With barely a 2 year gap between releases, Unleash The Archers have followed up their solid major label debut with the 10 track concept album, ‘Apex’ which follows an immortal protagonist and his quest to find the sons of an evil matriarch. Sounds like pretty epic stuff, right? But does the music live up to its subject matter? Hitting play it becomes immediately apparent that yes, it absolutely does.
Album opener ‘Awakening’ wastes no time setting the tone. This is monstrous modern power metal made to be played loud and most definitely in a live setting. The entire band is on top of their game on this album. Drummer Scott Buchanan and bassist Nikko Whitworth provide a killer rhythm section, while guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley bring their signature blend of melo-death riffing and power metal harmonies to the fore. About a minute and a half in, vocalist Brittney Slayes unleashes her patented heavy metal banshee wail.
Sounding more powerful and commanding than ever, Slayes delivers a performance of Dickinson-esque proportions, guiding the listener through the world of ‘Apex’. By the end of the first track I’m about ready to call this my album of the year.
Thankfully the quality of this album shows no signs of letting up.
‘Shadow Guide’ and ‘The Matriarch’ both feature mammoth choruses, guaranteed to be live highlights. They even throw some Woah-oh’s in for good measure.
Easily the darkest track on offer ‘Cleanse the Bloodlines’ is a monolithic stomper, teeming with menace and showcasing just how emotive and varied Slayes’ vocals can be.
The band get to show off their breakdown chops on tracks like ‘The Coward’s Way’ and ‘Ten Thousand Against One’, the latter of which is sure to incite walls of death for years to come, and the mid-paced ‘False Walls’ slows things down just a tad and features a very tasty (and slightly bluesy) solo section.
It bears mentioning that the production on this album is glorious, something I’ve been dying to say about an Unleash The Archers album for years. As much as I’ve enjoyed their previous efforts the production has always felt slightly lacking. On ‘Apex’ the drums are thunderous, the guitars are beautifully clear, the bass isn’t lost in the mix, and Brittney Slayes’ vocal melodies and harmonies feel full and mighty. They’ve finally found a suitably epic production sound for their brand of larger than life modern power metal.
If I had to knit pick (and for this review, I suppose I must) I would say that the last few tracks aren’t quite as hard hitting as the earlier ones, and on initial listens felt a little meandering. However, with each subsequent play through I’m happy to say I found something to love about each track, and thankfully it never spoils the pacing of the album.
Fans returning for ‘Apex’ will love what’s on offer here, and for new listeners this is the perfect album to jump into. It’s their finest album to date and it’s UTA at their most cohesive, concise, and kick ass. Follow them to Apex.
APEX AVAILABLE NOW VIA NAPALM RECORDS