It's easy to forget just how much August Burns Red have accomplished in their 14 year journey as a band. GRAMMY nominations, consecutive albums in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200, and countless worldwide tours have helped craft a truly impressive career for the metalcore quintet. To put it simply - there's a short list of bands who have done as much for the metalcore genre as ABR have.
While it was debut album Constellations that first cannoned the band into a sea of awe and popularity, by the same token it's this record that is set as the benchmark for the Pennsylvanians. While follow up releases have flirted with the idea, nothing that the five piece have conjured up since their debut has ever truly come close to being the bands new magnum opus.
New record Phantom Anthem is a further nod to the bands consistency and experience - their blend of an ogre-like powerful rhythm section with the attention commanding vocal presence of Jake Luhrs still ploughs home with more than sizeable force. Though at times the sound gets lost in translation with slightly too much emphasis on a battering guitar sound from a production standpoint.
'King Of Sorrow' and 'The Frost' have their uses and give off a few bruises but the over-bearing volume of the guitars works against the vocals of Luhrs, leaving him sounding relatively drowned out - and the tracks feel loose as a result. While the reverberating riff sound gives off the kind of heavy tone you'd come to expect from August Burns Red, there's the odd moment or two on Phantom Anthem where this translates into a loss of structure.
This is much less of an issue towards the back end of the record though with tracks like 'Coordinates' and 'Float' finding a more equal balance in fever. This is the August Burns Red you want - flip flopping from heavy to technical with a coins toss, both with equal stopping power. Some of the riff work from lead guitarist JB Brubaker creates for landscapes of a wide gaze on the record, flitting in and out with guitar lines that bring the whole band up a level.
Phantom Anthem does absolutely nothing in half measures either, taking ABR's craftmanship and smearing it all over the record. Both 'Generations' and best song on the record 'Carbon Copy' both sit in and around the 6 minute mark - which is quite a sizeable task for metalcore tracks. Neither lose weight in their time though, with Carbon Copy in particular shining brightly as a quintessential August Burns Red song - heart, prowess, and soaring power.
August Burns Red have already left an irremovable mark on metalcore in their history as a band. But what Phantom Anthem tells us, is that the five piece still have a fire in the pit of their stomach, and still have more to give to the scene. Constellations may never quite be beaten, but Phantom Anthem is still a record to be proud of, and keeps the band as a flag flying juggernaut for metalcore.