August Burns Red Phantom Anthem
August Burns Red goes more heavy metal than metalcore in ‘Phantom Anthem’
Released: October 6, 2017 Fearless Records
August Burns Red are one of the best-known metalcore bands around, with a career spanning over a decade and seven studio full-lengths under their belts. However, one listen to their latest release, Phantom Anthem, and you might start to think they’re a heavy metal philharmonic orchestra. Over the years, ABR have grown to be one of the most sophisticated metalcore groups operating. But on Phantom Anthem, the band’s seventh full-length, they take everything a step further. Fans will hear a new side of ABR, almost reminiscent of jam bands such as Phish or Rush, where tracks like “Lifeline” feature guitar riffs and interludes that could go on for hours before embarking on a heavier side with moments like “Hero Of The Half Truth.” Sonically, there’s something incredibly otherworldy and fantastical rooted in Phantom Anthem, making the album translate like an epic poem rather than a collection of songs, both enticing for its cohesion and at times tedious in its redundancy, as seen with tracks “Generations” and “Float,” which use chants and repetition akin to a Greek choral ode.
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This time around, vocalist Jake Luhrs’ screams feel more rage-based than sorrowful, similar to the tone of many tracks from Found In Far Away Places and Rescue & Restore. Phantom Anthem is a pro-activism album; “Carbon Copy” raises concerns about planet preservation for the future generations, while “Hero Of The Half Truth” touches on the horrors of Trump’s America. “Be scared or be brave” (from “Invisible Enemy”) rings out as the thesis statement to the record. Yet this anger doesn’t take away from the fact that many of the tracks feel like artfully crafted pieces of ornate sculptures, from the heavy basslines of “Frost” to the twangy instrumentals on “Coordinates.” This is a record without unnecessary filler; everything draws from somewhere else.
"Phantom Anthem is a record we couldn’t have made before now. The level of musicianship is at an all-time high for us."
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST JB BRUBAKER
How is Phantom Anthem a progression from 2015’s Found In Far Away Places?
Phantom Anthem is a record we couldn’t have made before now. The level of musicianship is at an all-time high for us. Each of us have stepped up our game on this album, and I think we’re getting to the point where we can hear something in our head and bring it to life, no matter how complex the idea may be. I feel like we pulled back on some of the more oddball moments that were present on Found. While Phantom Anthem does have non-metal sections, I think they have a more serious tone than our previous record. You won’t find any western interludes on this record. [Laughs.] That wasn’t a product of design. That’s just how the songs led us. We never want to be restricted by any rules or boundaries when writing.
The instrumental sections and structures of your songs are incredible. They feel almost like classical music rather than metal, at times.
I think the songs can come off that way because each [one] is written to be a great song instrumentally. When writing, I want the song to be awesome before vocals are ever added to the track. Theoretically, the majority of the album could stand alone instrumentally. Because of that, a lot of melody is written into the guitars, versus being dependent on the vocals to provide that element. I think that allows Jake [Luhrs] to push the songs over the top with his screaming without having to follow the mold of a lot of bands by breaking into a big clean singing section. While we do dabble in some cleaner-sounding vocals on this record, we don’t rely on them.
Where does the title Phantom Anthem come from?
The title of the album was thought of by our drummer, Matt [Greiner]. Phantom Anthem simply means a song or sound that grows roots deep down in the heart of a person and resonates through every bone in their body until it naturally gives that person purpose and value. It's oftentimes a silent sound, a quiet song that isn't easily noticed and is overlooked.
OUR PICK: “Coordinates”