August Burns Red
Phantom Anthem
(Fearless Records)

Classic 2000s metalcore is new again on the new release from August Burns Red, Phantom Anthem. True to its title, the album is a musically anthemic statement drawn from some of the biggest themes in metalcore. While staying true to the “pure” and forceful breakdown-driven metalcore that defines the band’s past, Phantom Anthem also incorporates newer themes of repeated highly technical guitar work and occasional atmospheric effects, creating something that’s truly dynamic and interesting. Occasional instrumental solos on the album contribute towards this quality of the release as well.

Thematically, the release at first — and second and third – listen sounds very much like an “anthem.” The release contains anthems calling for empathy, anthems calling for passion, and everything in between. There is even an apocalyptic sounding anthemic opener to the album, “King Of Sorrow,” on which the speaker literally declares that they are “the king of sorrow.” The declaration, although in word sounds sinister, is actually tinged with a bit of almost positive sounding forward thrust. That first song grabs your attention from the moment you turn it on.

The album stays away from being brooding, overly dark, or “sludgy.” It’s true, classic metalcore, with sometimes lightning fast feeling guitar work underlying harsh vocals. There are not really any clean vocals on this release, but that’s not a drawback – incorporating more clean vocals, along with more effects and less straightforward guitar playing can be left to other bands in the same general category, like Wage War.

You can almost tell that the band wanted to be ambitious on this release; that shines through the music. Even though they’ve been a band for some time by now, it sounds like they still wanted to elaborate their original “mission statement” – which is also not a drawback. Sounding exactly the same can get boring, for the artist and the listener, but going too far from your roots also doesn’t always work.

Phantom Anthem is probably going to turn out to be among the top “big name” metalcore releases of the year. It doesn’t push the genre – other bands can do that – instead, it just perfects it. There isn’t anything overly surprising. Instead, Phantom Anthem is a statement of purpose, and it’s one that is no doubt going to be well-received by fans.

Purchase the album here.

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