Phantom Anthem - August Burns Red
Artist: August Burns Red
Album: Phantom Anthem
Label: Fearless Records/Caroline Australia
Review by Steve Jenkins
Over the years, August Burns Red have become a prominent force within the metalcore scene. With the success that this band have made for themselves since 2003, also comes fans knowing what to expect and recreating a similar formula with a few minor tweaks here and there. Whilst some may believe that ABR have released the same album over and over again, there's no denying that they have reinvented themselves as a band with their previous two albums Rescue & Restore and Found In Far Away Places. Both highly acclaimed releases from fans and critics, even getting them a Grammy nomination. So, does their latest offering Phantom Anthem continue this trend of ABR growing and evolving into a non-generic metalcore band? Let's find out.
Face facts, August Burns Red are great at what they do no matter how many times they may end up repeating themselves, they continue to improve and impress. Similar to a fine wine, Jake Luhrs' vocal performance seems to get better with age, and the stellar guitar work from John Benjamin "JB" Brubaker and Brent Rambler gets better with every album. Dustin Davidson's bass guitar has steadily evolved and become clearer and more prominent on every release going forward, and Matt Greiner's drumming continues to be dynamic and create massive amounts of energy.
Phantom Anthem, the group's seventh studio album, has them continuing the progression that they've been gradually aiming towards. If there is one major change to Phantom Anthem compared to the band's previous records, it's that there is more of a 'back to basics' style. This album more or less utilizes more effort on the guitar work and melodies, a similar approach found on 2009's Constellations. The guitar solos and song intros deliver a more uplifting vibe on songs like 'Float' and 'The Frost', carrying more of an emotional heft that is helped by Luhrs' vocals. There's even some moments of “clean” vocals (they aren't exactly clean vocals, but they aren't the harsh screaming that Luhrs usually does) such as in 'Coordinates'. Of course that's not to say that ABR haven't backed down on their breakdowns either. The heaviness is still as present as every other record they've come out with, as the opener 'King of Sorrow' readily shows with its ferocious, neck-breaking guitar work, lead single 'Invisible Enemy' with it's breakdown-induced introduction and 'Quake' with it's near-perfect mixture of melody and brutality throughout the song's runtime.
Phantom Anthem is another solid addition to a solid catalogue of metalcore releases. Nearing their 15 year mark as a band has made them one of the strongest and most recognizable names in metalcore, ever. Some might listen to this album and see it as just another ABR record and move on, others will listen to it and find something fresh, innovative and surprising. I'm glad they went on a bit of a different path with Phantom Anthem, as it's catchy yet still aggressive and relentless. The changes they've made on this album are small, but significant enough so that their tried and tested formula doesn't get stale. Fans should embrace their progression and I'm looking forward to see where they go from here, maybe something even more accessible? But for the time being, Phantom Anthem manages to deliver a satisfying 50 plus minutes of neck-snapping, hardcore metal goodness that will certainly make an impression when going back over the years best releases.
7.5 out of 10
Check out the official video for "The Frost" below: