Oh, Canada! Not only known for its unspoiled nature, friendly inhabitants, and local polar bear gangs, but also for some of metal’s finest, such as ANNIHILATOR, KATAKLYSM, and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD to name a few. Since their international breakthrough in recent years, I feel like I can start to add UNLEASH THE ARCHERS to the list. This heavy metal quartet based in Vancouver, BC, brings us one of the most refreshing styles I have had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. Big words, indeed, but this band does deserve praise for musical ingenuity, imaginative concepts, and – above all – true originality. Give their previous records a spin and you might just begin to understand why I am so thrilled for the release of “Abyss” on 21 August 2020 through Napalm Records.
UNLEASH THE ARCHERS has a way of not keeping their rock-solid fanbase waiting. This latest release is a fast follow-up to the covers EP “Explorers” and a sequel to concept album “Apex,” which does make one wonder if they have had enough time to fine-tune this new material. Four albums and a ton of experience later, the band seems to have found the perfect dynamic to let their creativity flow freely and their fifth studio effort, “Abyss,” is the result that leaves nothing to be desired. Listening to their repertoire, it quickly becomes crystal clear how the band is inspired by a wide array of genres and their most influential artists, and this latest addition is another exceptional one.
Opener “Waking Dream” is a promising intro that draws immediate attention to talented mezzo-soprano Brittney “Slayes” Hayes. It is a known fact that the frontwoman’s powerful vocals and charismatic stage presence are a big part of what draws attention to the band, but this doesn’t mean that this is all UNLEASH THE ARCHERS has to offer. The musicians around her draw inspiration from diverse influences, which accentuate their profound knowledge of and passion for metal as an overarching genre. This elevates the whole album and is in turn complimented by Brittney Slayes’ impressive ability to deliver a wide range of emotions through her versatile voice.
Title track “Abyss” will be a great opening anthem for whenever we will be allowed to frequent shows again (keeping the faith here). I can already see the crowd pumping their fists along to this guitar-driven power metal firecracker. The synths are a bold, colourful enhancement duelling with the wailing guitars. Up next, “Through Stars” is upbeat, powered by the same stunning synths, with another unforgettable chorus that will be lingering in your ears for days to come. By contrast, “Legacy” takes a completely different approach. This DEVIN TOWNSEND -like track sports an incredible variety of sounds, including some melodic death metal vibes that are ever present throughout the band’s discography. Aside from hitting the high notes, Brittney Slayes doesn’t shy away from a growl or two either.
Tracks like “Return to Me” and “Soulbound” exquisitely represent the style UNLEASH THE ARCHERS is going for, the one that keeps so many fans coming back for more – catchy melodies, fast riff work dripping with a certain epicness, but never so overdone that it becomes too bland or sickly-sweet to bear. The arrangements are tight, thought-through, and delivered with the confidence of artists who know exactly what they stand for.
Another catchy headbanger’s favorite will be “Faster than Light,” with speedy melodic riffs approaching the likes of DRAGONFORCE and HAMMERFALL. “The Wind that Shapes The Land” starts off as an epic power ballad in which Brittney Slayes’ vocals are the fire that fuel the band’s raging engine towards the second part of this 8 minute track, which burns every doubt you might have had about UNLEASH THE ARCHERS’ musical prowess into ash. For me personally, the track that really hit all the right spots turns out to be “Carry the Flame.” This duet with guitarist Andrew Kingsley, dripping in delicious synths, momentarily takes me back to the glory days of the ’80s and embodies the band’s true potential, solidifying their place in the metal hall of fame. The record’s grand finale, “Afterlife,” features orchestration by Francesco Ferrini, also known for his work with extreme metal band FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE. This collaboration makes for a bombastic ending, worthy of this extraordinary album that will soon be an essential part of many playlists.
In conclusion, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS have created another unique gem on their increasingly shiny crown. This is always risky, but has played out beautifully for the band, granting them an ever-growing fanbase and well-deserved critical acclaim throughout the metal community. As far as I am concerned, “Abyss” can be considered one of the most intriguing, intense, and delightfully progressive albums of the year.
Written by Jana De Boeck
- Waking Dream
- Through Stars
- Return To Me
- Faster Than Light
- The Wind That Shapes The Land
- Carry The Flame
Brittney Slayes – Vocals
Andrew Kingsley – Guitar, Vocals
Grant Truesdell – Guitar, Vocals
Scott Buchanan – Drums