By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY – It’s damn near unanimous: Vancouver power metallers Unleash the Archers have made their best album yet, in the form of their fourth offering Apex. The ten-track offering is not only one of the strongest Canadian offerings this year; it’s one of the best of 2017 thus far. How allegorically fitting that its name is utterly relevant to its quality.
Centering on the protagonist dubbed the Immortal, the concept carries throughout the entirety of the record, which has musically tied up many of UtA’s loose ends. While previous offerings hinted at greatness with slick guitar work and vocalist Brittney Slayes soaring voice, the band’s penchant for frequently integrating awkward deathcore style vocals was an unnecessary hindrance; their production was similarly dissatisfying and often thin. On Apex, they’ve achieved a slicker European style of power metal, courtesy of Jacob Hansen (Týr, Soilwork, Amaranthe), who the band hired thanks to his “his heavy yet crystal clear mastering style.”
Emotionally, the music shifts according to the subject matter. Evidently, it’s because the band mapped out the feelings they wanted to inspire in advance.
“Our main goals on this record were production and cohesiveness,” begins vocalist Brittney Slayes, who formed the band in November 2007 in Vancouver alongside drummer Scott Buchanan.
“The story behind the album was the first thing that was sorted. I wrote out a track-by-track explaining each song and what part of the story it would tell,” she reveals.
“I also included how I wanted the song to sound (heavy, airy, fast and driving, [et cetera]) and how it should make the listener feel. We used that as a guideline and I think it really helped to keep us all in the same headspace.”
Resultantly, the album features no fat to trim, instead shifting from banger to banger effortlessly. Opener “Awakening” kicks off the proceedings, with atmospheric synth establishing a malevolent backdrop. Driving guitar lines and double kicks lead into Slayes stentorian wail. Running an hour that feels far shorter than it should, the album features occasional growls, often emoted by characters in the complex story line. This time around, they feel purposeful in their usage.
“The story follows the Immortal, our main character, who is cursed to serve whoever awakens him with complete loyalty,” explains Slayes, who cites Wolf from the ‘East of West’ monthly comic book series as one of the inspirations for the protagonist.
“He has no control over his own life and has lived for thousands of years serving as the hand of evil. He is awakened by The Matriarch, who tasks him with finding her sons and bringing them to her so she can kill them in a ritual to achieve immortality. Of course, she promises that if he does what she asks that she will free him from the curse, and then betrays him. After finishing his task, The Immortal returns to his mountain (Apex) to sleep for another thousand years until The Matriarch awakens him again.”
This final betrayal is depicted on the album’s stunning cover, featuring the Immortal entombed in his mountainous prison. He won’t remain there long: the story will continue in part two, which the band plans to record next year. First, they’ll take a much needed summer break before departing on tour in Europe, followed by North and South America. Don’t miss your opportunity to see them in Alberta before the entire world catches on. Unleash the Archers have grown into an utterly stunning sound.
Unleash the Archers perform Friday, July 7 at Distortion (Calary) with WMD, HROM, and Detherous. They also perform July 8 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton) with WMD and Skepsis. Apex is available from online at http://www.unleashthearchers.com/.Apex, Detherous, Distortion, HROM, Skepsis, Starlite Room, Unleash the Archers, WMD