Immerse yourself in the Abyss. That’s the tagline I am tying to the fifth studio album from Canada’s Unleash The Archers. This is an album that is both described and designed as a full LP to be listened from beginning to end, not just selecting singles. In 2020’s current music scene (regardless of genre) that is difficult to do. Unleash The Archers prove it’s possible.
Following 2017’s Apex, the group began work on a story containing characters and conflict written for years but did not see light until a writing and recording session in Europe earlier in 2020 (in the glorious months before the pandemic shut down everything). Good Vs Evil – Person Vs Inner Self – all strong conflicts, but the story of Abyss revolves around the Matriarch and the Immortal. It’s in the writing of this conflict and the unexpected events that makes Abyss a testament on how Unleash The Archers will not be satisfied by simple writing about fighting a dragon and drinking a beer to celebrate later (as many power metal albums have gloried in).
There are many highlights on the music side of Abyss. The opening track “Waking Dream” sets a pace with a drum section carring the music progression while Brittney Slayes gives a brooding war chant that resonates well. The title track then picks up the speed and the guitarwork from Grant and Andrew kicks down the door while Brittney sets her voice loose. These two opening tracks set a strong atmosphere of impending conflict in a tumultuous time.
As the album and story unfold, you become entranced with some of the wild solos and synth work in “Return To Me” and “Faster Than Light”. The music is intense and furious but never chaotic. That fine line of going all out with stylized metal is balanced perfectly before crossing the line and blasting every instrument with individual solos on top of each other. It’s in the mammoth eight minute “The Wind That Shapes The Land” where the final pieces are set in place story wise and motivations are clear. The track shows off the different vocal performances that Slayes can deliver and I truly feel that she is an unsung hero in the current metal scene.
The final two songs make the full album listening experience worth the time investment in regards to the story. “Carry The Flame” featuring Andrew Kingsley is surprisingly upbeat and invigorating with the higher guitar notes and Andrew and Brittney sing together wonderfully. The closer “Afterlife” holds smooth speed changes and extremely catchy guitar melodies throughout that make for a perfect resolution. The final song and act in Abyss encapsulates the ability from the band in the best ways.
Over the years I have found myself appreciating Unleash The Archers’ ability to improve from their past works. It is clear they are not intent on matching the previous notes or design of past albums and want to make something unique while also improving on what they deliver. Abyss continues that productivity and progression in Unleash The Archers’ discography. My only complaint with the album is that through several songs I wish the percussion and vocal tracks would have been a touch louder in the mix. That is extremely nitpicky and this was more than likely designed to have the guitar work stand out, but you can hear some great performances in the singing and drumming and I wish they would have had a few more moments to shine.
The ambition of Abyss stands out and the new album serves as a counterpart to Apex. It goes back to my thoughts on Unleash The Archers wanting to improve after every album. While 2020 has put live music at a standstill, I can’t help but imagine how great some of these songs will sound live as you definitely get a sense of urgency and adrenaline while listening to the more energetic tracks.
Overall, Abyss is a character driven album bolstered by exceptional guitar work and a vocalist who can several different styles. This is an album with high points that is made more impressive when taking the entire album as a whole. From the blistering guitarwork to a striking rhythm base, Unleash The Archers have made something memorable and worth diving into. Immerse yourself in the Abyss.