Unleash the Archers – Apex
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Every artist like to believe its latest album is its best to date; that seminal opus. While it far too early in the career of Vancouver’s Unleash the Archers to proclaim Apex a seminal work, there is little argument it is the band’s strongest, most cohesive work to date. Apex is the UTA’s fourth full-length studio effort, and the first to feature the current line-up of founders Brittney Slayes (vocals) and Scott Buchanan (drums), along with guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley, and new bassist Nikko Wentworth.
For Apex, which is a concept record based upon a Slayes created character, The Immortal, the band journeyed to Denmark to work with acclaimed producer Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Kobra and the Lotus, Pyramaze). Slayes talks about the album’s storyline and recording in our recent interview, which can be heard here. The album is filled with atmospheric moments that feel almost cinematic. Such is the opening track, “The Awakening”. The album is a dynamic mix of riff-centric tracks, combined with propulsive rhythms and an intriguing tale, and it all begins with the acrobatic fretwork of the opening track. The Immortal is called from his slumber to do the evil bidding of The Matriarch, who seeks to find hers sons and sacrifice them so that she too may gain immortality.
“The Shadow Guide” finds Unleash the Archers mixing their trademark power-riffing with wailing vocals and well-placed death growls. This song is right in the band’s wheelhouse, filled with power metal goodness, and a hooky melody.
The album’s antagonist, The Matriarch is introduced on the power groove onslaught that bears her name. The song has one of the album’s most memorable choruses. Buchanan is a relentless beast here, and he carries that over into the album’s epic centerpiece, “Cleanse the Bloodlines.” The song is a maelstrom of ascending vocals and sweeping fretwork. Wentworth’s addition to the band is notable throughout the record, but shines through on this piece in particular.
Another stand out track, is the chugging “The Coward’s Way” which resonates with a bit of a Maiden-esque feel. Wentworth’s bass rumbles, as Slayes delivers a balance of thick harmonies and soaring peaks. Some more death growls scattered in here, as well as some gang chants.
The band slows the pace somewhat for “False Walls” before ramping the energy back up on the bombastic “Ten Thousand Against One”. Kingsley gets a chance to showcase his vocals a bit on the moodier track, “Earth and Ashes” where he voices one of The Matriarch’s son’s surrender to The Immortal and, ultimately his mother.
The album’s final tracks, “Call Me Immortal” and “Apex” find The Immortal coming to terms with the betrayal of a promise to be released from his curse, and ultimately his return to his resting place in the mountain where he will sleep for another 1000 years as he awaits the next person who will call upon him to do their bidding with yet another promise of release.
Ten years into its career, Unleash the Archers has crafted an album that showcases the band’s growth and improved songwriting talents. Certainly they will continue to improve even upon Apex, but with this album, they have set a high bar for themselves. Apex is an album that will be talked about significantly when making the Best of 2017 year-end lists. Slayes has never sounded more powerful or confident, and the rest of the band has elevated its level of performance as well.