By now, word has gotten around in power metal circles that the Canadians Unleash The Archers have released “Apex”, a grandiose insider tip that probably flew under the radar of many average listeners. This is not a big surprise, considering the history of the band, but after closer inspection “Apex” is the result of that same history.
But one at a time: Despite three previous albums Unleash The Archers could not set foot in the scene, which was probably because on their first album “Behold The Devastation”, the band in 2009 performed a relatively uninspired Melodic Death brew, only to weave more and more Power Metal into the songs on the following two albums “Demons of the Astrowaste” in 2012 and “Time Stands Still” in 2015. So the style was unstable and the music mediocre. Even singer Brittney Slayes sounded (spoiler: In contrast to “Apex”) on the first three works amateurish, which was perhaps also due to the suboptimal productions.
This genre development of the Canadians culminated 2017 in the present power piece “Apex”. Power here refers both to the musical orientation as well as to the evaluation of the long player. Listening to the three previous releases and then “Apex,” you wouldn’t think it’s the same band. The Death Metal influences have faded away and now pure Power Metal is delivered. The terrific album artwork suggests Epic Metal, but “Apex” is amazingly fast and straight on. However, with epic you are not wrong, but this is more in the lyrics than in the music again.
“Apex” is a concept album. It tells the story of an immortal being who is summoned from his mount by the matriarch, a mighty figure, to destroy her offspring. So far, so fantasy. Musically there is, thank you, no Manowar chatter and, surprisingly, no keyboard tapestries.
The opener “Awakening” spells out where the journey is going: high speed riffs, sawing vocals, catchy guitar leads and crashing drums. Singer Brittney Slayes’ vocal acrobatics has improved by about an infinite percent compared to the predecessors, catapulting the charismatic Canadian into the premier league of metal vocalists.
Premier league, if not better, is also the sound on “Apex”. Mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen, Unleash The Archers shows all other bands in the genre how an album should sound. Incredibly dynamic for such a hard-hitting work, which captivates first with its rich sound, but rewarding the multiple listener with accentuated and crystal-clear sounds.
The same applies to the music. Right from the start, each piece persuades right away, especially the seemingly simple power metal bangers like “Awakening”, “Shadow Guide” or “The Matriarch”, but with each further run, complex structures reveal themselves in the genre-unusual songs. It’s easy to build each track similar to the stanza-chorus-stanza-chorus-solo-chorus recipe and still deliver a decent album, but Unleash The Archers do not make life undeservedly easy and enriches each song with its own structure and such its own identity. This is the salient characteristic of “Apex”: Each song is a masterpiece in itself and draws you in from the beginning to the end, but fits just as well into the overall flow of the album.
Unleash The Archers‘ accomplishment is incredible: no less than publishing one of the highlights of 2017 out of nowhere. Anyone who has not had the joy of listening to the Canadian troupe should immediately listen to “Apex”. Here, modern, innovative Power Metal is designed, which comes along without fancy bits and impresses with grandiose compositions and the best sound of a metal album in a long time.