June 14, 2017

Unleash the Archers - Apex

By Calen Henry. Vancouver power metal / melodeath stalwarts Unleash the Archers are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of Apex. Evolving from the fun "party power metal" of Time Stands Still, it's an original fantasy concept album and it's the kind of career
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Ken Sarafin.

Vancouver power metal / melodeath stalwarts Unleash the Archers are celebrating their 10th anniversary with the release of Apex. Evolving from the fun "party power metal" of Time Stands Still, it's an original fantasy concept album and it's the kind of career defining achievement worthy of that ten year milestone.

Though I've been a fan for a few years, the influx of quality releases this year almost caused me to miss Apex. It wasn't until I heard about the record's stellar production that I actually listened to it. It sounds absolutely phenomenal. The mix is dynamic enough that the drums have real punch and the bass is present in every track. It's a record that makes you disappointed that other albums could sound this good, but don't.

Unleash the Archers 2015. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

Musically, the album delivers on every level. It fulfills the promise the band hinted at on previous releases. Like Khemmis and Pallbearer, Unleash the Archers are unconcerned with any kind of genre boundaries and deliver their concept through a series of expertly composed and performed tracks. The sound is rooted in power metal, anchored by Brittney Slayes' powerful performance, but frequently crosses into melodic death metal and even features some bluesy leads and breakdowns.

The songs ebb and flow through styles and tempos with nothing seeming out of place, superfluous or self indulgent. Everything works towards the album's concept, led by some of the absolute best vocals in metal. Slayes is an astonishing singer, delivering an incredibly powerful performance often in more of a classic metal range than power metal soprano/falsetto.

Unleash the Archers 2015. Photos © John Mourlas. All rights reserved.

The lyrical flow is absolutely expert and some of the tracks have an almost folk music-like lilt that succeeds not only in delivering the narrative but, combined with Slayes' ability and the band's songwriting, stand out as some of the best songs in metal today. The narrative itself, though somewhat cliched, is excellent. Not since Dawnbringer's Night of the Hammer have metal songs told stories in such a compelling way. In contrast to a lot of power metal, there is no "cheese factor". Apex comes off as genuinely serious and compelling. The band are highly literate nerds judging by the track-by-track videos on Napalm Records' youtube channel. Featuring Slayes in front of a bookshelf filled with fantasy books ranging from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire to Justin Cronin's Passage series, it guides the listener through the story of the Immortal, forced by the Matriarch to bring her four sons to her for a blood sacrifice to gain immortality.

Back to front there isn't a bad track or a second of filler. The album is front loaded with faster tracks but the flow of the album is flawless and it's actually hard to pick standout tracks. Apex is nearly without fault and truly the stuff of legend.

Tagged with 2017, Calen Henry, John Mourlas, melodic death metal, Napalm Records, power metal
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