Metal music nowadays is full of ways to create the most massive and powerful sound imaginable. There are plenty of cool toys a band can invest in that will make their drums more thunderous, their guitars thicker or their vocals more impactful. These aren’t necessarily negative aspects of the current state of music but every now and again a band will come along that is able to harness a natural power that is undeniable, Unleash the Archers is one of those bands.
Until Apex I had resigned to the fact that Unleash the Archers had a level of power that was going to be difficult to capture on an album. Having seen them perform live I knew the capability of the band but the previous studio efforts, although filled with great songs, didn’t fully capture the bands true might. Apex shattered my resignment immediately as the opening track “Awakening” delivers not only the strongest opening riff the band has created but also a chorus that would make Helloween second guess themselves. The album does not need a track by track explanation but I feel I would be doing metal a disservice if I didn’t point out the serious “Deadly Sinners” vibe on the next track, “Shadow Guide”. There has always been a 3 Inches of Blood vibe brimming just below the surface of Unleash the Archers but hearing the opening to this track instantly made me think fondly of the days when orcs were being destroyed and enemies of metal were living in fear. The album shows new strengths for the band overall in regards to the variety in the songwriting. All of the songs are not blisteringly fast or massively heavy but are given exactly what they need in order to breathe and facilitate repeat listens.
Technically speaking the band is in top form on Apex. It seems as if each aspect of the band has been meticulously examined and pushed closer to perfection. The heavy rhythmic sections are more pummeling, the guitar solos are impressively memorable and the vocals are commanding and compelling. The songwriting is of particular importance due to the album being conceptual. Now, there are countless fantasy themed metal albums, so much so I stopped paying attention to the story-line of quite a few of them (sorry Rhapsody). However, Apex is centered around two characters that are vividly brought to life by the dynamics of not only the vocal delivery but the song structures. Each song is unhesitatingly purposeful and drives the story forward. The band is able to weave their unique blend of metal’s various sub-genres together in order to move along a central thematic motive.
This album is the strongest album in the band’s decade of releases. They have clearly reached the new level and will likely continue the momentum from this point forward. Unleash the Archers are a band that have a potent organic power and have unquestionably found the means to wield that power on Apex.
3 Inches of Blood