LP Review; August Burns Red: “Phantom Anthem”

“King of Sorrow” starts with an instrumental feature that starts with solo strings who establish the instrumental melodic material; also, they are soon joined by the percussion section that adds a steady beat to the work. After the groove is set, the vocalist enters in with heavy, aggressive vocals that are characteristic for August Burns Red. Near the middle of the song, the band drops down in instrumentation to feature the instrumental section once again, focusing on a smooth guitar solo that progresses in intensity as it glides through the section. Once the vocals reenter, the band falls back into the beginning groove, and they ride that vibe until the end of the work. As the song reaches the end, the band gives a small breakdown as they fall into a halftime rhythmic feel, which will likely foreshadow breakdowns in future songs.

 “Hero of the Half Truth” starts with another instrumental section that provides vocals quite quickly. The instrumental section includes another motive that is based on a melody established by the strings; however, this song moves forward rapidly, which causes the musical content to shift slightly as the song shifts gears from the verses to the chorus. The band utilizes heavy hits on strong beats of the selection to help drive the established groove, and to provide a different feel to the audience. In the middle of the work, the band drops down in dynamics and includes a relaxed instrumental feature that is completely different than the other material presented on this song. This feature includes another guitar solo that leads into the restating of the aggressive, standard sound that the band provides.

“The Frost” starts with a single tone that builds and then fades into a simple guitar melody comprised of quick symmetric strumming that eventually implements variations upon it. Once the percussion enters, the melodic line fully evolves to provide the audience with melodic material that they haven’t heard yet, for it has a different melodic feel to it. The band uses heavy vocals; however, the band isn’t providing vocals on every second, which gives the audience a moment to breathe, and this is effective because silence gives the work a cool sound to it, and it gives the audience a slight rest, making them want more. Similar to the previous songs, the band includes a middle instrumental interlude that doesn’t quite match the other melodic material presented on this song. After a few second of the interlude, the vocalist enters at a moderate dynamic, and he increases his range as well as dynamic as his vocals grow more intense. The instrumental music balances this action out with fluctuations of dynamics in the background.

“Lifeline” starts with a groove from almost the first beat, and this can be determined by the intensity that the instrumental section includes from the first note. The vocals fall into the same category as the previous songs; however, the melodic content provides something new and innovative to the listener’s ear, which helps them to remain engaged. To further, the instrumental material is switching back and forth between rapid material to slower more virtuosic material, which provides a nice blend for the audience. In the middle of the section, there is another guitar solo within an instrumental interlude that brings the pace of the song down slightly. After this drug out section, the band comes back in swinging full force with their hardcore metal sound, pulling out all the stops to keep the momentum moving forward.

“Invisible Enemy” starts with a grumbling semi-tone that includes infrequent muffled strums by the strings before the instrumental section enters and establishes the steady beat of the work. Once the vocalist screams a long overtone for a few beats, the instrumental section varies their melodic material and evolves into the strong groove that stays consistent throughout. During the song, the band provides different instrumental material that juxtaposes the material from the chorus. This is strong for the band because it helps to emphasize the lyrics that are being conveyed, and it adds variety as well as color to the album. In the middle of the work, the band advances into a semi-breakdown with minimal lyrics to focus on the intricate instrumental material. As the song nears its end, the band provides another instrumental interlude that features an elaborate guitar solo that is being paired with a fast-paced percussion part.

“Quake” starts with an instrumental feature that places focus on the guitar until the rapid icti are presented by the percussion section mixed with the viscous vocals. The band includes a few moments of transitional instrumental material that is effective for the band, for they toy with in-unison rhythms, which add dimension to the overall sound of the selection. As a whole, this song follows the general outline for a metal song, which provides melodic material that almost makes the audience head-bang with them, for the percussion part is heavy in nature, and it drives that heavy, steady groove continuously. The song concludes with a loud mixture of vocals and melodic material that drives the intensity of the overall track. This will likely be a foreseen favorite of the album because it is so standard within the metal music family, yet the musical materials the band provides are fresh and clean, which will make this selection stand out to the audience.

“Coordinates” starts with a simple tone that grows and bends in pitch and dynamics as the instrumental section provides a simple interlude overtop it. The interlude slowly evolves into a full-blown heavy combination of musical chords, aggressive lyrics, and weighted downbeats. As the song progresses, the band runs with the heavier sound as the guitar drives the melodic content of the instrumental section. In the middle of the song, the band provides another instrumental interlude that features a guitar solo whose basis of content is taken from the melodic content previously used in the selection. Near the end of the work, the band drops down to minimal instrumentation to feature another musical interlude that has an alternative feel to it, speaking in terms of genre influence. This is a solid inclusion for the band because it shows their audience that they can do more than just the overly aggressive music.

 “Generations” starts with a heavy melodic motive from the first downbeat. The vocalist’s aggressive vocals enter in shortly after, and the background music builds in intensity to mimic the vocalist’s style. The material presented by the instrumental section shifts back-and-forth from separate ideas to moments of rhythmic unison. This is strong for the band because it helps the overall sound of the selection to appear crisp and clean, which helps to allow the audience to focus on their heavier vocals while having an interesting instrumental part. As the song moves forward, the band adds more layers to their instrumental content, which is impressive because it feels as if the selection is slowly speeding up and more material would attempt to drag the work, but this band doesn’t allow that to happen. Near the end of the work, the band drops down in instrumentation to focus on a simple melodic line as the vocalist simply talks over top it. This section leads into a final verse that feels resolved to the audience, for it feels like they’ve arrived to a high point of sorts.

“Float” starts with a mixture of tones that slowly morph into a cute melody played by the strings. Soon after this motive is well established, the percussion section enters to create the groove of the selection. When the vocals enter for the first time, the instrumental section immediately switches to a quicker pace with only brief pauses to provide the audience with slight moments of silence. The vocal style is similar to the rest of the album: strong and assertive. As the work pushes forward, the instrumental material backs off and returns to the established groove from the beginning, which gives the selection dimension and variety. As the song moves towards its end, the band provides a small instrumental feature that presents a guitar solo that creates the new melodic content that drives until the end.

 “Dangerous” starts with a string motive that works in a scaler motion. This motive works in isolation for the first few moments before suddenly heightening in intensity and dynamics as the percussion section enters with aggressive vocals accompanying it. The band messes with the technique of providing a (semi) halftime feel while presenting weighted material vocally and instrumentally. In the middle of the selection, the band includes another instrumental interlude that features another guitar solo. This solo fades perfectly into a rapid melodic contour that crashes in with the signature vocal style of the band. Near the end of the work, the band includes one of their first overly obvious breakdowns of the album, which is introduced by a brief moment of silence before the band dives heavily into it.

“Carbon Copy” starts with a semi-tone that starts out at an inaudible dynamic level and drives quickly to a forte sound. This is soon joined by the full ensemble, who is pursuing this selection at the loudest volume that has been presented on the album. The band includes small sections of instrumental interludes where the strings show off tiny melodic lines that are variations of the overall melodic content that is utilized throughout the work. The percussion section keeps its pulse static throughout the work with only a faint push or pull in some sections depending on the guitar content. Near the end of the selection, the band drops down to almost no instrumentation and leaves the band with tones presented through electronics with faint interjections here and there. After a few moments, the band uses those tones to build in dynamics to crash back into the groove set throughout the beginning of the work to drive to the end of the album. This is strong closing song for the album, for it provides the audience with their strong characteristic sound, and the content of the selection is musically innovative, for it had a slightly different sound than the other songs presented on the album.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Giving this album a score was a tad difficult because the musical content they provided was generally solid and musically intricate. However, every song had a similar rhythmic layout, and each song sounded identical to the next. Now, some audience members may favorable this style where all the songs sound the same, but for me, I prefer some variety to help keep people engaged, and this album just felt repetitive. Therefore, if you are searching for a solid metalcore album that provides a bounty of guitar solos and heavy hitting instrumental features, this is the album for you.

*”Phantom Anthem” was released on October 6, 2017 through Fearless Records.

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