There is something immensely satisfying about young bands who get better with each new release and are finally getting the recognition that they deserve. Not that Canada’s Unleash the Archers is a very young band, having been around since 2007, but with only five albums under their belt, the first two released independently, they’re still relatively up and coming. Having learnt to fly on their own, they have been soaring ever since they signed with Napalm Records. Truth be told, I was late to the party with 2017’s Apex, but was immediately impressed by the sheer energy and musicianship on that album. I have eagerly been awaiting Abyss ever since and am very glad to be able to tell you right off the bat that it’s a home run.
In typical Unleash the Archers style, this album of course has another overarching story to tell about the Immortal and the Matriarch if you’re into that. I’ll stick with the music here and it’s excellent from start to finish. I love it when a band has clearly thought about the flow of the album and the fact that Abyss is bookended by Waking Dream and Afterlife shows that they have. The first is extended intro and the latter reprises the same core vocal lines in a proper song. It’s sublime and gives Abyss a really well-rounded and finished feel. In between you’ll find eight more songs, all of them helping to paint a rather rich palette, from fast bangers to eighties-inspired keyboard-infused rockers.
Technically, these guys are so good. Musically they frequently lean towards technical death metal, piling riffs onto another until the foundation almost breaks. Unleash the Archers is one of those few bands that strictly fall into the power metal category but are heavy enough to have appeal beyond the genre. They’re always heavier than your average sword-in-the-wind fantasy bands who throw around arpeggios like they’re candy and do indeed incorporate that technical melodeath sensibility into their music. Abyss is heavy enough to almost hide the fact that the band kicked out their bass player and haven’t bothered recruiting a new one yet.
The songs, totalling up to a neat fifty-six minutes, are mostly excellent. From speedy bangers like Faster than Light and Return to Me to technical yet catchy stuff like singles Abyss and Soulbound, Unleash the Archers impresses throughout. The big star, once again, is Brittney Slayes who outdoes herself on nearly every vocal line she has. She has so much power in her voice and really gives everything she has. I mean, just listen to the last bridge on Faster than Light and come away unimpressed, or the layered vocal lines in Soulbound. She’s a joy to listen to. Two other songs worth mentioning is the eighties-inspired synth-fest that is Legacy, which might sound a bit strange on the first listen but quickly turns into one of the album’s highlights. The other is a long and epic The Wind that Shapes the Land, where every element of the band gets a chance to shine.
For these Canadians, Abyss is definitely their benchmark album so far. Still growing with each release, you can’t help but wonder if they’re going to be able to top this one, and how they might evolve over the next couple of years. If one thing has become clear since 2007 is that Unleash the Archers is definitely not afraid of change and is always keen to challenge themselves. This mindset has led to their best album yet and one can only hope they’ll continue to grow even further from here.
Label: Napalm Records, 2020
- Waking Dream (03:45)
- Abyss (06:44)
- Through Stars (05:34)
- Legacy (05:26)
- Return to Me (05:34)
- Soulbound (03:54)
- Faster than Light (05:11)
- The Wind That Shapes the Land (08:36)
- Carry the Flame (04:42)
- Afterlife (07:30)
- Brittney Slayes – vocals
- Grant Truesdell – guitars, vocals
- Andrew Saunders – guitars, vocals, synth
- Scott Buchanan – drums
Review by Ralph Plug