In high school, a lot of my son’s spare time was spent on his Xbox 360, playing video games of mass warfare with a synapse-frying soundtrack of metalcore. He once said that his favorite metalcore group was August Burns Red, and he played me some of his favorite tracks. Fancy meter changes, spooky minor keys, some light ballads, but for the most part, balls-to-the-wall, lightning-fast riffs played super-clean on twin electric guitars, nimble bass, and drums that sounded like automatic gunfire. A few words about the singing — imagine Cookie Monster screaming, and you’ve got it.
All that hollering lent the impression that the band members were seeking cathartic release from some kind of broiling substance-induced madness, but that wasn’t the case. A lot of metalcore bands — August Burns Red included — are Christian straight-edge. This means no drugs, no booze, and, presumably, no sex out of wedlock. On the surface, metalcore is the marriage of hardcore punk and speed metal, but deep down, metalcore bands and fans are like a headbanging faction of the Promise Keepers. Go figure.
August Burns Red has been around since 2003, the remnants of a high school band, and their three CDs have seen impressive sales. They are technically brilliant, which is the norm in their sort of music. They play down the Christian straight-edge image thing in public; now and then it surfaces in a nonsecular lyric or two, but no matter. To the casual ear, it’s business as usual in a blood-curdling murderous sound on loan from the drug-addled arena behemoths of a generation before who invented heavy metal. My son eventually became a decent metalcore guitarist himself. His band practices sometimes made my ears ache, but at least I took comfort in the straight-edge thing, in the knowing that he wasn’t out there duplicating the rock-and-roll past of his parents.
AUGUST BURNS RED: Soma, Thursday, July 23, 7 p.m. 619-226-7662. $15.