Review Summary: Well, it's just typical August Burns Red.
Miraculously, August Burns Red have ridden the rising tide of metalcore and survived the rapid decline of the genre for fourteen years and still remain one of the most prominent names in metalcore. Although most of their albums have a tendency to sound like one another, each album is powerful and bursting full of raw talent within its own right and, ironically, by not altering their successful formula, they have managed to evade any major criticism. With that kind of success, should they even bother trying to expand their style and should we expect anything different on their seventh album?
August Burns Red unashamedly follow the exact same route that their previous albums have carved out for them. Across “Phantom Anthem”
, the song structures are rigid, the vocals are single-minded and the band’s explosive breakdowns and the dexterity of JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler’s skills on the fretboard remain the key focus of the band’s songs and admittedly, they do what they do very well. Every track sounds jagged, abrasive and displays a commanding vocal presence from Jake Lurhs and on the way down this familiar territory, August Burns Red does make a few turns where they introduce atmospheric moments, like the searching melodies and interludes in “Coordinates”, or channel some jiving djent in “King of Sorrow” and “The Frost”. Even though these fresh features introduce a small amount of experimentation into their formulaic tendencies, these interludes always ultimately revert to the established formula. Thus, the placement of each of these intermissions in each song becomes a systematic expectancy over the course of “Phantom Anthem”
Despite the systematic approach, their tried-and-tested technique remains as potent as ever during some parts of this album. “Invisible Enemy” is a stand-out track where the Gojira-esque intro meanders into dominant riffs and powerful drumming with Lurhs’ screeches sounding as abrasive as ever. Additionally, the fact that August Burns Red have stuck to what they’re best at is an advantage in itself because they have mastered the art of not making every one of their breakdowns sound forced or as if they are an obligatory addition to the songs. “Quake” most effectively turns your stomach upside-down where the vocals maximise the impact by suddenly stopping after each verse so that there is a momentary pause before the driven riffs collide into imposing drums.
Naming the album “Phantom Anthem”
broadcasts the overall product before it’s even been tested. Naturally, the majority of the songs on this album display an uplifting, unifying and anthemic temperament. “Generations”, with its politically driven anger, ends climatically with clean vocals beneath a shower of meandering melodies. Some enjoy it when a band picks unifying topics that force their audience to stand as one and sing about ‘lighting the fire inside’ and ‘opening your eyes’ (“Float”) but for others, the cliché lyrics we’ve already heard a thousand times spread across “Phantom Anthem”
are about as effective as telling someone with depression to ‘just cheer up’.
, August Burns Red’s most popular album, recently turned 10 years old and it’s no surprise that the band seems to be drawing obvious influences from an album that earned them a title of being one of the best metalcore bands around- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The problem is that it doesn’t sound like they’ve consciously tried to improve on that album since. How many times can we defend concurrent albums bands release by saying “oh it’s just typical ______” before realising- especially after a decade- that this method is actually pretty uninspiring?