“Unleash the Archers” CD REVIEW by Adam McCann
“Apex” Napalm Records 2017
Up until signing with Napalm Records, Unleash the Archers had been bubbling along in their home of Canada for half a decade before gathering worldwide attention with their 3rd album, ‘Time Stands Still’ in 2015. Although reception to ‘Time Stands Still’ was lukewarm to generally positive, it did not deter Unleash the Archers and after touring in support of ‘Time Stands Still’, Unleash the Archers returned to the studio to begin writing their follow up. The album in question would become ‘Apex’ and for it, Unleash the Archers would take their brand of power metal and crank up the musicianship, song writing and delivery that in essence, truly eclipses their former albums.
The only change that has occurred between the releases of ‘Time Stands Still’ and ‘Apex’ is the departure of Kyle Sheppard, who has left his position of bassist to return to his true passion as a drummer, picking up the drum stool in Canadian black metal band; Finite as well as Canadian thrash band; Terrifer. Sheppard has been replaced by Nikko Whitworth who, no detriment to Sheppard, brings a more solid backbone to the band with his Steve Harris-esque gallop.
In your stereotypical power metal style, ‘Apex’ begins with a sampled synthesiser intro which serves as the introduction to ‘Awakening’. Unleash the Archers head out on tour soon in support of ‘Apex’ and it would be no doubt that ‘Awakening’ will be the opening song. The slow burning ambiguous opening makes way for the opening notes of ‘Awakening’, a rapid fire beat that explodes through the speakers that would appeal to fans of 3 Inches of Blood before taking on the form of a power metal charge worthy of Helloween, Gamma Ray or Edguy. From this very moment, ‘Apex’ pulls you in, ‘Awakening’ is memorable and fun to listen to, with vocalist Brittany Slayes’ voice soaring high and low, leaving you hanging on every word. Slayes’ voice is perfectly complimented by guitarist, Grant Truesdell with a growl that adds a totally different aspect to Unleash the Archers’ work. This growl throws a curveball into the mix, showing that Unleash the Archers are not your average power metal band, instead, it brings a melodic death metal element to the band. This melodic death metal isn’t your standard Gothenburg sound, the high bouncing rhythms coupled with Slayes’ powerful voice has more akin to fellow Canadian bands; 3 Inches of Blood, Crimson Shadows and Into Eternity than the likes of At The Gates, In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.
Each song on ‘Apex’ is beautifully crafted, dripping with hooks and infectious melodies that will have you humming along with tracks such as ‘Shadow Guide’, ‘The Matriarch’ ‘The Coward’s Way’, and in particular, the brilliant acoustic intro to ‘Earth and Ashes’, but the accolade for the best ‘shorter’ song on ‘Apex’ goes to the marching ‘Ten Thousand Against One’, little have a band given that rousing battle cry against the odds since Manowar or Sabaton with its fist in the air chanting chorus built entirely for the live environment begs the question, why has ‘Ten Thousand Against One’ been overlooked for a music video/single is beyond thought, as it is easily one of the best songs on the album.
However, it is the longer, more epic songs in which Unleash the Archers excel on ‘Apex’. ‘Awakening’ will powerfully bore its way into your skull, but ‘False Walls’ and the title track will hit the home run. ‘False Walls’ changes the pace of the album and smoulders away, building up and up to a chorus that really shows off the different dynamics in Slayes’ voice. ‘False Walls’ shows that Slayes is not just a one trick pony, able to wail over a power metal riff, but it does confirm that the band are able to write a different style of song with Slayes’ bringing Unleash the Archers to sounding a little more towards Huntress or even the Queen of heavy metal; Doro. But, the emphasis should not be all on Slayes, guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley, both play fantastic arpeggiated patterns, particularly in the outro to ‘False Walls’, in which the pair manage to play a slow, but bright burning outro that goes out with a bang rather than peters out. The skill of Unleash the Archers returns for one final epic in the title track. ‘Apex’ begins with an intro that alludes to ‘Crusader’ by Saxon and at this point, you know you’re in for a treat. ‘Apex’ builds you up through a familiar narrative with Slayes hitting the notes that are best reserved for the Wilson sisters of Heart, completing the album with a memorable chorus that will implant itself into your head immediately as you realise that Unleash the Archers have outdone themselves.
Clocking in at just over an hour, ‘Apex’ is easily Unleash the Archers’ best work to date, each song has been meticulously crafted and not only have the band taken in their influences, they have ran with it and created a brilliant album. With a tour already lined up supporting ‘Apex’, 2017 has yet to see more of Unleash of Archers. 8/10
Adam McCann / MHF Magazine