Unleash the Archers – Abyss Review

Apex: “The top of the highest point of something; especially one forming a point.”1 So… the highest point of a point.2 Got it. To name an album “Apex” is brave because it condemns everything created before and after it. Yet, Unleash the Archers made the title of the album work on two fronts: it’s a perfect title for the album’s concept and it’s their best record since the band’s conception. Though Unleash the Archers remains the goofy power metal band they’ve always been, Apex was a serious release. Lyrics, story, songwriting—Apex captured the band at their absolute best. Abyss: “A deep and seemingly bottomless pit.”3 So, a pit, no matter its depth, so scary and hopeless that you wouldn’t follow a hit baseball down it.4 To follow-up an album called Apex with one called Abyss may be the most condemning thing yet. Is it clever or is the shortest distance between the summit and a hole in the ground straight down?5

Ha! I still got it. And you. Abyss is not the bottom of the band’s career—not by a long shot. As I’m sure you’re aware, Abyss is the sequel to Apex. Immortal6 is back. But summoned by who? Well, remember that moment in Apex where Immortal starts killing all The Matriarch’s sons and arrives at the last? The one he befriends in “Earth and Ashes”? Yeah, it’s him. No, shit, sorry. He’s dead. It’s his son. That’s right, the offspring summons Immortal from his7 to destroy The Matriarch. This pure-hearted grandson of a monster has brought forth Immortal to avenge his father. But The Matriarch is more powerful than we all imagined. Will it be curtains for our brave Immortal?

“Waking Dream” sets the stage in much the same way “Awakening” did for Apex. Using pallets of emotion and acoustic work, it builds the intro up to the album’s title-tracked follow-up. From there, it explodes in classic UtA fashion. “Abyss” unleashes beefy riffs, booming chants, great solos, and Slayes, well… slays. “Faster than Light” takes the familiar sounds of Apex and molds it to the character of Abyss. As Immortal races to free her/himself from The Matriarch, the lightning-fast pace of the song gets even better with Saunders and Truesdell’s ridiculously-technical, DragonForce-like soloing.

But The Matriarch catches up with Immortal and the battle of the century is upon us. “The Wind That Shapes the Land” is the most epic piece the band has ever written. Mood-directed, the battle combines bombastic Kamelot atmospheres with melodic-death-ish vocal patterns. Story-wise, Immortal unleashes8 all she/he’s got. After the battle, the emotion turns to upbeat relief and a peaceful moment. Unfortunately, the transition is a bit jarring and not one of my favorite parts of the album. Closer “Afterlife” pushes it further. Immortal, confused with a freedom she/he doesn’t understand, hears the son (Andrew Saunders) sing clean clairvoyance into one ear while The Matriarch (Grant Truesdell) growls the opposite in the other. Covering it all in a warm blanket of Nightwishy orchestration that is both fitting and over-the-top.

Beyond the songs that sound like a continuation of Apex, as well as those that are epic and orchestral, we have other songs that break the boundaries of Unleash the Archers. An Iced Earth/Iron Maiden sound is nothing new to the band, but “Through Stars” unleashes it via an accessible chorus and mighty guitar work that makes the ole eyebrows arc. But that’s nothing. As simplistically coordinated as “Through Stars,” “Soulbound” unveils full-on Wintersun guitar/keyboard atmospheres. Each strike and stroke emphasizing the pain in Immortal’s heart. But the song that has everyone’s heads turning is “Legacy.” An attention-getter for its unique vocal delivery and guitar-soloing builds. With its powerful approach and foot-tapping uniqueness comes an intro straight from the halls of Volbeat. That said, it’s something no one has heard from UtA and that’s the main reason so many people dig it. It’s also addictive af.

After traveling from “Waking Dream” to the “Afterlife,” it’s Grier-clear that Apex is the straight line up from the Abyss. Does that mean Abyss is garbage? Hell no. Does it mean it’s less of an album than Time Stands Still? Not a chance. Abyss is this side of Apex—nowhere near bad and not quite perfect. I know the line I’ve made is motherfucking fine. Many will agree with my verdict and others will detest me, like a snake. I’m not wrong (in this case) but Abyss still kicks ass and Unleash the Archers remain one of the best in their field. If you get nothing else from this review, it’s this: CHECK THIS OUT.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: Stream | Format Reviewed: Yeah, stream, again
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: unleashthearchers.bandcamp.com | unleashthearchers.com | facebook.com/unleashthearchers
Releases Worldwide: August 21st, 2020

Show 8 footnotes

  1. Oxford Languages’ pathetic excuse for a definition.
  2. Greer‘s genious interperation of a wurd from the country of Oxferd.
  3. Again, these guys…
  4. Nailed it.
  5. Tune in next week for the answer!
  6. Not the Norwegian crab-walkers.
  7. I can’t be the only one that has pictured this character as the female/mythical creation of Brittney, can I?
  8. Archers?
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