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August Burns Red are a band held very dear to me. They were the first gig I ever went to alone as a teenager, back when 170 Russell was called Billboard and back when they were supported by an Adrian-fronted Northlane. And at that very gig, I got a mic grab during ‘Your Little Suburbia Is In Ruins’, a song that their recent setlists have long forgotten. August Burns Red were one of the very first heavy bands I fell in love with that wasn’t just thrown at me by my friends or my older brother; there was an element of self-discovery to my first ABR song and that made them a personal and intimate kind of band to me.
So my nerves were high coming into the band’s seventh album, ‘Phantom Anthem’. Would it live up to my expectations and continue the steady stream of albums I’ve adored from this band? Well, silly fucking me for even doubting the!
From the moment shit kicks in with ‘King of Sorrow’, the grooves and riffs work together to create one of the bounciest and infectious August Burns Red songs of recent memory. It’s immensely heavy and it gets your toe tapping within seconds. But it’s also not a time waster; things get to the chorus pretty darn quickly and my god is that chorus a doozy. As Jake Luhrs screams “Open the door, let me in” you just can’t help but want to sing along with him; letting his commanding words enter your brain for days to come. His phrasing is impeccably catchy, something I adore when it comes to screamed vocals and this is something that Lurhs executes perfectly here. ‘King of Sorrow’ sets the remaining album up brilliantly. So much so, in fact, I was a bit concerned that they’d peaked the album right at the very start and it’d be all slowly downhill from there. Yet, of course, I was wrong again.
‘Hero of the Half Truth’ speeds things up a bit and gets your heart pumping as they blast through what’s probably the fastest track on the record, yet its interlude will make you put on your dancing shoes; that thing is jazzy as all hell! (Yeah, look, it’s probably not actually jazz, but you know what I mean and don’t fucking pretend like you don’t.) Songs like the two lead singles, ‘The Frost’ and ‘Invisible Enemy’ are just your staple, classic August Burns Red tunes with elements of what many have to come to know and love them for; punishing guitar riffs and solos with sensational drumming from Matt Greiner, all blended together to form a sensational metalcore sound.
Now, if you’ve been following ABR for their last two albums, – ‘Leveler‘ and ‘Found In Far Away Places‘ – you’d know that the band has shifted to include a lot of experimental and genre-bending instrumentals in the middle of their songs that take influence from Latin, jazz, blues, and middle-eastern styles and ‘Phantom Anthem’ contains some of those best moments.
‘Lifelines’ interlude is definitely up there as one of the best with its hypnotic, luscious guitar tones and beautifully crafted atmosphere as the melody calls and responds between the two lead guitars before launching back into the song. It’s simple and isn’t too out there, yet its still purposeful and well executed. ‘Coordinates’ opts for a much more serene instrumental break, bringing in a cello underneath a carefully crafted melodic guitar line that crescendos back into an epic solo and gang vocal chant to close out this epic song. ‘Dangerous’ (which has the best breakdown on the whole record) and earlier mentioned ‘Hero of the Half Truth’ are some of the fancier and experimental interludes to be had; ones serve to create a stark and striking juxtaposition to the rest of their respective songs. But my personal favourite goes to ‘King of Sorrow’. It’s fairly similar to the rest of the interludes save for that motherfuckin’ choral chant that builds the song right up! It’s mesmerising and it makes the track stand out and shine as one of the album’s best.
If you’ve read any of my other reviews (for some strange reason), then you’ll know that I’m a very big sucker for real pretty melodic shit. As I just love it when the melodies are deliciously bright and emotional; twinkly, if you will. Which is why I have the biggest hard-on for ‘Float’. Drown me in awful A minor keys, this song is gorgeous! Right from the reverb-soaked and crisply sweet guitars that introduce this track right to the background “whoahs” and pitched screams – this is my jam. It’s this record’s answer to ‘Echoes’ from ‘Rescue and Restore’, which is my all-time favourite August Burns Red song and my top-pick for their records. But the real clincher that made me fall in love with ‘Float‘ is its middle interlude. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but let me just say there are some heavenly guitar chords in there that made me want to physically weep as did Lurhs desperate screams of “Wake up!” towards the song’s conclusion.
Album closer, the grand finale to ‘Phantom Anthem’ – ‘Carbon Copy’ – is a mammoth of a track. Really, the song has it all. Beautiful melodies and harmonies, soaring guitar solos and of course, crushing breakdowns and heavy riffs whilst also having parts that combine all of the above. It’s the perfect closer and though a part of me would lean towards ‘Float’ being a better suit, ‘Carbon Copy’ also makes sense. It summarises the album to a tee. It’s everything this effort embodies thematically and sonically and it leaves you with that perfect balance between wanting more and being fully satisfied.
Like certain Pornhub categories, I know that I’ve gushed heavily throughout this piece but you see, I really do love Augst Burns Red. They were one of the first heavy bands that I fell in love with without much influence from other people’s views or recommendations. And so, they’ve always sort of been “mine” because of that. They hold a special place in my heart and I’m so glad to see them continue down the path they currently moving down as grow as musicians each and every year. Here’s yet another fantastic August Burns Red album that will bring in newer, eager fans and will delight the older vanguard who have been around ever since ‘Messengers’.
King of Sorrow
Hero of the Half Truth
‘Phantom Anthem’ is out Friday, October 6th via Fearless Records/Caroline Australia.