The workhorses that make up Christian metalcore's most consistent band, August Burns Red, sound shockingly (and enjoyably) refreshed on their latest EP. Coming quickly off of the holiday EP, Winter Wilderness, Phantom Sessions functions as a b-sides to 2017's Phantom Anthem, an extremely solid effort that perhaps left a smaller impact than we'd come to expect from the quintet. That observation makes Sessions an even greater surprise, boasting five energized, inspired, and largely instrumental tracks.
Opening number "Midnight" is top-tier August Burns Red, sounding just as good as anything from the preceding LP, yet also brighter, as if the band is simply having fun, while also incorporating some of the "happy hardcore" guitar riffs displayed most prominently in the past on Leveler. The fun continues on the band's interpretation of the famous video game theme "The Legend of Zelda," a blast of a tune that should please both fans of the band and the game franchise.
As a change of pace, "Laniakea" (named after the galaxy supercluster) is a magical recording -- one where vocalist Jake Luhrs tastefully waits for half of the song before making a brief appearance. The whole tone and atmosphere of this song, which beautifully balances being both soft and heavy, as well as being an abnormally short song for the band, seems like new territory, and I would personally love to hear more like this from the band in the future.
The final two tracks connect Phantom Sessions more directly to its namesake, with an acoustic reprise of "Coordinates" and a MIDI recreation of the single, "The Frost." These tracks threaten to enter into true-fans-only territory, but "Frost" is as solid as MIDI songs come, and "Coordinates" is just as exciting and twisty-turny as the original version. As a minor complaint, the acoustic guitars sound thin and tinny, but that doesn't detract from the reprise being a lovely work overall.
While no official announcement has been made, ABR's consistent pattern of releasing a new album every other year means we should (hopefully) be receiving something later in 2019, and the ingenuity and energy that's exemplified throughout this EP suggests that the band might have another album just as great as Rescue & Restore hidden up their sleeves.- Review date: 3/31/19, written by Chase Tremaine of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Fearless Records
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