Album Review: August Burns Red – Phantom Anthem

By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
[Fearless; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Hero of the Half Truth”, “Float”, “Carbon Copy”

The state of modern metalcore is a barren breeding ground for artists; they either come off short with their so-called “progression” or fail to reinvent the wheel. Genre-defining bands like The Devil Wears Prada are dying, while some completely transition into a radio-rock route (looking at you, Bring Me The Horizon). But, August Burns Red maintains its persistence and momentum with each release.

Their seventh release, Phantom Anthem, takes a bit of everything from August Burns Red’s discography—tasty breakdowns, melodic guitar riffs, groovy basslines and technical drum work—and dials them up to 11. Although Phantom Anthem is light on metalcore elements, the album builds character through its thrash-metal influences, emphasizing a lot more on melodic guitar soloing and complex song structures.

Almost every song is a banger, and it’s hard to deny their musical talent and songwriting capabilities at any point of this album. “Hero of the Half Truth” gives a quick overview of August Burns Red’s signature sound and how the rest of the album will flow. There’s a good amount of chugging, chaotic blast-beats, rapid “circle-pit” moments and even a smooth instrumental break, which is packed into five exhilarating minutes. Bass is usually not as prominent in metalcore aside from providing a boost on the low end, but the band makes sure it isn’t forgotten, as shown clearly in “The Frost”. This song has more of a progressive metal feel—something like a Periphery and new Veil of Maya crossover. In a similar vein, “Invisible Enemy” starts off with a Japanese-themed koto intro and builds up into a rhythm-oriented chugging that powers the entirety of the song.

“Lifeline”, “Quake” and “Float” resemble the band’s older sound during their Constellations and Leveler era, incorporating more metalcore breakdowns and giving the older fans a fun little throwback. Odd time signatures are scattered throughout, giving unexpected turns and surprises. The album finishes strong and heavy with “Carbon Copy”, one of August Burns Red’s very few songs that are in Drop D tuning. This ultimately gives a completely different vibe to the album, wrapping up the whole record as a memorable 50-minute journey.

The synergy between Jake Luhrs’ unclean vocals and the instrumentals create a thrilling, brutal touch to their music per usual. Guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler’s riffs are fresh no matter how many different riffs they’ve written in the past. Matt Greiner, one of the leading drummers in the scene, is always on top of his tempo with innovative drum sequences and fills.

On the other hand, however, each song averages about 5 minutes, which can be deemed repetitive and long to some listeners. It is also arguable that their music lacks simplicity at times; it’s almost as if they are forcing musical complexity. While usually criticized for having ambiguous and arbitrary lyrics, August Burns Red’s lyrics on this record are far more positive with better poetic delivery.

With a consistent lineup since 2006, August Burns Red knows the right procedure when it comes to making new material; they know what to retain, reinvent and renovate. This is what separates the band from current artists that struggle for creativity and resort to the downward spiral of down-tuning guitars. Even if Phantom Anthem might be overly technical or long perhaps, its a breathtaking record full of pure creative energy.

 

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