August Burns Red have returned with their seventh full-length studio album (excluding “Sleddin’ Hill”). Going by the name of “Phantom Anthem”, this highly anticipated LP marks the band’s return following high points in terms of commercial success in their career, found in far away places where few Metalcore bands have gone before (even a Grammy nomination for what it’s worth). It’s been 10 days since the initial release through Fearless Records in the first week of this month – the band’s second effort through said label. That being the case, it’s time to give this one a breakdown (hehe).
For those who are unaware, August Burns Red have a rich history as one of the most innovative and influential bands in the Metalcore field, often spawning trends that others do their best to follow in years to come. In other words, they’ve been known to raise the bar ever since their first album “Thrill Seeker”. It’s always quality material in some form or fashion but some may dispute this ability from record to record. For example, my longtime friend claims that August Burns Red do something very special with every other album while landing a leveler between cycles. By his hypothesis, “Phantom Anthem” should be the next album to do this. So… does it succeed?
For starters… It’s worth noting that, in terms of production and clarity, this is the sharpest sounding August Burns Red album to date. Hands down. Actual music aside, since the first single “Invisible Enemy”, it was clear that ears around the world were in for a new high point of aural delights from the band. In conjunction with the good people at Atrium Audio (Carson Slovak, Grant McFarland, and other folk), they’ve consistently pushed this envelope from album to album.
In terms of individual performances, it’s also safe to say that every member is on their A game from top to bottom. The delivery and musicianship on “Phantom Anthem” is just damn impressive. The effort is apparent. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I also heard this album brought together more collaboration and involvement from every single member than ever before.
Solid songwriting lines all 11 tracks on this LP. Not a single track dips below the four minute mark, ranging up around six on the high end. One of the main complaints I’ve heard from their most recent records is how the band would randomly throw in off the wall segments inspired from other genres into their otherwise metal tracks. This most notably started in 2011 with tracks like the hit “Internal Cannon” and took on a life of its own from there. You see less of this approach on “Phantom Anthem” as the band has opted for different, more subtle approaches to musical experimentation. These tracks seem all that more focused for it. If anything, this record succeeds in taking the best elements from all their past albums and melting them into some new ideas with alchemical skill.
With that being said, there are parts that I personally enjoyed less than others. Whether it be the millennial whoop type vocals towards the beginning of “Float” (whooooaaaaaa whooooaaaaa!), the cheesy, panning synth that comes in behind that breakdown everyone loves on “Dangerous”, or the electronic, wavedrum segment breaking into the final track “Carbon Copy”, parts did bring out my inner nitpicker. However, that’s just me picking nits. I’m sure others will enjoy those parts just fine.
Every track stands out for a myriad of reasons. The attention to detail and effort towards variety in what is largely a fixed lane here is apparent. Some of my personal favorites would have to be (in no particular order) “Lifeline”, “Generations”, “Coordinates”, “Quake”, “King Of Sorrow”, and the album singles. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like every single track a lot.
So, according to my friend’s hypothesis, does this album live up to the expectations? I would say yes. This is a successful LP on a number of fronts. It’s intense and emotional. It manages to be both intelligent and fun. It’s the product of countless hours of hard work put in by some of the finest minds in the Metalcore arena and it shows. August Burns Red deserve any and all praise they receive for pushing themselves on “Phantom Anthem”. Well done.