Since 2014 power metal has been making a furious comeback. Sure, bands like Helloween, Blind Guardian and HammerFall have been releasing solid records, but this revival has truly been initiated thanks to many new — or newish — bands creating and sharing their art. It’s generally an old-school sound with more modern metal ingredients added. One of the leaders of this resurgence are power metallers Unleash The Archers. The Vancouver-based quintet made waves with their 2015 offering Time Stands Still and have opened the eyes of the metal world with the combination of majestic lyrics, an epic yet massive sound and a steady dose of beautiful yet punishing vocals. With their new album Apex they “unleash” one of the best metal albums in recent memory. Simply put: Apex is absolutely spectacular!
Let me start off by saying, Apex is a concept album and concept albums can be tricky. Each song must be carefully sculpted to both tell the story and to keep the listener engaged throughout the entire record. Some bands succeed, some fail and not only do Unleash The Archers succeed, they provide the perfect template for others to follow. Apex starts off brilliantly with the opening track “Awakening.” After about forty seconds of build up, the journey begins with heavy riffs leading into the powerful voice of singer Brittney Slayes. At this point the tone is set for an incredible ride of storytelling through music. The next two tracks, “Shadow Guide” and “The Matriarch” provide great speed combined with melodies that will make all power metal fans grin from ear to ear. Even the slower tempo tracks like “False Walls” and “Earth & Ashes” bring great heaviness while giving the listeners a nice breather. For this humble writer, the two favorite tunes happen to be the most epic: “Ten Thousand Against One” gives us that Manowar-esque battle song that makes you want to pick up a sword and charge into the fight for glory while the final and title track brings a fitting conclusion to the album (along with being a nice cliffhanger, possibly?) with a mixture of strength and beauty. This song also shows us the incredible musicianship of this tremendous band.
Let’s talk for a bit about the artists who bring Unleash The Archers to life, because to make an album this good, all of the moving parts must perform at the highest level. You have the punishing yet groovy beats of drummer and co-founder Scott Buchanan, who formulates and directs like a conductor of a powerful orchestra. Bassist Nikko Whitworth uses his masterful skills and experience to create a wall of deep force that shakes the ground and adds great melody to the mix. He also plays a sweet headless bass guitar. The dual guitar work of Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley provides the prettiest melodies amongst the purest in power metal and the kind of super heavy riffs that would satisfy even the most extreme of metal fans, while also contributing the grim vocals that Unleash the Archers is known for. We also get to hear Andrew Kingsley’s clean singing in the track “Earth & Ashes,” in which he does a terrific job. Finally, last but most certainly not least, is the absolute vocal powerhouse that is Brittney Slayes. There are many great metal singers around but Brittney has the combination of incredible range, superior strength and power that sets her apart from the others. Brittney Slayes is the best metal vocalist around and simply put, she is the current day Ronnie James Dio.
The phrase “album of the year” is thrown around a lot when mid-year hits. Fans hear an album they love and call it an AOTY contender. With Apex, not only are Unleash The Archers a contender, but in my eyes, they are the frontrunner. And by an extended mile. From beginning to end this is one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. Fans of power metal and beyond will love Apex and Unleash The Archers are the leaders of the new power metal movement. And with that, the sub-genre I love is in great hands for years to come. Follow me to Apex!!!
HAIL to you all!