Mount St. Joseph University

Music Review: August Burns Red and “Phantom Anthem”

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Brittany Hein

File Under: august burns red, dateline, music review

The metalcore (described as a subgenre of heavy metal, combining various elements of extreme metal and hardcore punk) band August Burns Red, comprised of five Christian members, dispels the stereotype that Christian and metal cannot coincide, or at least, cannot coincide well. But after 12 years, the Grammy Award-nominated August Burns Red continues creating music flaming with passion and intensity in their latest album Phantom Anthem, released through Fearless Records on Oct. 6. 

Though comprised of all Christian members, the band refrains from labeling themselves as Christian to negate the assumption they will be preachy on the stage. Instead, they focus solely on presenting music with positive influences, emotional insight, and lyrics featuring personal and global issues. 

Band member Brent Rambler (rhythm guitar) shared in an interview, “Since a lot of people correlate Christianity for positivity, that label has stuck with us. We don’t mind it….We want our words and message to impact as many people as possible so people are free to interpret any way they like.” Doubly, August Burns Red also dispels the stereotype that because their music is “hard,” consisting of screaming/roaring and intense instrumentals, the message and meaning must be negative. Additionally, while some positive and amazing bands still use profanity, August Burns Red never opts to use profanity in their music. Lead singer Jake Luhrs mostly sings in mid-range screams and growls, a style in which words are more easily understood and comprehended, and each of their songs uploaded on YouTube includes the lyrics in their descriptions.  

Phantom Anthem goes out to all who have become walking ghosts, or phantoms, who feel they are passed by and have become invisible parts of the background. Band member Matt Greiner (drums/keyboard/piano) shares that the album is “based on the thought that we walk by people every day, and we don't think about them or what they have to offer to the world. Sometimes, we never give people a second chance, and that's a mistake because everyone has something of value inside them.”  

August Burns Red always keeps the listener intrigued and engaged, including sounds/instruments that aren’t typically utilized in metal songs. “Invisible Enemy,” the first single released to promote Phantom Anthem, is charged with erratic tempo changes and rhythms that keep the listener entranced—and similar to all the songs in Phantom Anthem, there are breaking points where the song goes into melodic interludes of impressive instrumentals which get listeners pleasantly lost within the song (which is a sometimes needed reprieve from the intensity).  

A personal favorite, “Lifeline” offers unique insight on what it really means to help someone succeed in life. The song says that sometimes it is best to keep compliments in, for “Words carry no weight / If the sincerity is questioned / The kindest compliment can do the most damage / When all it does is form an illusion.” The song reminds the listener that failing and feeling the sting of failure leads to improvement.  

Ferocious in its passion and intensity, Phantom Anthem doesn’t disappoint fans of the band or genre. And for those who are hesitant about listening to any sort of metal music, perhaps with more perspective on the positive meaning and intent behind the music, you’ll give a song from Phantom Anthem a try. 

After finishing their 10-year anniversary tour for their breakthrough album Messengers, August Burns Red will embark on their tour for Phantom Anthem beginning Jan. 5, 2018.