Canadian power metal band Unleash the Archers have released their best album yet.
Following on the narrative of their previous album from 2017, Apex, comes album number five, Abyss, and as the continuing story of a weaponised mercenary in space journey unfolds, striking female mezzo-soprano lead singer Brittney Slayes belts out some amazingly powerful multi range vocals. She has taken her musical prowess up a notch on this release.
The rest of the band are in excellent form with dual guitar and trade off solos galore from guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley. Drummer Scott Buchanan also works tightly with session bassist Nick Miller in hammering through some interesting rhythm section parts. Going from strength to strength, they have continued working with renowned producer Jacob Hansen. That association led to Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Francesco Paoli providing orchestration and ocarina for the closing track Afterlife. The band has many different musical influences but that the melting pot of ideas is still focused mainly on power metal makes for a distinctive sounding album.
Opening track Walking Dream hints at what is to come but the arpeggiated, clean guitar lines let lilt styled vocals build as additional instrumentation layers and doubled vocals jump octaves provide an almost hypnotic feel. Distorted guitars swell as a bouncing synthesiser figure and lead guitar harmony lines segue into one of many album highlights with the mighty title track Abyss.
Mid paced power metal ensues, providing a solid foundation for Slayes‘ soaring vocal delivery, full of strength, clarity and vibrato, plus some high screams. The melody floats over the varied, muted chord progressions. Demonstrating their song writing maturity, Through Stars is both melodic and catchy, with a stunning chorus, bolstered by backing vocals. As verses unfold, the arrangements are clear, adding depth and giving the timbre of vocals extra power. It is a track with crossover potential, even with some metal guitar soloing and drumming aspects included.
The next track, Legacy, is beautifully haunting but manages to steer a barrage, wall of sound without being overwrought or bludgeoning as a unique sweeping guitar line melds into harmony parts that sync with the almost gentle but assured vocals as the narrative weaves the story construction. It is a strange mixture of styles in one track yet it works and to great effect.
Heavier power metal resumes as Return to Me alternates between clean and growled vocals against cutting chords, intense drumming and judicious guitar gymnastics. It works as a story telling device, intensifying the growing battles between the core characters of the Grandson, The Matriarch and The Immortal in the science fiction tale within the entire album. It is all very theatrical and as the album progress, the music and lyrics also conveys the internal struggles in The Immortal’s predicament.
The aforementioned track is linked to second single Soulbound, which is snappy and fast paced. Vocal screams with superb octave jumps in the opening bars and barrelling rhythms and blasting drums quickly change to a gallop. The chorus is majestic with yet more amazing delivery from Slayes and the seven stringed guitar solos slide across the fretboard with tasteful technique ending with dual runs. The use of musical tension is evident in the sections that flow together.
That vibe continues with the aptly titled, neoclassical track Faster than Light. Vocal range here is impressive in this rapid, galloping track that Dragonforce and Nuno Bettencourt fans alike would very likely enjoy immensely. Aside from the nimble fretwork and repeated patterns the vocal strength with high notes hit in this track is astonishing.
The epic belter, absolute highlight track is the truly incredible performance captured on The Wind that Shapes the Land. It represents the climax of the story and builds suitably over the eight and a half minute long masterpiece. Starting out with deceptively serene, clearly enunciated vocals, clean guitars and volume swells usher in more powerful vocals as ringing chords change to a double time, galloping rhythm figure with Hayes delivering the story with emotion and aggressive growls for the spewing venom of The Matriarch.
Rounding out the album, second last track Carry the Flame has a commercial edge, a driving, repeated chorus suited for live singalongs and traded vocal parts. The intricate guitar solo sections benefit from a focus on melodicism so the phrasing isn’t overly self-indulgent.
Final track Afterlife starts out with big power chords and an Iron Maiden styled chant but quickly reveals depth with the addition of majestic orchestration from Fleshgod Apocalypse’s talented mastermind, Francesco Paoli. He also contributes some ocarina. It is an anthemic album closer that switches into death metal stylings before swinging back to power metal by way of expressive guitar solos. Eventually fading out with lush sounds, it is a tad grandiose but not overblown and the different textures make for another album highlight.
Abyss should put lead singer Brittney Slayes and Unleash the Archers into the power metal hall of fame. It is a phenomenally powerful release built on a foundation of thirteen years in the business. If Apex hit the target, Abyss splits the metaphorical arrow in the bullseye. Hopefully one day we will see Unleash the Archers tour Australia. Until then, track this album down post-haste and enjoy some of the best melodic power metal ear-worms you’re likely to hear this year. Utterly spellbinding.
Return to Me
Faster than Light
The Wind that Shapes the Land
Carry the Flame