(By Kira Schlechter, Guest Contributor, RiffRelevant.com)
When does a contemplation of reincarnation, karma, and betrayal leave any sort of hippie realm and get downright crushing? When it’s done by the Vancouver band Unleash The Archers, who get the theme in their teeth and run with it on their fourth album, “Apex.” (out now from Napalm Records).
The band, led by powerhouse singer and resident Valkyrie Brittany Slayes, is still pursuing pure power metal, with all its imagery, speed, and bombastic magnificence intact.
Guitarists/singers Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley, bassist Nikko Whitworth, and drummer Scott Buchanan provide Slayes with all the muscle she needs – precise riffing, plenty of bottom, and drumming that percolates along without forcing her to keep up. She is allowed to take her time and sing, no matter how fast things are going behind her.
Lyrically this is a concept album, telling the story bit by bit with each track. Slayes’ character is an immortal, resurrected as an unwilling means for an all-powerful being, the Matriarch, to destroy her offspring and achieve her own immortality. It’s written as a great fantasy novel, with the points of view changing with each song as each character plays their part.
Two of the Matriarch’s three sons are symbolic – a politician, a manipulating overlord – so the instrument of their destruction has no remorse in bringing them to their end. But his resolve fails with the third son, who may be more of an innocent – I will say no more… The pivotal songs “Ten Thousand Against One” and “Earth And Ashes” mark this plot twist. And the closer, the outstanding title track (streaming below), is weary, aching, and poignant.
Even taken out of the context of the story, the songs are memorable, but it’s really best to take the album start to finish to really appreciate how well they fit together. Standout tracks are the first single “Cleanse The Bloodlines” and the introduction to our villain, “The Matriarch,” (both streaming below) but really every track is compelling.
Unleash The Archers, now in their tenth year as a band, are continuing to make their mark. And hey promoters, here’s a dream tour: UTA and their compatriots, Kobra And The Lotus. Make it happen!
Kira spent 11 years at the Associated Press in Philadelphia, and another 11 at the Harrisburg Patriot-News covering music, specifically and frequently heavy metal. She’s been writing about and listening to metal since she was 15. Currently she also freelances for the Reading Eagle newspaper; in the past, she has freelanced for RIP, The World Of Hibernia, and Mademoiselle.