Review: Unleash the Archers ”Abyss” [Napalm Records]

Review: Unleash the Archers ”Abyss” [Napalm Records]

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User Rating : 5 (1 votes)

Oceans Arise at Their Command…

Unleash the Archers have long left the obscure metal underground behind them, their popularity and fan base increasing steadily since their inception in 2007. The first time I’ve heard Brittney Hayes’ impressive pipes towering over a power metal/melodic death metal hybrid was around the release date of their 2015 effort Time Stands Still. While I was initially thrilled to hear such a remarkable voice nearly shooting through my speakers, the songwriting and production choices of said record where not quite my cup of tea, or perhaps just not there yet. Two years later, the band returned to the studio, presenting a stronger sense of self-confidence, thus showing a fair advancement of an already impressive skill-set, delivering more advanced and immensely epic compositions, further fortifying their position among the upper echelons of modern heavy metal.

Now, with the release of Abyss, it seems as if the band has turned up their already boisterous engine up to 11 and managed to release an album that not only treads new grounds without sacrificing an ounce of their personality, but also outclasses their already excellent preceding release, the aforementioned 2017 offering – Apex.

Something I want to say early on: I’m not a production aficionado and don’t spend entire paragraphs on purporting professional expertise in this field, trying to explain technical gizmos that other writers could most likely transmit a lot better to the intrigued reader. However, just this time – in the words of mere, ordinary men – please believe me that I’m willing to take a swift kick in the groin if Abyss doesn’t have one of the most enthralling, massive and simply beautiful mixes ever…the grandiose clarity of every single element contained within this aural ceremony is something I have not heard anywhere else so far. The best word to describe the feel of this record is probably lush. My fairly bog-standard studio monitor-set almost oversaturating my perception with a great variety of distinct emissions, spawning instruments and effects all over the stereo field and Brittney’s pouncing mezzo-soprano right in the middle of everything is certainly a joyful experience.

 Somehow, Abyss feels like finally coming home after a long, wearisome journey. It’s the soundtrack of a band reaching fever pitch, a band ultimately arriving at a plain of quality located far above & beyond of what most bands will ever be able to accomplish.

Maybe it’s because I prefer Somewhere in Time over Piece of Mind and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. It’s probably the inclusion and at times outright dominance of the wobbling 80s synthesizers that actually enhance the experience for me, contrary to the somewhat lukewarm comments coming from the traditional crowd, slashing at the album even prior to its release. It could also be the by now fully-realized control and power of Brittney’s voice hovering above this maelstrom of intricate lead guitar wizardry and forceful, hyper-catchy, yet complex power metal rhythms, supported by the magnificent, variety-fletched groove machine that is Scott Buchanan. All these highly entertaining elements thrown into a glorious potpourri of modern metal and 80s sleaze almost make me forget that Unleash the Archers have obviously sacked their bass player and didn’t bother to recruit a new one, let alone hire a session guy to do the dirty work. Considering I’m usually part of the audible bass! – community, this minor nuisance is just more high praise; it took me three or four full spins of the album (and a forum post shoving said fact in my face) before actually realizing that there is no pickup-driven bottom end on Abyss. My bad.

There is also another larger-than-life nerd story in here, extending the one (nerdy too) told on Apex, culminating in a prose-like anthem titled “Afterlife” – co-written by Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse – which aptly closes this intriguing chapter in Unleash the Archers‘ history with some nicely arranged orchestral finery, pulling you back down to earth a little bit more with its calming finale, right after the emotional heavyweight (and my new favourite UTA song) “Carry the Flame” actually made you reach for some tissues to wipe away the tears that of course were never there in the first place…oh, where was I?

Seriously, I have no idea on how these guys and gal will progress from here, but to be honest – I couldn’t really tell after Apex either. The element of surprise is something that has been with the band since I first discovered them and no matter what they’ll offer me next time, I’m pretty much certain that it will be another banger of a record.

So here I am, awestruck and completely blown away by the newest creation of the Canadian Dungeons & Dragons masters. I’m gonna be pitching a tent in this Abyss of all-killer-no-filler and I’m not taking calls!

Highlights: Abyss, Through Stars, Faster than Light, Carry the Flame…just listen to the whole damn thing!

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Marko Köfler

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