Unleash The Archers - Abyss review

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Band: Unleash The Archers
Album: Abyss
Release date: August 2020

01. Waking Dream
02. Abyss
03. Through Stars
04. Legacy
05. Return To Me
06. Soulbound
07. Faster Than Light
08. The Wind That Shapes The Land
09. Carry The Flame [feat. Andrew Kingsley]
10. Afterlife

Fortunately, the title's foreshadowing proved to be a red herring and Abyss is not the opposite of Apex after all, at least in terms of quality. It is, however, something of an unexpected twist away from Unleash The Archers's characteristic roaring assault. While not quite as technically extreme as preceding albums, Apex was nonetheless a diversiform elucidation of the power metal genre's grooviest and heaviest eccentricities wrapped up in a knock-down, drag-out iteration of its most epic and melodic hallmarks. The songwriting is so consistent on each album that I'm not all that certain which is my favorite, but in terms of production and performance, Apex really is the best that Unleash The Archers has offered so far; in the back of my mind, I was hoping for something different to follow, so whether it's the beginning of a new musical journey or a practical effort to avoid direct competition with themselves, I think Unleash The Archers made the right decision. Most importantly of all, they've pulled it off. So what exactly have they done?

A pop album, that's what. Well, not really, but humor me. Abyss opens by bringing along its own entrance music, the extended hype piece "Waking Dream"; it's more of a song than your typical intro and more of an intro than your typical song, and it serves mostly as a towering pregame to the title track. Once the album hits the gas, though, the stylistic pirouette from Apex is immediately obvious: the riffs are doubled or supplanted by synthesizers, which is the first major addition, and the production is a lot busier as well. All parts are layered, whether under harmonies or reverb or extra flourishes, and this thicker sound swings on a pendulum throughout the album: sometimes the pillowy synths and echoes spin the right sheen over the most celestial tunes, and other times the album feels bloated and languid, unable to reach the freight-train energy that Unleash The Archers is known for. It takes a lot of getting used to, having to claw through clouds of glowing ambiance to find Brittney Slayes's dynamite vocals, and yet the monumental sound that you hear on "The Wind That Shapes The Land" and "Return To Me" has a power all its own.

As if taking notes from Beast In Black, Unleash The Archers marches dutifully to the rhythm of those synths, following up the title track with "Through Stars," a dreamy, weightless, balladic number; this runs into "Legacy," some kind of Devin Townsend-like half-ambient, half-hyper-prog composition with ripping pop-gaze guitars and big, atmospheric chord sweeps under calm, mid-range vocal lines. The Devy comparison persists into the frantic soloing of "Return To Me," which could be a callback to Ziltoid's "By Your Command," but it's the Battle Beast elements that are in control until the old style slowly creeps in towards the latter half. Given the band's previous releases, Abyss is still more technical and heavier on the percussion side than might be expected from these descriptions, but it is definitely a more pop-indebted album than anything else they have released. Even in the more familiar power metal ragers like "Soulbound," you can hear an extra layer of something; what was once a band that wrote riff-to-hook is now writing hook-to-riff, and the amount of mileage this approach gets will be highly variable.

I don't think I would be alone in saying that the vocals are always the first thing to hit me and the last thing to fade from memory when I listen to Unleash The Archers. Brittney is known for bellowing, but she tests her versatility here as well, trying out some softer approaches and reinvestigating her range a bit, which she didn't do on Apex so much. Aside from the production, which, as I suggested, often constricts her power, there are not as many creative vocal lines to be found on Abyss; the change in aesthetic is accompanied by a transition to a more Euro-power songwriting style, something suggestive of Sonata Arctica or Masterplan, and while I'm on board with the sound, the songs haven't quite caught up. And speaking of vocals and Masterplan, I would have loved to hear Jørn Lande singing "Carry The Flame." Guitarist Andrew Kingsley, who shares lead vocals on that track, does a fine job, but he supports Brittney rather than holding his own; there is a difference between being a competent singer and being a lead singer, and if it's a contest of strength with Brittney Slayes of all people, I think a guest vocalist (specifically Jørn) would have fit the bill better.

Some Unleash The Archers fans are going to be irked, that's for sure. Apex has yet to be de-apexed and Abyss sounds to me almost like a rough draft at times, but as I stated earlier, I think that Unleash The Archers has the chops to pull this off. There are some killer tunes to be found, such as the progressive epic "The Wind That Shapes The Land" and the aforementioned "Carry The Flame," and I'm eager to hear what else the band can do with this style. After all, they've already written the stuff they've already written; might as well write something new.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 6


Written on 11.08.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 6   Visited by: 110 users
11.08.2020 - 10:18
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
If we sum your article in short, Basically its pop metal
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
11.08.2020 - 12:53
I realy don't get the hype for this band, i just find them to be incredibly boring
11.08.2020 - 14:16
Written by silenius on 11.08.2020 at 12:53

I realy don't get the hype for this band, i just find them to be incredibly boring

I'm interested to try this and see if the change in sound SSUS is describing alters my view on them, as I've not clicked with them when I've tried them before, including the Apex album that got such acclaim
14.08.2020 - 18:08
Written by silenius on 11.08.2020 at 12:53

I realy don't get the hype for this band, i just find them to be incredibly boring
They were a sensation in our scene as they would come to Edmonton often to do shows. But I think it's because few good bands in Edmonton still play locally, when something half decent pops up, people will mistake it as an anomaly.
I honestly found them rather dry and (I haven't checked out what they sound like nowadays) Brittany's vocals seemed lacking in dynamics.

Canadian black metal
25.08.2020 - 14:11
Not like I'm a fan of the band or anything, but listening through it now, I feel like the more power-metal tracks are more memorable (Faster Than Light, The WInd That Shapes The Land), and the vocals sound most impressive on these tracks; she sounds great on those songs with the layering harmonies going on, but on some of the 'poppier' tracks, the vocals come off a bit thin at times. I can't remember how Apex sounds, but if the faster, more anthemic tracks are more in line what they've done in the past, I wouldn't be surprised, as they sound more adept at pulling them off
26.08.2020 - 06:00
This is such a well produced album, dunno why the production score is on a lower side. I particularly don't like power metal but this album did intrigue me to listen to them a number of times. Songs are well written, soaring melodies, fast guitars, non operatic powerful female vocals, it ticks most of the boxes.

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