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4.24 | 9 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2017


01. Awakening (7:17)
02. Shadow Guide (3:56)
03. The Matriarch (4:02)
04. Cleanse the Bloodlines (5:54)
05. The Coward's Way (5:05)
06. False Walls (8:05)
07. Ten Thousand Against One (5:37)
08. Earth and Ashes (6:35)
09. Call Me Immortal (5:46)
10. Apex (8:20)

Total Time 1:00:37


- Brittney Slayes / Vocals
- Scott Buchanan / Drums
- Grant Truesdell / Guitars, Vocals
- Andrew Kingsley / Guitars, Vocals
- Nikko Whitworth / Bass

About this release

Label: Napalm Records
Release date: June 2nd, 2017

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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Unleash The Archers started life as more of a melodic death metal band releasing their debut album Behold The Devastation back in 2009. Since then with each subsequent release they’ve moved further away from the melodeath upping the power metal quotient. Although the move away from death metal is not a factor in itself they’ve also got better with each release and album number four, Apex is pure power metal and the best of the lot.

Opener Awakening is a fantastic statement of intent. After an atmospheric start unison drum/guitar staccato fills lead into fast double kick drum driven riffing. It may be the kind of beginning you’d expect from a power metal album but it works to perfection with an infectious and memorable hook. Guitars shred on some particularly melodic solo work and vocalist Brittney Slayes is the icing on the cake with her powerful and clean tones with no shortage of range. She’s always been a great singer but is better than ever now and matured into one of the best female singers in metal. She doesn’t sound like she’s trying as hard to prove herself here with less histrionics and all the better for it. It’s always worrying after such a great start that things go downhill but fortunately that’s not the case with song after song of rhythmically inventive melodic metal. Drummer Scott Buchanan is the lynchpin in all this with some brilliant playing including some imaginative double kick drum work that’s not all repetitive linear 16th or 32nd notes. Sure they have their place but sometimes they can be overdone a bit in metal. Check out Cleanse The Bloodlines for proof. Songs like False Walls offer a welcome change of pace, slowing things down somewhat from the typically speedier stuff. Title track Apex is a highlight with some light and shade added to the predominantly heavier riffing which kicks in as expected and has a bit of an Iron Maiden feel, galloping rhythms and all. It has one of the albums strongest melodies too as well as some particularly memorable instrumental work.

Perhaps because they’re from Canada and their melodeath beginnings Apex occupies a place somewhere between the more saccharine European power metal sound and the heavier USA counterpart. Generally my preference is for the USA variety but they’ve really got the balance between melody and heaviness spot on here. Besides Slayes brilliant singing they have sometimes used extreme metal style vocals, in this case more like a black metal rasp than a death growl. They’ve become less frequent over each album and don’t intrude much on Apex which is a good thing as they’re far from the best example I’ve heard and add nothing. When you have a vocalist this good why bother! Not that I have anything against this style in general – I love death metal as many here at MMA know, but this is the only negative on an otherwise brilliant piece of work.

I quite enjoyed Unleash The Archers previous albums but for me this stands head and shoulders above all of them including Time Stands Still which I know is highly regarded by many. This band are at the top of their game so it shouldn’t be too much trouble for them to continue quality releases like this. More of the same next time please.
Being from Canada, there aren’t a ton of quality power metal bands around, but one of the best and perhaps the most prolific in recent years has been Vancouver’s Unleash the Archers. They started off in 2007 and were more of a melodic death metal band on their 2009 debut Behold the Devastation, with a more aggressive sound and with very prominent harsh vocals, while their second album Demons of the AstroWaste, released in 2011, showed them moving into a blend between melodeath and power metal, with clean vocals starting to become much more important. But their biggest shift happened on the excellent three track EP Defy the Skies, released in 2012, which showed the band completely ditching the growls and utilizing a full power metal sound, for a release that still stands as my favorite by the band to date. After that came their third album Time Stands Still, which mostly continued with their new power metal sound, though harsh vocals were still used at times and it was another high-quality release overall. Now in 2017, the band is celebrating their 10th anniversary with their fourth full-length release, Apex, an album which continues to push their sound forward towards a more pure power metal sound, while still containing small traces of their melodeath elements, as well as occasional elements of classic heavy metal.

Compared to the band’s past few releases, which each felt pretty different from each other and showed the band continuing to evolve their sound, Apex feels like they’re standing firm with the musical direction they took on Time Stands Still and are just making subtle tweaks at this point. As a result, most tracks on this album are very speedy power metal tracks with some great guitar work, excellent riffs and solos, and some huge vocal lines and choruses, where vocalist Brittney Slayes gets to shine. For the most part, the melodeath elements are very minor, sometimes found in some of the heavier, more modern sounding riffs, but it’s clear at this point the band has largely moved away from that sound. There are still some growls on the album, but they are few and far between, mostly used in quick bursts to add just a little bit of extra power to certain sections. For the most part, this album is heavy, guitar driven power metal, with only minor elements from other genres. At the same time, the songwriting is still rather varied and there’s enough going on musically that the album never feels too samey or one dimensional.

Perhaps the most important aspect of any Unleash the Archers release at this point is lead vocalist Brittney Slayes, who has been with the band since the beginning, but where she played more of a supporting role on early releases, she has now become the star of the band, utilizing her very powerful voice which she mostly keeps in a lower register on most tracks, though she can hit some pretty high notes at times, and sounds excellent throughout the album. She especially excels during some of the epic choruses, which feel like they were written perfectly to showcase her skills, and for sure her voice is the one element that stands out the most on Apex. While growls aren’t used nearly as often as they were on earlier releases when they do show up they are quite powerful and help add an extra dose of energy to the tracks, so I’m glad they still get used from time to time, especially during the first half of the album.

In the songwriting department, things get off to an amazing start with my personal favorite track coming right at the start, that being the 7-minute opening track “Awakening”. After a brief intro, featuring the album’s only instance of keyboards, the guitars kick in and are hard hitting out of the gate, and the track quickly speeds up and become the kind of epic up-tempo track one would expect to hear at the start of a power metal album. The chorus is excellent and does a great job of showcasing Brittney’s powerful vocals, and musically it’s an excellent track all around. Just past the 4-minute mark, the riffs get a bit more extreme, and we get some pretty epic guitar work, and then the growls make their first full appearance (they’re used in the background during the chorus) and this section is pretty awesome and gives way to a great solo section. Awesome opening track overall!

After that comes “Shadow Guide”, a rather straight-forward, fast paced track with more hard hitting riffs and another great chorus, though this time the growls are used a little bit earlier on, coming right at the tail end of the chorus, and are again pretty cool. Quite a few tracks follow roughly the same pattern as that one, being fast paced power metal with some hard hitting riffs and allowing Brittney to lead the way with her excellent vocals, while only using growls briefly. Songs that fit that description include “The Matriarch”, a very fun track and good pick for second single, “The Coward’s Way”, which has one of the best choruses on the album, and “Earth and Ashes”, a track which starts off a bit slowly with a nice acoustic section, before speeding up after a bit. It has a bit of twist, though, in that it doesn’t have any growls, but instead in the second half there’s a brief section with some pretty decent sounding clean male vocals, which offer up a nice change of pace, though obviously the singer there isn’t as good as Brittney

There are three slower songs on the album, all coming towards the middle. First up is “Cleanse the Bloodlines”, the hardest hitting of the three, with some epic guitar work during the verses and it has some nice melodies throughout, as well as an excellent chorus. Its highlight, though, comes in the middle as the track speeds up and becomes super epic, while just before that is a pretty cool extreme metal section where the growls kick in. Definitely the strongest of the three slower songs. Next, we have the 8 minute “False Walls”, a more relaxing and melodic track, which also has some nice melodies and Brittney sounds absolutely fantastic during the chorus. My only complaint is that the song probably could have benefited from being about two minutes shorter, as there isn’t a ton of material here, no growls sections or nothing really memorable to justify its length, but otherwise, it’s a pretty solid track. The weakest of the three is “Ten Thousand Against One, which has the only bland chorus of the album and is hurt further by the fact that it comes after the already slightly overlong “False Walls”. It does have growls, though, and is a pretty nice track instrumentally, but that weak chorus sinks it.

The last two tracks are completely dominated by power metal elements. First up, “Call me Immortal” is another up-tempo track, though not quite as fast as some of the other tracks on the album, and it consists entirely of clean vocals, featuring possibly the best chorus on the album, as well as some excellent guitar work. Definitely one of the highlights of the album. Lastly, we have the 8 minute title track, which starts off slowly and has a nice extended acoustic section at the beginning as well as at the end, and in fact these sections and some of the guitar leads early on remind of some of the longer Iron Maiden tracks, and give the song a slight classic heavy metal feel. Once the song gets going, though, it turns into an epic speedy power metal track, where Brittney once again excels and delivers another epic chorus, while musically this is perhaps the most melodic of all the faster tracks, with some excellent guitar work as always. Easily my second favorite track on the album, just behind “Awakening”, as that one slightly edges it out for me with its epic growl section.

Overall, Apex is a high-quality album from Unleash the Archers, which continues with the power metal sound they’ve established on their past two releases, while still having bursts of their old melodeath sound. A couple slower songs in the middle kill a bit of momentum, but otherwise, it’s a great release which is sure to please longtime fans of the band, and I’d highly recommend it to any fans of hard hitting guitar driven power metal looking to hear some great riffs and excellent vocals.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/06/03/unleash-archers-apex-review/
Although I was a little late to the party that is Canadian power metal act Unleash the Archers, only discovering the band through their third full-length album Time Stands Still (2015), it only took that one album for me to rank the group among the acts I consider the most promising out of power metal acts formed (or at least released their first full-length) within the last decade. A storming guitar driven work with some of the most powerful female vocals in the genre from Brittney Slayes, it ended up being my top rated power metal album of 2015, ranking ahead of even Blind Guardian. No small feat, that. Apex (2017) is Unleash the Archers' fourth album. The group has seen a line-up change since Time Stands Still with a bassist switch from Kyle Sheppard to Nikko Whitworth but otherwise the line-up of the previous album remains intact. The album was mixed and mastered by the prolific Jacob Hansen.

If there was one issue that nagged me about Unleash the Archers' previous album Time Stands Still right from the off, it was that despite the strong power metal sound they had and the excellence of their lead singer they still felt the need to throw growling vocals into their music every so often. It's such a common thing to happen now even in genres like power metal that I'm sure there are many listeners that don't even bat an eyelid to hearing growls in these genres and as Unleash the Archers actually started their career as more of a melodic death metal act perhaps it is to be expected that they wouldn't cast off their roots completely, but their presence in this band's music ended up bugging me more than most. Though the growls used by Unleash the Archers weren't exactly disruptive in any way, as they have been for other artists (such as those on French heavy/power metal act Nightmare's The Aftermath (2014)), it really did beg the question of what purpose they were there to serve by that point. The album was a power metal album. Power metal does not typically have or need growling. It is however only testament to the album's strengths that it still ended up the best power metal album of 2015 to my ears.

Fast-forward to Apex. Like it's predecessor it is a power metal album. It also has the exact same problem: growls. It is my impression that there maybe are a few less this time around, but why are they here at all? They certainly don't add any kind of edge to the music. As far as melodic power metal goes Unleash the Archers provide more than enough edge to set them apart from the crowd within the boundaries of their actual genre by avoiding the whole 'cheesy keyboards' type of cliché that has long been the subject of many jokes and even outright scorn from metalheads of other genre persuasions. I really wonder why the band do it. After all, those growled lines are all lines that aren't being sung by Brittney Slayes. When an artist has a vocalist of this calibre and they play a genre that doesn't traditionally use growling, why it's nigh on a crime against good music. Ironically though it's some clean male vocals from guitarist Andrew Kingsley during eighth track Earth and Ashes are actually a little more unwelcome, since his voice lacks the same power as Brittney's.

However Time Stands Still managed to rise above these issues, and even two years later is still an album I play regularly and can immediately recall any track from, so in that respect if Unleash the Archers can deliver more of the same then that won't actually be a bad thing. To a point the band do just that, with the highlights being Awakening, The Matriarch, Call Me Immortal and the closing title track. But all told the album's tracks don't assert their own individual identities as well as I'd have liked to hear, while False Walls even seems to be a little long at just over eight minutes, though the band pull off a similar length with the title track flawlessly. That one is a very good example as exactly why this band doesn't need those growls: Apex is the best and most epic song here, and it doesn't use them. Neither does the prior Call Me Immortal, which is a great example of a power metal song of a more mid-length with a catchy chorus.

Unleash the Archers' musicianship is of course extremely solid both rhythmically and with the lead guitar work. Brittney Slayes sounds fantastic once again. Even the growls, unnecessary though they might be, are very well done and the clean, polished production work suits the band's style perfectly. However because of the song selection Time Stands Still remains the more memorable album. Apex however is a very good supplementary work for those who already have the previous and want more from where it came from.

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