If it was a bunch of one-man black metal bands before, now it’s a bunch of cheez whiz coming Count Grier’s way. Previously it was in the form of the slick The Valiant/Valiant’s/Variant/Variant’s Fire release by Damnation Angels and now it’s Time Stands Still from Canadian-based Unleash the Archers. Debut Beyond the Devastation was a straightforward combination of Dragonforce-esque whipping guitar work (that is, thankfully, not full-on wanking), fist-pumping power anthems, and an equal mix of mic time from the male-female vocal duo of siren Brittney “Slayes” Hayes and the mixed rasps and death growls of guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski. Sophomore release Demons of the AstroWaste kicks around a power-metal concept and simultaneously cranks out some of their best material (“Dawn of Ages” and “General of the Dark Army”) and ups the cringe factor from the debut with dumbass titles, a weak storyline, and moments of narrative spoken-word that are enough to cause internal bleeding. However, Unleash the Archers gave more air time to Hayes, which not only makes Dyczowski’s growls more impactful but gives Archers a true character. Demons of the AstroWaste had some missteps but Time Stands Still capitalizes on the positives and delivers a slab of fun-ness that coats the skin like a toddler with a grilled cheese.
After honing their skills a bit with 2012’s Defy the Skies EP, Time Stands Still brings Hayes to the front of the line and builds the music more around her voice than ever (Defy the Skies‘ “Soulstorm” being a perfect foreshadowing of what is to be found on 2015’s new release). Still incorporating the shrieks and throat-shredding gutturals from new growling duet (guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders), Time Stands Still brings more catchiness, delivers some great riffs, and hammers down some fist-pumping, lighter-flicking melodies.
The standout track from Time Stands Still has to be “Tonight We Ride.” Its got kickass riffs, solos that dance across every fret and string, belting vox, some thumbing bass work, and guttural shredding to please even the most hateful patrons of the cheese platter. As an added topping, check out the Mad Max inspired video below. It’s so stupid, it’s awesome. Opener “Frozen Steel” (following the short instrumental “Northern Passage”) is another killer slab of power metal. It offers up more twirling guitar work, a notable warrior-themed chorus, and some very crunchy licks. Other highlights are the Manowar-meets-Dream Evil absurdity of “Test Your Metal” and the melodic beauty of “No More Heroes.” Hayes shines in completely different ways on these two tracks. “Test Your Metal,” with it’s over-the-top crowd-pleasing chorus and high-pitched beltings, and “No More Heroes” with her heart-wrenching melodies. And I can’t forget about her Dio-like mastery on the title track. She’s upped her game here and the band sounds better than ever.
Though Time Stand Still is a fun outing that has my head abanging and my feet atapping, it’s pretty standard stuff. Additionally, many of the songs lack memorability and feel out of place in the track listing. “Going Down Fighting” fits the latter description like a metal glove. I very much enjoy this song but it’s a real oddball next to the rest of the material. Also, its placement toward the end of the record kills the momentum Time Stands Still had created. “Crypt” is a very confused tune that drives hard with some fast-picking Iced Earth chugs before swinging around Dethklok-esque soloing and slowing down before calling it quits. While none of this ruins the album, it’s not completely original nor keeps its foothold in the long-term memory.
As expected, this baby is all about the “loudness.” Screaming out of the speakers, the compression may be meant to distract you from turning this off and listening instead to Dream Evil‘s Dragonslayer. But it’s a good time and definitely more precise and well-honed outing than their sophomore outing. So pop this in, sharpen your sword collection, and see if you can ever watch the new Mad Max with a straight face again.