Brutal breakdowns for Christ. They're still the specialty of Christian metalcore outfit August Burns Red, even in the wake of a pretty significant lineup change.
With crushing vocals, vicious guitars and ruthless drums, August Burns Red which includes guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler, drummer Matt Greiner, bassist Dustin Davidson and lead vocalist Jake Luhrs brings all of the intensity of its major-label debut, Thrill Seeker, to its second full-length release, this summer's Messengers. This, despite the fact that Luhrs is a new addition to the act.
Shortly after the release of Thrill Seeker, Luhrs was brought in to replace ex-vocalist Josh McManness. It was an attempt to up the band's already energetic sound, and it worked: Luhrs quickly earned the blessing of his new colleagues in the band that, really, you'd never guess was Christian.
Not that the band is hiding it; in fact, its members are quite proud of their faith. They'd just rather not face a backlash because they decided to push that faith on their audiences.
"I have a lot of respect for bands who can get up there [on stage] and [speak out]," Brubaker says, "but we just decided that when we started this band, that wasn't the approach that we were going to take. I feel like it immediately alienates a part of your audience who disagrees with you, and they'll immediately write you off."
Take, for example, The Devil Wears Prada at the 2007 Sounds of the Underground tour in Denver. Following the likes of Amon Amarth and Goatwhore, The Devil Wears Prada ended its set with enough preaching fit for a Sunday morning church service. They didn't receive the warmest response unless you call booing, cursing and flying water bottles warm.
Brubaker's heard the story. Thankfully, he hasn't lived it.
"We've never been booed," he says, laughing, "... to my knowledge."
August Burns Red, in fact, goes out of its way to please at shows.
"We're always on our best behavior when we're in front of the kids and the crowd and stuff," Brubaker says. "I mean, no one in this band is straight-edge or anything. We'll have a beer on occasion, and that's not something we could do in front of certain kids because I think they would flip out and say something like, "You can't do that as a Christian and that's wrong, blah, blah, blah.'"
But the guys aren't doing much of anything wrong at the moment. After a recent tour with Unearth, the band booked a national tour alongside one of its biggest influences, Between the Buried and Me. Although the two bands toured together last year, for Brubaker and his bandmates, it's still an honor.
"They're an amazing band, and I really loved watching them play every night," Brubaker says.
And maybe watching his influences play can serve as a lesson for Brubaker and his bandmates in fine-tuning their own admittedly not-yet-perfect live act.
"[We're still] finding that balance between, like, energy and performance and, like, clarity and musicianship," he says.
So long as August Burns Red keeps that in mind, it won't have to resort to preaching.
"The purpose of a live show is to entertain, and that's what people want to see: a show," Brubaker says. "We're not up there to change people's agendas."
August Burns Red with Between the Buried and Me and Behold ... The Arctopus
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12, all ages; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621.