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August Burns Red Continues to Push Metalcore's Boundaries

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Lancaster, Penn. doesn’t have a long, rich musical history. So when the guys in the Christian metalcore band August Burns Red were growing up there, they had to create their own damn music scene.

“There wasn’t a place for bands to play,” says guitarist Brent Rambler. “The only venue in town was the community club and it was 800-capacity. For a lot of the hardcore bands, that was too big. We took it upon ourselves to rent out the local VFW Hall. We got in contact with bands like Evergreen Terrace and the Red Chord who were big at the time and leading the whole hardcore scene. We booked those bands and then booked ourselves as the opener. It was a great way to put some extra money in our pocket.”

The band’s first show ever had a crowd of 300 because the headliner was the hardcore group This Day Forward.

“We booked them and it was at a hall in the middle of nowhere,” says Rambler. “It was great. We did a lot of flyering. We used to walk to the local high schools and flyer every car in the parking lot. You would get kids showing up who had never heard this type of music; they just needed something to do on a Friday night. We built a local music scene by getting people who didn’t know the music to come out to the shows.”

Whatever money the band earned from hosting shows, it put toward buying gear for its group. The scene isn’t as strong now, but August Burns became a national act years ago. The band had a big breakthrough with 2007’s Messengers and hasn’t looked back. Its most recent album, 2013’s Rescue & Restore, features complex time changes, string arrangements and intricate guitar solos. It’s a true tour de force that pushes metalcore boundaries. The band’s current tour comes in advance of a new studio album due out this year. Rescue & Restore signaled a more experimental direction for the band, and Rambler says that’s likely to continue with the new, as-yet-untitled album.

“We always try to do something different,” he says. “For us, metal was our first genre of music. We still love it, but you want to play what you want to hear. We also like indie rock and straight up rock. We wanted to add more of those elements to what we create. There are many metal and hardcore bands and we want to stand out, be different and push the envelope. We’re trying to stay a couple of steps ahead of everyone. We can’t make the same record over and over again or we’ll be bored.”

So what does the new album sound like?

“None of us have been able to sit down and listen to the whole thing from start to finish,” says Rambler. “There are changes. We have a lot of different tunings. There’s more stuff where the songs take a bit of a break. There’s also some really, really heavy stuff. We always try to push ourselves. We push everyone’s limits and learn the stuff while we’re trying to play it on the record. It usually turns out well.”

Don’t expect to hear any new songs on this tour. The band is waiting for the album to come out before it started playing new tracks.

“We don’t want to play new songs and then not have the album come out for five months. If we do that, the only someone can hear those new songs will be by checking out a crappy video that someone posted on the Internet. We are mixing up the set lists and playing a lot of songs we haven’t played in a really long time and a couple we haven’t played before. For our fans that have seen us a lot of times we want to play some deeper cuts.”

August Burns Red, Miss May I, Nortlane, Erra, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2582. Tickets: $22.50 ADV, $25 DOS, houseofblues.com.

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