Still resolutely having nothing to do with peach schnapps or BBC Radio 4, Canadian Metallers Unleash The Archers unleash (obviously…) their much anticipated fourth album. Ready to pound and plunder in equal measure, the band continue to straddle Metal territory somewhere between Battle Beast and Arch Enemy and much in between. There’s power, there’s speed, there’s energy, there’s plenty of Symphonic Metal grandiosity, with dashes of Melodic Death Metal thrown in for good measure.
“Apex” kicks off with all the majestic splendour that the band have become known for, dipping into Melodic Death Metal halfway through, encased in a jacket of Power Metal and a big soaring chorus. Vocalist Brittney Slayes is all over the mighty backing instrumentation, never phased and always oozing confidence – note-perfection as always. The other founding member, drummer Scott Buchanan, has gelled immediately with new bassist Nikko Whitworth and the rhythm section has probably never sounded tighter. The following track ‘Shadow Guide’ has elements of Sinergy with Laiho-esque guitar lines behind the strong vocals. The scene is set for the whole album.
‘Matriarch’ is probably the album’s catchiest track (hence why the band have released a clip for it), containing a great main riff, a more mid-tempo pace (whilst losing none of it’s power) and another great chorus. There’s a smattering of Echoes Of Eternity about ‘Cleanse the Bloodlines’, with it’s Speed Metal attitude and time-changes, whilst the next track ‘The Cowards Way’, dips and swerves back towards Power Metal with plenty of double-kick and a huge sing-a-long chorus (as well as a section of spite-ridden melodeath of course – plus a “whoa-whoa” vocal passage – always gratefully received by anyone raised on Iron Maiden – before some ideally placed guitar soloing). The band are deftly showing once more how to balance a nicely varied Metal album.
I don’t normally do track-by-track type reviews, but we’re now half way through the album so it seems churlish not to carry on. With the first half of the album abating, the second half kicks off with ‘False Walls’ – It’s an eight minute, epic style track that is a little slower (for them anyway) with plenty of memorable vocal hooks, and a fabulous heaviness brought from power rather than speed. A much better way of getting some breathing space rather than a ballad! After another massively intense rousing Metal anthem ‘Ten Thousand Against One’, following track ‘Earth and Ashes’ actually pretends to BE a ballad with it’s reflective acoustic intro, but this is Unleash The Archers and it soon turns into a full-on, nicely bouncy Metal track, with the addition of a clean male sung part in place of a melodic death metal segment which works really well and highlights the band’s ability to mix it all up when they like.
“Apex” continues admirably with another catchier track, displaying once again an excellent chorus and that mid-tempo vibe captured just as effectively as they did earlier on ‘The Matriarch’, before the title track rounds things out with another damn fine Metal journey. Utilising a nice amount of light and shade, building into a big and ballsy track with a great riff running through it and a nicely extended amount of Maiden-esque guitar work, it’s a great track to close this latest chapter on. Unleash The Archers are an intense Metal band, but with a fantastic ear for melody as well as power. They blend it expertly and I’m sure “Apex” is going to please their existing fans immensely as well as winning them some new ones.
(8.5/10 Andy Barker)