August Burns Red

August Burns Red

August Burns Red just released their 7th album ‘Phantom Anthem’.  I’ll tell you straight away, I think this is going to be the album of the year for me and it’s absolutely my favorite ABR album out of the ones they’ve recently released.  I was expecting it to take a more progressive route after hearing the singles so I was pleasantly surprised to find their metalcore roots playing such a prominent role.  The reason this album is so incredible is because ABR finally figured out how to take the sound they started moving towards on ‘Rescue & Restore’ and combine it with what they were doing on ‘Messengers’ and ‘Constellations’.  A side effect of the combination is that this album is definitely the heaviest they’ve put out in a while.  On the last album, ‘Found In Far Away Places’, they brought the styles together a tiny bit but mostly kept each one in its own song.  ‘Phantom Anthem’ stands above everything after ‘Constellations’ because the songs contain a lot of what people love from both their metalcore and progressive styles. The combination has unlocked something entirely new and there are a lot of exciting avenues for the band to go down.

The return of the rolling breakdowns from ‘Messengers’ is one of the highlights of the album for me (listen to the end of “Quake” if you don’t know what I’m talking about).  It’s classic ABR and is one of the definitive trademarks of their early music.  Listening to all the songs, I can imagine each one being a favorite at one point, and that’s how you know this is an album of the year contender.  It does an amazing job of summing up everything that came before it; elements of each album were included and brought together in a seamless fashion.  I’m especially pleased that they kept a little bit of the spoken word stuff but toned it way down compared to ‘Rescue & Restore’.  It also seems like the band has finally figured out how to properly utilize Dustin’s vocals and what role they should play.  I think he shines most when his parts help emphasize Jake’s or he has a short burst that shocks the listener and stands out.  Jake’s highs are great, Dustin’s help by sounding different and adding a new layer to what’s going on.  In terms of Dustin’s vocals alone, this is his best contribution yet.

The only complaint I have with the album is that there are a ridiculous amount of interludes.  Literally every single song has one except for “Quake”.  ABR has been doing this for some time and it’s becoming more and more of a detractor for me; it makes it feel like all their songs are cut in half.  I suppose it’s not that surprising that the average song length on ‘Phantom Anthem’ is four and a half minutes considering each song has at least 30 seconds of filler material.  And I know “filler material” has a negative connotation, but look, I’m not saying the interludes are bad, I’m just saying that I miss when ABR made songs that were 4 minutes of nonstop intensity.  All the interludes feel like interruptions that prevent the album from truly hitting its stride.  In the future I’d like to see them switch it up by doing more intros and outros rather than an interlude in the middle of every song.

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