Apex is the unbelievably impressive new album from Unleash the Archers. It starts triumphantly with an epic seven-minute-plus track, “Awakening,” a heroic kick-in-the-doors and burn-down-the-house entrance that lets you know in no uncertain terms that there’ll be no nonsense on this disc, only a whole lot of awesome. It sets the right tone from the get-go, with awesome riffing over galloping verses and righteously headbanging choruses.
The second track, “Shadow Guide,” has a brisk old-school metal feel to it, as vocalist Brittney Slayes again takes no prisoners. And then the third track, “The Matriarch,” continues with the unusually high standard of metal excellence established by the two opening tracks. At this point, you wonder how long this album can keep up such a high level of rip-roaring metal.
With “Cleanse the Bloodlines,” things are still pretty excellent, but the dopey video previously released for the track has tainted the tune for me. Also, it has a creepily fascist track title. Yet it is undeniable that Brittney is positively thrilling with her vocals beginning right at the three-minute mark and with the excellent tension woven by the guitar riffage. Oh well, it’s a concept album, with a character speaking, not a statement from the band, so resistance is futile.
The next five tracks are all superb: “The Cowards’ Way” chugs along thanks to some magnificently mighty bass propulsion power. “False Walls” kills it with blistering riffs knitting together a more laid-back approach, as head-banging choruses alternate with head-nodding verses. We are treated to a most satisfying guitar solo that slips in coolly after about six minutes of preparation. “Ten Thousand Against One” pummels you with bad-cop kick-drumming and death growls, and good-cop ethereal vocals. “Earth and Ashes” mercifully lets you catch your breath for a minute as acoustic guitars do some dueling with the bass guitar, but just when you’ve been faked out, the track gets the album to rip back into you again with relentless fury. Later on, a surprise vocal duet suddenly steers us into a really sweet guitar solo break that circles the earth for a while and then blasts off into hyperspace. Whew! Next up, “Call Me Immortal” does right by any listener who seeks metal excellence. This is such a great track, I can’t believe they saved it and placed it in penultimate position on the album. How cool is that. It just might be my favorite song, next to the album opener and closer. Excellence is always immortal, and here it is too in spades.
When the album concludes with the amazingly sprawling and superbly-paced guitar-feast “Apex” (track 10), there is no escaping the conclusion that this is the very best effort to date from Unleash the Archers. They have established themselves as a truly standout metal act. Brittney slays the competition and her band mates have honed their musical skills to an apex of metal perfection. Permit me to give the apposite last word to Brittney and the band by quoting their truly thrilling grand finale of a last track: “Follow me… to Apex!”
Progarchist rating: ★★★★★ 10/10 A+
Unleash the Archers, Apex