When you think of metal music, what bands come to mind?
Gwar? Unearth? Killswitch Engage? Lamb of God? Gojira? Metallica?
Your mind probably goes to bands who’ve been around for a while, establishing themselves as true metal bands. Not like posers such as Black Veil Brides or Sleeping With Sirens.
As their seventh LP, Phantom Anthem has now dropped upon us, I’d like to contend that August Burns Red is a metal band that’s both established themselves and, I think, have outplayed many of their contemporaries.
Their technicality and precision they dynamically express on every song and album is impressive, even for fans of the more ferocious types of metal.
In the past, with monstrous albums such as Constellations and Leveler, ABR’s flexed some serious shredding muscle; guitarists JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler have challenged the status quo of what it means to be a band with two guitarists.
Drummer Matt Greiner seems to never run out of innovative beats and fills (he’s easily in the top 50 of greatest modern metal drummers), and bassist Dustin Davidson has carved out his own style that perfectly completes this seasoned band. Davidson’s also an accomplished guitarist, and holds writing credits!
Then there’s Jake Luhrs, the vocalist. A screamer who actually has range, pitch, and both high and low growls. He makes it sound as though he could command the nations with a growl, and also make the metal head girlies cry.
He’s the centerpiece of this metalcore outfit, and is always a solid performer and a respectable frontman.
As a band with so many unique dynamics and talent, August Burns Red have successfully experimented, pushed metal past conventional boundaries, and still remain relevant and exciting.
As this new album drops, fans are ready for something heavy, special, fresh, and exciting!
Will the excitement and progression continue with this new record, Phantom Anthem?
Right away on the first track, we’re getting some huge monstrous sounds! “King of Sorrow” shreds and hits hard with some very pounding heaviness. Luhrs comes out of the gates like an angry bull, ready to rip up the stage and start a fight! The speedy riffs and tight rhythms are catchy, and as the song slows in tempo with an utterly beautiful guitar solo, right away you are hooked! HEAVY.
August Burns Red have always been masters at making songs sound super heavy, even though they may not be so, technically speaking.
This is true on “Hero of the Half Truth.” The music itself is heavy and powerful, but at the same time, it is almost relaxing and mesmerizing. Reminds me of “Indonesia” or “Mariana’s Trench” from their breakout third record, Constellations. The ending of this song though will set your eardrums on fire! “WE WILL, SHOW NO MERCY!”
“The Frost” is the first single, and it is a cool banger. Pretty guitar parts and a very innovative and catchy intro. ABR are once again adding some spice to traditional metal. Throwing some sweet sauce onto the meat and potatoes.
“Lifeline” continues the momentum and the sheer heaviness of this record. It’s obvious with these new songs that August Burns Red is very comfortable playing at high speeds. Drummer Matt Greiner absolutely slays the kit, and could easily keep up with the likes of Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordison, and Jordan Mancino.
The heaviness keeps covering you up like a warm blanket full of rocks as “Invisible Enemy” rolls in. Ferocious and dark, mean and up front, this song is brilliant!
There’s hints of death metal, tinges of goth, and overall the expanse of this song is something to behold. Plus, the puppet music video is lit!
Phantom Anthem touches on all the strengths of August Burns Red, and also is fresh and diverse enough to pull in new fans and shut up the critics.
There’s no break for the pop fans on this metal record! “Quake” is a dragon ride through burning mountains and raging winds! It freaking kills with monolithic riffs and beats, and if you need a song to pump you up for backyard wrestling, or any kind of hand to hand to combat, here it is!
Ok, so “Coordinates” is the breather. It starts off nice and slow, pretty and cute… Oh wait…never mind. It picks up rather quickly. Not as fast as the previous songs, and actually at a minute in, it breaks down to a really cool slower part with some clean singing. Then it drifts into another sweet solo and the speed takes over. A song with many different speeds and parts; a real composition.
August Burns Red are a band of true artists. Not just another band that can strum fast, hit hard, and growl into a mic!
I won’t give too much away about tracks 8, 9, and 11. I want to focus on “Dangerous,” the 10th track. A very beautiful intro, and the drums crash in like a violent wave. The vocals do the same, and the overall feel you get from this song is very satisfying. Traditional metal composed to be fresh, relevant, and truly awesome to listen to.
Many modern metal bands lose the interest of the listener by recycling their sound and their trademarks. ABR seem to have no end to their trademarks, and have a very special gift at writing songs and parts that are so dynamic and interesting, that you will have to listen multiple times to take it all in.
Phantom Anthem accomplishes what so many other modern (and even older) metal records set out to do.
Each song is diverse, interesting, and compelling. With acts like Parkway Drive or even Bring Me The Horizon clogging up the metalcore scene with more antics than true skill, I believe that August Burns Red is more capable of holding their own. Due to their precision, skill, and top tier musicianship, they’re at the top of the game, and this record definitely solidifies that!
Phantom Anthem is definitely an August Burns Red sounding record, but they continue to push the envelope with compositions that you just don’t see too often in heavier music. Sure there are cool guitar parts and sweet drum fills on an All That Remains record; but August Burns Red prove again that hard work, lots of practice and a big imagination go a long way. Even in this angsty, dark, blood and guts genre we call METAL!!