The story of Christian metalcore outfit August Burns Red is a "weird" one, says longtime guitarist JB Brubaker.
The Grammy-nominated band formed in 2003, in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, when most of the members were still in high school. Now the group is on tour, celebrating the tenth anniversary of its sophomore album, 2007's Messengers, which landed at number 81 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Before that album, "No one knew who we were," Brubaker says. Messengers' commercial success signaled that Christian metalcore had gone mainstream.
“People thought we were tight because we were playing these weird riffs and complex stuff," a sound that defined the band’s genre — a mix of metal and grindcore, Brubaker says.
August's third album, 2009's Constellations, was nominated for the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award, which recognizes "outstanding achievement in the Christian music industry." Despite that, bandmembers avoid talking about the role of religion in their songs. In previous interviews, the musicians have said that the lyrics speak for themselves.
In the heyday of Christian metalcore, August Burns Red was joined by groups like As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, and Haste the Day — as well as a host of imitators. These bands spread faith in Jesus through throat-scraping, hardcore-style vocals, chugging guitar riffs and machine-gun-paced drums.
"There was more of a community back then," Brubaker says. The Christian metalcore scene exploded, thanks in part to relationships bands formed with fans on social media. " [The Devil Wears Prada] was a band that got really big through MySpace. Same with Suicide Silence and Job for a Cowboy. You don't see that nowadays."
Most of the groups from those days “have broken up or sizzled out,” he says. “It's weird being one of a handful of bands to keep kicking and going on."
On this year’s tour, the band is playing every song from the album, and crowds have been thrilled, Brubaker says. "It's been awesome, man.”
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The tour has been “a bit of a melting pot, as far as our fans go,” the guitarist says. Over the years, August Burns Red has attracted many listeners, young and old, and has cultivated a "nostalgic factor."
"It's frickin' weird, man," Brubaker admits. "Makes me feel kinda old."
August Burns Red will play the Ogden Theatre at 7 p.m. January 17. Protest the Hero, In Hearts Wake and ’68 will provide support. Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door.