August Burns Red – The Phantom Sessions

Normally August Burns Red EPs are, believe it or not, a bunch of Xmas songs given a metal makeover. However, this time to bridge the gap between recent album, The Phantom Anthem, and the next record, they have decided to release The Phantom Sessions (both Fearless Records) which features an eclectic mix of new songs, covers and rearrangements of songs from the 2017 album.

Starting with ‘Midnight’ the familiar ABR sound is put front and center in all its glory, longtime fans will know exactly what to expect. This is a band who have always written Metalcore with a bit of something extra. There’s Jake Luhrs‘ always powerful guttural roars the signature guitars of JB Brubaker and Brent Rambler, and of course that drum sound provided by the beast known as Matt Grenier, one of the best in the biz.

The real gem though of this EP is, of course, the cover of the theme tune for the video game ‘The Legend of Zelda’ this cover was the brainchild of bass player Dustin Davidson a man so steeped in Zelda he has the tattoo to show it.

The gleeful nostalgia sweeps you up and carries you along for the ride as the always tight musicianship captures the playful mood of those 8-bit notes. Guitars complement those faster notes perfectly and when combined with those melodies there is an almost Prog-rock feel to the music that has been put through the heavy blender and churned out the other side. Think along the lines of music such as Protest The Hero for instance and it’s kind of where I feel this cover sits.

‘Coordinates’ is another reworking of a song from the last album and this time sees ABR explore a multi-instrumental approach to unplugged metalcore. This new arrangement gives the song a much more somber yet uplifting tone and feel. The organ jam towards the end is particularly effective.

In juxtaposition to the early cover of a video game track and to close the EP we have an 8-bit conversion of ‘The Frost (midi)’ again a track from Phantom Anthem the heaviness is turned on its head in favour of a sound which would make Mario and Yoshi circle pit through the Mushroom Kingdom.

You could see Phantom Sessions as merely a stop-gap between albums but if you do check it out there is a lot of diversity to be found within. The Zelda cover will obviously garner more attention but I think the reworkings of older songs shows just how creative this band can be.

7 / 10

KIERAN MITCHELL