'Phantom Anthem' by August Burns Red is a metal masterpiece. Five out of five stars.
Ladies and djentlemen, brace yourselves for Phantom Anthem. The new album by metal hard-hitters August Burns Red is filled with high-energy, precision playing and inspirational lyrics. With Phantom Anthem, the band demonstrates their progressive prowess and provides a memorable experience that demands multiple listens.
The first song, “King of Sorrow,” bursts through the gates with ABR's recognizable heavy approach. One of the best aspects of this track is that it offers some of the most interesting lyrics on the album. Lead vocalist Jake Luhrs takes on the character of the so-called king, who delights in the detriment of others. However, the story has a somewhat positive ending when Luhrs screams “Farewell, I've consumed all that I need.” “King of Sorrow” is a unique metaphor for seemingly unbearable, yet temporary, pain in life.
Two outstanding tracks on the first half of Phantom Anthem are “The Frost” and “Invisible Enemy.”
“The Frost” is the third song, and it starts with solitary, rapid electric guitar strumming that paves the way for impressive lead guitar work. This track blows in with the brutality of a blizzard and swirls 'round with the intricacy of a snowflake. It's basically about feeling paralyzed or downtrodden by harsh circumstances and then finding a new perspective. The infectious riffs by lead guitarist JB Brubaker are a major highlight on “The Frost.”
The fifth track, “Invisible Enemy,” begins with slow, haunting strums. Then, a long scream pierces the soundscape when more percussive elements kick in. Some relentless lead guitar playing increases the intensity of “Invisible Enemy,” and there's a sweet solo about three-fourths of the way through. It appears as though the enemy being referred to in the song is fear. “Be scared or be brave. Where we end is all the same,” Luhrs screams. It's a challenge to decide against fearfulness.
Everything from the seventh song, “Coordinates,” on is pretty much gold. With a little bit of singing at the beginning and a grooving breakdown later on, “Coordinates” is a great track that deals with understanding true, stripped-down identity. It's followed by “Generations,” which has a savage, more to-the-point breakdown and some spoken word by Luhrs about promising to keep a healthy view in life while not blocking others' paths. “Float” will effectively pump up listeners, and “Dangerous” is a pretty fast song that features creepy-sounding, rhythmic synthesizers in the bridge. “Carbon Copy” takes care of business with mind-boggling lead guitar, which lets up for gripping screams. There's a fairly minimalistic percussion section that comes in about two-thirds of the way through the song as well. “Carbon Copy” is the last track on Phantom Anthem, and it's about leaving a lasting, meaningful legacy – which is fitting.
Phantom Anthem is undoubtedly one of the best metal releases of 2017 at this point. Literally every song exhibits insanely skilled musicianship across the board, and the lyrical content has many meaningful statements to digest about truth, hardship and devotion. Phantom Anthem may not be ABR's most experimental album overall, but it's high-quality metal that's packed to the brim with things to love.