Review Summary: Unleash the Archers' career is far and away from plummeting into the abyss. This is an excellent sequel to Apex and a splendid modern power metal album.
I don’t have much experience listening to power metal, but after hearing Apex a few years back, Unleash the Archers helped me develop quite a fondness for it and them. I’m sure I’m not alone in this either. Apex was Unleash the Archers’ first album to break into the billboard charts, peaking at No. 3 on the iTunes metal charts back in 2017. I believe this was because the album created a world that was catered to both fantasy lovers and metal lovers with it’s excellent musicianship and fun storytelling. Furthermore, Brittney Hayes (a.k.a Brittney Slayes, which she most certainly does when it comes to vocals in this band), is such a lovable front-woman with a powerful voice fit for her genre. Grant Truesdell’s harsh vocals add a nice touch of melo-death not typically found in power metal bands, helping UTA to stand out from their peers. Considering my obvious enjoyment of Apex, I was excited to hear about another album coming out this year.
Abyss is a direct sequel to 2017’s Apex, following the Immortal’s journey to find freedom, but this time in space! The story this time is moreso centered around the Matriarch’s grandson, who is seeking revenge for the death of his father (previously seen in the song “Earth and Ashes”), with our protagonist’s help. The story unfolds smoothly throughout the album, with a majority of the action happening after the first few songs and before the last few (the beginning and the end are more centered around character development and inner dialogue). The musicianship on this album is excellent. Grant, Scott, and Andrew all show great proficiency on their instruments with tightness and precision and face-melting solos dispersed throughout. Brittney sounds just as powerful and dynamic as ever, specifically on tracks such as “Soulbound”, “Faster than Light”, and “The Wind that Shapes the Land.” The tracks on this album are never repetitive and all have something that makes them unique and memorable, with only slight occasional meandering on tracks such as “Legacy.” Abyss seems to make more use of Grant’s harsh vocals than Apex, mostly to distinguish the dialogue of the Matriarch from the Immortal or the grandson, which I think is very creative and helps the albums to feel more varied. Another thing that sets Abyss apart is the frequent layering of Brittney’s vocals on various tracks. This is done extremely effectively. Songs like “Legacy” and “Through Stars” feel very grandiose and enjoyable to listen to as a result.
This is overall another excellent album by Unleash the Archers. My only small gripe with Abyss if I had to pick one would be the mixing. The guitars aren’t as prominent as they were on Apex, sometimes being overshadowed by Brittney’s singing. This doesn’t take away too much enjoyment from the album, but it leaves the overall sound feeling less punchy and powerful. This is also exacerbated by the more frequent use of synthesizers on this album. Some people may like this mixing better though, it’s more of a preference thing I think. In my opinion, though, the mix makes Abyss not sound near as heavy as UTA’s last album. Songs like “Cleanse the Bloodlines” would make me want to bash my skull through the floor and Abyss just doesn’t have that as much. Nevertheless, Unleash the Archers are cementing themselves as a splendid modern power metal act with this release and I’m very much looking forward to what ways they’ll continue to progress and mature as a band. If you can, listen to this album front to back. It makes the experience much more enjoyable because of the flow of the songs. But if I had to pick a few standout favorites to listen to, I’d recommend “Abyss”, “Soulbound”, and the epic “The Wind that Shapes the Land.”