ALBUM REVIEW : UNLEASH THE ARCHERS — Apex
I tried to resist. Knowing that I would see them live the next day should have been enough to curb my appetite for their particular brand of power metal, but temptation was too much for me. At 10:00 PM on the 1st of June, only 60 minutes after the stroke of midnight on the east coast made Apex available in Canada, I embarked on a journey with The Immortal and gave Unleash the Archer’s latest release a play. The quintet’s fourth full-length gift is a concept album that follows the story of The Immortal, a man cursed with a life of servitude to those who summon him, who finds himself with a new master, an evil ruler named The Matriach, who tasks him to find her sons and bring them home to be slaughtered for an immortality ritual. The tale is told in 10 dark and compelling songs, starting with the protagonist’s awakening with the aptly-titled track “Awakening” up until his homecoming with the epic title track “Apex” closing the book. Unlike many bands who tried their hands at making a successful concept album and failed, Unleash the Archers avoided every concept album trap. Each track is lyrically rich but the iconic prose and style proprietary to the Canadian power metal heroes is not stifled for the sake of storytelling and, while the story is detailed, it is concise and uncomplicated, ensuring that it is enjoyable and easy to follow. The band also made the executive decision not to stick to one narrator, using The Immortal, The Matriarch, and an omniscient point of view to detail the adventure, creating a rich universe where every important character can develop a personality, even allowing one of the sons to have his own voice on the 8th track of the album.
Unleash The Archers - "Cleanse The Bloodlines"
From the intro to “Awakening” filled with reverb worthy of the best 80s dystopian society action movie to the unexpected and frankly beautiful clean male vocals on “Earth and Ashes,” the band took some musical gambles that paid off in spades, but though the sound and lyrical content is noticeably different, it is still unmistakably Unleash the Archers. The sharp bass lines, the precise drumming, the face-melting solos and the gorgeous melodies present throughout the album mixed with the ghoulish harsh vocals of guitarist Grant Truesdell and the powerful voice of vocalist Brittney Slayes secured Apex’s worth in Unleash the Archer’s already stellar discography. Of course, as the lyrics and music was already turned up to 11, Unleash the Archers decided to do the same with the production of the album. Electing to work with Jacob Hansen, a man who has mixed and mastered albums for some of the best female voices in metal including Amaranthe and Epica, the Canadian band ensured that the sound of the album could do justice to the obvious amount of work that was put into creating the intricate songs. Everything is clearer than on their previous releases, and Slayes’ voice slays like never before. Using her higher belting abilities sparingly and only to add real drama to the chapters of the gripping story that is Apex, Slayes relies mostly on her powerful low range to tell the tale of the protagonist. The result is a stunning album that turns tales of dread, betrayal, and bloodshed into ridiculously singable hymns that will stand the test of time better than The Immortal himself. Unleash the Archers has something to be proud of with Apex. An expertly-woven tale told with music that doesn’t over shadow it without being an afterthought is no small task for any band, but Unleash the Archers took a leap of faith for which they will be rewarded for years to come. Apex is by far the band’s best work and a true testament to the art of concept albums.
UNLEASH THE ARCHERS — Apex
Release date: June 2, 2017