Unleash the Archers – Abyss
Release Date: 21/08/20
Running Time: 55:56
Review by Steven Hooke
Look deep inside yourself and you’ll know, no matter how much you try to deny it and pretend you’re better than it, you bloody love some power metal. Whether it’s the searing melodies, ludicrous bombasticities, or you just have a thing for loin cloths, power metal is the delicious camembert accoutrement to your otherwise super, well-metal normality.
Sadly, it is not a genre that has aged well. Relying way too much on the attributes that made it such a success in the 80’s and 90’s, modern power metal flag-bearers either rehash the ideas of their predecessors, carry an outrageous gimmick, or are literal carbon copies of themselves (looking at you here Helloween and Rhapsody of Fire / Turilli/Leone Rhapsody). It is then refreshing to see the rise of an ambitious, hard-working troupe such as Unleash the Archers grinding their way to album five, being driven by their own unwavering vision of modern power metal.
The Vancouver band formed in 2007 operating on the heavier end of the power metal spectrum, blending the genre with lashings of melodic death metal. In the years since, Unleash the Archers have found their sweet spot in style, keeping the harsh melodeath growled vocals in reserve, but keeping the pace and riffs, and allowing frontwoman Brittney Slayes to prosper as a vocalist. Unlike her contemporaries, Slayes does not possess the high-pitched wails of Power Quest or Kiske-fronted Helloween, she does have the gravelly tones of Rage and she does not sound like a knock-off Tarja Turunen.
Brittney Slayes sounds like Brittney fucking Slayes.
In a sea of some of the most impressive vocalists in all of heavy metal, Slayes is able to stand out from the pack with her immense range and pure power in her delivery. She sounds like a confident performer throughout the album, and when she is backed by those fleeting growls of guitarists Andrew Kingsley and Grant Truesdell, it only seems to amalgamate together to create a hugely dramatic soundscape, and add some much-missed bite back into power metal.
“Abyss” opens with the immensely powerful and mood-setting ‘Waking Dream’, and whilst it does get you in the right mindset for the album, it then takes nearly a minute and a half for the album to get going proper, with the intro partially overlapping into the title-track. Intro tracks may be all the rage these days, but nearly 5 minutes of table-setting before the banquet makes for a slightly unnerving feeling about Abyss’ pacing.
The album did not take too long to redeem itself. The song ‘Abyss’ slowly turns into a strong outing for all involved, with Slayes’ vocal flexes underlined by Scott Buchanon’s brutal drum patterns and guitar work that feels somewhere between ravaging the streets of Gothenburg and lashings of glitter. The follow-up ‘Through Stars’ is the album’s first truly great song, opting to change out the pace of the opening sequence, with a bounty of beautiful melodies, alongside riffs and vocal harmonies blending together so effortlessly to create a shimmering masterwork of a song.
This collaboration between harmony and aggression is what really sets Unleash the Archers apart, feeling so comfortable on either side of the coin and not needing to go all the way into an orchestral-acoustic ballad to invoke melody and emotion from the listener. Equally, while there are windows into their melodic death metal past, the album never reaches overt levels of aggression. The growls on tracks like ‘Return to Me’, ‘The Wind That Shapes The Land’ and ‘Afterlife’ never feel like they’re outstaying their welcome, and on the whole add to the album’s narrative.
That is not to say “Abyss” doesn’t come without its experimental moments. Penultimate song ‘Carry The Flame’, a self-contained duet between Slayes and Kingsley, could easily out-class most pop rock acts filling up the charts today. Summery riffs leading into a classic power metal chorus, as the two singers trade-off their stoic voices; on paper it sounds like a nightmare but darn it all if it doesn’t come out sounding like an absolute bop. It’s a similar story with the song ‘Legacy’. Probably the closest thing the album has to a ballad, it’s an emotional and searing piece of music that is sometimes interjected with a barrage of blast beats and guitar widdling wankery. Again, sounds like an absolute fustercluck when analysed, but it somehow comes out sounding absolutely sensational.
For the long-term power metal fans who have been desperate for a refreshing new look to the genre, Unleash the Archers’ new album needs to be part of your essential listening. Whilst the pacing does take some getting used to, it doesn’t just copy what was good from years gone by, it identifies what made those things good in the first place and turns it into ideas that work for today, finished off with a Herculean production job by that man again Andrew Kingsley.
Assemble your chainmail and battle axes lads, we reconvene at dawn.
01. Waking Dream
03. Through Stars
05. Return To Me
07. Faster Than Light
08. The Wind That Shapes The Land
09. Carry The Flame
10. Afterlife (ft. Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse)
Brittney Slayes – Lead Vocals
Andrew Kingsley – Guitars, Synthesizer, Vocals
Grant Truesdell – Guitars, Vocals
Scott Buchanan – Drums
Benjamin Arscott – Bass (session)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.