Truth be told I liked, but didn’t love all of UNLEASH THE ARCHER’S last record Time Stands Still. Overall it was a solid effort, but parts of it just didn’t click for me. Well I am very happy to report that is certainly not the case with brand new album Apex (out now, Napalm Records). Ten tracks and not an ounce of filler in the bunch. Vocalist Brittney Slayes sounds more powerful than ever, and the twin guitar attack of Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley is simply stunning. Also entering the fray are drummer Scott Buchanan and his new rhythm section partner Nikko Whitworth (bass), both of whom bring up the heavy artillery. There really seems to be even more of a fire around and in the band’s collective heart this time around, as is evidenced by the tunes.
The best way to describe opener “Awakening” is one word…Majestic. It is one of three epics on the album at over seven minutes, and when that chorus hits, man it HITS. Rarely does a track have me humming the refrain hours later after only one listen but this one sure did. “Shadow Guide” is straight-up traditional power metal at a gallop, with Slayes leading the charge and some guitar pyrotechnics from the axe men. For those of you unaware this is a concept album, “The Matriarch” serves as the introduction to the story’s antagonist who, as Slayes herself puts it, “embarks down a very dark path to achieve immortality.” The song is a bit darker as well, so that’s fitting. “Cleanse the Bloodlines” was one of my instant standouts because the pendulum swing of the groove is very evil and menacing.
One of the tracks where you can really see/hear that the band means business is definitely “The Coward’s Way.” It’s fast, it’s powerful, and there’s a lot of intricate guitar going on. Our second epic is the 8:05 “False Walls” and it’s a doozy. The key to crafting songs like this is to take the listener on a journey from beginning to end, something this group is proving to be masters at. And now we come to one of my absolute favorites in “Ten Thousand Against One.” Once again this isn’t the fastest or heaviest selection on the disc; its power is driven largely by Slayes’ delivery coupled with the unclean vocals in the background. That’s not to say the music doesn’t fucking jam because it does. But it’s that declaration of, “Ten Thousand Against ONE!!” that really got my motor running.
Some acoustic guitar with flamenco stylings opens “Earth and Ashes” before the song crashes the boards full speed ahead. “Call Me Immortal” is named after the record’s protagonist and it’s a good ‘un as well. Closing our epic tale is title track and eight minute monster “Apex.” THIS was my other runaway favorite and it’s every bit as majestic as “Awakening.” Every time I hear it I find myself getting lost inside the music and lyrics, never wanting to return. There’s also a dual harmonized guitar section very reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN, and I mean that 100% as a compliment. All told UNLEASH THE ARCHERS did an outstanding job on Apex. And you can rest assured if and when they tour the U.S. to support it I’ll be first in line for a Philly show. The record is out now, so hop to it!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Awakening”, “Apex”, “Ten Thousand against One”, “Cleanse the Bloodlines”, “The Coward’s Way”