U is for Unleash the Archers
Time Stands Still
Napalm Records, 2015
I was super bummed when 3 Inches of Blood announced they were calling it quits. They were one of my favorite bands, Advance and Vanquish is one of my favorite records of any genre, and they were incredibly nice and cool people. I’ll never forget hanging out with them in the alley behind Bottom Lounge or that time guitarist Justin Hagberg wanted to trade with me for my too small Bathory shirt (regardless of the fact Hagberg is much larger than me). If there is any consolation to found in this vast void, it is the fact there has emerged from their hometown of Vancouver a band that is actually quite similar: Unleash the Archers.
The first comparison is in the vocals. 3 Inches of Blood’s Camp Pipes had one of the most King Diamond-esque voices outside of the King himself. And with a name like Pipes, it was only fitting he had one hell of a pair, hitting all the high notes. Then you had Jamie Hooper, and later Hagberg, balancing this with a harsh growl. It was a formula that worked fantastically over five full lengths. Unleash the Archers have followed a similar pattern, highlighted by the majestic voice of Brittany Slayes, who hits all the high notes. Following two solid, self-released full lengths, Unleash the Archers caught the attention of Napalm Records for their third record, Time Stands Still. It is straight-up old school metal, borrowing a few elements from power metal and adding harsh vocals. They have some epic song structures, culminating in “Dreamcrusher,” which surpasses nine minutes in length. It has a calm introduction with strings and Slayes vocals’ at the beginning have more of an operatic tone that sounds like it would fit on a Nightwish record, before picking up that classic metal gallop a la Maiden and Priest. And guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders each have a great set of chops. Just look at the solos in songs like “Tonight We Ride,” “Hail of the Tide” or “Crypt” for proof. And the way that solo in the latter transitions illustrates the great songwriting diversity they possess.
Songs like “Going Down Fighting” and particularly “Test Your Metal” feel like odes to the 80s era of bands like Manowar, singing the praises of metal. “Time Stands Still” has an epic, chanting intro, but doesn’t really show any influences to the Blind Guardian song of the same name. Slayes’ voice is a highlight throughout, and she really gets to show off her pipes in songs like “Test Your Metal” or “Tonight We Ride.” Whether she’s reaching into that higher falsetto register, (try to hit those notes at the beginning of “Tonight We Ride” or “Frozen Steel”) or just singing at a more natural tone, she has an extremely versatile voice and fits the music wonderfully, whether she’s carrying a melody or shattering glass. “Tonight We Ride,” by the way, has an awesome, Mad Max-inspired music video that you should probably watch.
Unleash the Archers have continually improved with each release, and I’m really excited to see where they go from here. And I’d really like to see them play live sometime. Definitely a band to watch out for.