REVIEW: UNLEASH THE ARCHERS – “Abyss”
I want to start this review by confessing my crime in my last review of a Unleash the Archers album: ‘Apex’ had the highly unjust score of 7.8 given by me here at Metal Wani, but the album was one of the best power metal releases of 2017 and easily deserved a 9. Having said that, rest assured that this time I made no mistakes and thoroughly dissected every inch of ‘Abyss’, once again a concept record by the Canadians and sequel to the highly acclaimed and already mentioned ‘Apex’.
Brittney Slayes (vocals) and company bet once again on a more epic and melodic approach to their songs, but this time around the use of synths is exploited to the maximum. Tracks like “Legacy” and “Carry the Flame” make use of this element and provide a different take on this “second part” of the story, turning it into something less aggressive and somber than ‘Apex’.
There are, of course, heavier and more powerful moments akin to “Cleanse the Bloodlines”, such as “Return to Me” and “Soulbound”. Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley do a good job in their guttural vocal lines, something like a stronger, less emotional version of the “Beauty and the Beast” vocal style in metal. A good addition and a cool surprise here is the presence of a clean vocal performance by Kingsley on “Carry the Flame”. Despite being easily the cringiest song in the album, the vocal duet works well. Here’s for more nice surprises like this in the future.
‘Abyss’, by consequence of the songwriting, synths, and instrumental parts selected to fit the different moments of the story, is the most melodic Unleash the Archers album to date. This causes some strangeness and changes some of the background sound scenery, and even borderlines a pop atmosphere, especially in the cheesier songs like “Through Stars”.
As is in every album by the Canadians, the epic side here is strong and catchy. The title track, “The Wind That Shapes The Land” and “Afterlife” are the most grandiose and, consequently, the best tracks in the album, featuring masterful performances by Slayes and Scott Buchanan, who is a Kraken in the drumkit. Curiously enough, these three are the least inventive tracks here, and this is exactly why they work so well. What we have here is just epic, no-frills power metal with strong performances and above-par songwriting.
Individually, every band member is a monster and, with the album being recorder in the already legendary Hansen Studios by Jacob Hansen (Invocator, Pyramaze, ex-Anubis Gate), it’s an understatement to call the production and performances masterful. With Hansen mixing and mastering and Andrew Kingsley doing a hell of a job producing, the final product is no less than pristine. Add to that a masterful album cover by Adam Burke (Eternal Champion, Barren Earth, Pagan Altar, and a ton of others) and you got yourself a winner.
It was actually very hard for me to review this album, knowing that it’s closely related to its predecessor, easily Unleash the Archers’ best work to date, and one of the best power metal albums of the decade. ‘Abyss’ would hold the fort on its own but suffers from the curse of sequels in music. Like Gamma Ray’s ‘Land of the Free II’ or Rhapsody’s ‘Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret’, this album is good in every way possible but utterly pales in comparison to its first part. Keeping this in mind, Unleash the Archers have once again excelled in making a powerful, memorable, and competent album that will be part of many year-end lists out there; the only downside is that it succeeded the band’s greatest achievement.