhrs is honest about his struggles, and it’s so refreshing. Take “Crusades”, for example, a song in which he sings:
The face that stares back in the mirror
Should carry nothing but pride
As the days go by, it’s getting harder
To hold my head up high
Have you ever felt that way? I thought so.
3. They are an antidote to hatred and bigotry
Christians have acquired a bit of a bad rap over the years of spreading hate-filled messages. While obviously not applying to everyone, homophobia and religious intolerance (amongst other things), have become rather rampant, with gay people and non-believers being made to feel inferior (if not straight-up told they’re going to hell). I mean, just under a month ago, a Baptist pastor prohibited “queers” and “homos” from his church, and called for the killing of gay people as a cure for AIDS.
August Burns Red, however, counter this bigotry with messages of positivity and love. In the song “Treatment”, for example, Luhrs tells bigots that the world has “too many hearts filled with hate /Let acceptance in”, that our world needs more diversity, and, most importantly: “Pay attention to the choices you make/Step back and look at all the hearts that you break… It’s your right to say what’s on your mind/Yet it’s their right to keep feeling alive”.
ABR not only counter bigotry (which has become the norm), but challenge society with messages from which we all could learn, regardless of beliefs, race or creed.
4. They are an antidote for depression
This portion of the post is the hardest for me to write. I am not a good-enough writer to express how much ABR have helped me in my battle against depression, suicidal feelings, hurt, and self-hatred.
I came across the aforementioned “Composure” during a very difficult season of my life. The song described me to a tee: My life was falling apart and I no longer had control. I had battle scars and my demeanour was becoming like quicksand. But at the end of the song, Luhrs says: “Wave goodbye to the past/You’ve got your whole life to lead/It’s time to gain some ground”.
And that’s exactly what I did. I ceased looking back at my mistakes and the bullies who had hurt me and marched forward. Years later, the girl whom many had belittled as a nobody would get both her undergraduate and Honours degree, having being motivated by the honesty of a man she knew had gone through similar circumstances.
Today, that girl is striving to make a positive change, finding inspiration in the lyrics:
Our existence is an imprint
We all have a legacy to live.
Thank you, August Burns Red.