Can Constellations ever be bettered?
Unfortunately, Found in Far Away Places doesn’t recapture Constellations‘ incredible sound; but instead refers to the more bassy sound that Leveler had. But there’s some important differences.
Well, firstly, the instrumentals on this record are better. They’re fantastic. The guitar work’s the best it’s ever been, certainly, and the drumming and bass work are probably better as well. But, you know, it’s definitely the most obvious when guitar work is improved: especially if there’s amazing guitar solos every few minutes — which there are in this album. In every song, there’s an overriding clean guitar melody over a fantastically heavy forgery of power chords, bass and mad drums; and the guitar melodies are seemingly more complicated — and, generally, more catchy, or fitting.
Furthermore, the bass being so high in the mix really gives the music a much needed boost in power and substance; and with most songs being in the minor key and in a lower key than usually before with the band: it gives the album a fantastic dark and heavy sound. Also, the bass isn’t slightly too high in the mix, like it was in Leveler.
Moreover, a larger quantity of instrumentals and intervals lets you really immerse yourself in the brilliant sound: and at some points give you a much appreciated break — although more intervals does mean more random Mexican-y stuff, which I’m not actually a huge fan of. But that’s good in that it gives the album more variety.
Clearly, the band’s trying to move on to better things with their music: and so they make it more complex, vary the pace and sound more and focus more on instrumentals. I think, though, this album is part of a work in progress, as clearly it lacks coherence at points and less of what ABR do best: including breakdowns. Yep. There are less breakdowns in this record, and that’s a big shame; because what Constellations did so well was use frequent breakdowns to give songs something amazing to remember them by, and keep it heavy. However, Found in Far Away Places, in its attempt to move the music onto bigger things, left a lot of what Constellations did best behind: instead using instrumentals and concentrating more on guitar melodies to carry the music along — which is great in its own right, but a step down from the dizzy heights of Constellations.
“…great in its own right, but a step down from the dizzy heights of Constellations.“
And then there’s something wrong with the mixing. Well, it’s great, other than the fact the singing’s so low in it. Too low, in fact. His voice seems to be a little bit drowned out by the instruments, and… Well, he doesn’t sing (or shout, or scream, or roar, however you want to say it) as well as he has in previous albums. His voice seems a little more one-tone – no less aggressive, mind you – and it just doesn’t sound as powerful as it used to; also, with a bigger concentration on instrumentals, he simply doesn’t turn up as much – and that takes out a bit of ABR‘s aggressive, impressionistic sound.
Nonetheless, the sound remains, and it is a fantastic one: just tweaked, sometimes making it better (the guitar work) and sometimes making it worse (due to over-complicating things, really). But it does, generally, sound fantastic; though with less breakdowns and all that, it probably doesn’t sound as incredible as it has.
But I can’t emphasise enough how good some aspects of the album are – the guitar work, for example. Firstly, it’s not like the breakdowns are gone, there’s a lot left, and it’s not like they’re a new band – it’s the same old ABR, just with some new stuff. Moreover, there’s some pretty damn amazing songs on it. The first that comes to mind is The Wake, as a fantastic starting song with a surprisingly (and refreshingly) dark sound. Then there’s Identity, which is another fantastic song, but with a different, lighter sound, in which the new sounding guitar really comes to life. And next is Separating the Seas, which is an amazingly heavy song, in which there are some brilliant breakdowns.
And then there’s Ghosts; which is a confusing song. It starts in brilliant fashion, with a great sounding guitar section which builds into a fantastic crescendo as the song goes on. It gets better and better, really… But then comes Jeremy McKinnon: the pop-punk singer. He doesn’t ruin the song, far from that. But he does annoy you. And I don’t like that.
Nevertheless, no song on the album is bad, absolutely. Every song is great, at least. And some are fantastic. It’s just there isn’t one that can be considered in the same league as August Burns Red’s best; like Mariana’s Trench, White Washed, Indonesia, Poor Millionaire and Spirit Breaker. But there are quite a few fantastic songs, as I’ve already said, and the new stuff does really come to life in some of those; with some of the guitar work leaving me motionless.
Found in Far Away Places is an album that is within a wider working in progress, with new ideas and innovations being implemented sometimes in the wrong place, but more often than not being used fantastically – like the exceptional guitar work. There’s a larger emphasis on instrumentals and intervals, which sometimes develops the music, and sometimes hinders it; but there seems to be less of a focus on breakdowns and memorable techniques of which Constellations used so effectively, and instead doesn’t use quite the same raw and angry sound that album did, but instead uses a more complex, varying sound, and so it is a less memorable album. And despite an abundance of brilliant songs, the album lacks coherence on occasion and despite improved mixing elsewhere, the voice – which I don’t think is quite as good as before – is a little lower in the mix, which is a shame. Nonetheless, the music is usually in a lower key and so sounds refreshingly dark, and I’m becoming increasingly less sure on whether there are actually less breakdowns, and I’m also becoming increasingly fond on the whole album.
But if I’m sure of one thing, it’s the same old band I love. But in an album that’s probably trying a bit too hard and isn’t anywhere near as good as Constellations — but it is still a very good album in its own right, and on par with Rescue & Restore, at least.
So I give it: 84/100.