Oops, it almost happened again. We just about overlooked Abyss, the latest album from Unleash the Archers. Already the pretty juicy Apex suffered some serious delay from the merciless hands of the RMR deck crew. Now this time we caught it, fortunately.
As you may know, we didn’t like it one iota once time stood still. Yet the aforementioned predecessor to this album gave us hope. The overblown theatrics and this multidimensional screaming ceased1), and in came some substance.
Of course, UtA is a Power Metal band and by this calling, they are prone to fantasize a bit much. But nobody ever said that the fantastical realms were bad in any way. On the contrary, this genre often breeds great metal with – sometimes – pretty funky storylines. Sometimes.
Now, I (kinda) fancied that space-age fantasy cover Abyss sports. One that’s very reminiscent of those dime novels, sci-fi pulp fiction that really was at its height many decades ago. But looking at that garish picture also raised a concern. Will this record feel cheap and thus become easily disposable like those age-old magazines were back in time?
Well, first off, I get a sense of continuation. Apex already strongly veered away from the outlandish Mad Max theme of former times. And this new record widens the gap even further. Albeit that – at times – the invasion into oldish pop rock territory becomes just a tad too obvious.
Carry The Flames or Through Stars – for instance – boast that weird mix of Fleetwood Mac and Foreigner, and I am unsure if this is a good thing. And then other tracks teeter on the edge of disaster with this composite of Amaranthe and (earlier) Nightwish, with the taste of Kamelot all over it. An abyss of impending doom alright.
The intro – The Waking Dream – with this opening riffy thing will get you in the mood for fantasy and a fair portion of space adventures. Yet already, I get this sense of repetition, the danger to succumb to overly simple song structures that risk growing stale quickly.
Even Brittney Slayes‘ metal screams in Abyss – the title track – will not make that go away. Even if she throws the full monty at the record, true multi-talent that she is with her considerable vocal powers. Instead, the band often generates this sense of an over-engineered piece. Complete with those ‘hey’ shoutouts that work well in any future concert2). But inserting them into a record directly just lets them sit athwart the flow.
There are a number of instances on Abyss with that type of injection. The last track Afterlife contains one, too. Yet, this track is the big fat kicker of the piece. Last song, and suddenly the energy levels soar to stratosphere levels. And this despite the usual mid-tempo stuff this album is mainly made of. It’s a complete work of art, spacey to a point, with pretty subtle symphonics and an almost cinematic touch. A flow that brought about a stellar performance of Ms. Slayes, growls included. And it also produced that absolutely cool solo that we had on special rewind for a while. Of course, the involvement of Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) helped with the final delivery – and it truly shows.
You’ll find other very strong tracks on this record. Like Faster than Light that is very reminiscent of former times. And as the name goes, it is lightning fast fare, done with a mastery that should make Amaranthe take heed.3) But – boy – I was blown away with that change in tempo at about mid-point. A rich and absolutely tremendous set of thundering vocals with stellar riffing to go with it. That’s Hayes‘ elastic voice at its best.
Or the Kamelot-esque Return to Me that had them magnanimously chanting about possession of the universe4). That’s so cliché, but also pure Power Metal in sound and – surely – in swagger.
So, let’s try and put a wrapper around the universe, shall we?
At first, I was none too impressed with Abyss and it took a while to get into the groove. I still cannot love that ’80s sound or the malignant synthwave offerings5), to state just two.
But nothing takes away from the fact that this is a rock-solid album with some red-hot metal to go. So, whilst certainly not perfect, this record surely captivated, even dazzled, this crew more than once in our quest for a piece of good Power Metal.
A mature album created by a band in its prime with a final product that deserves a lot of praise and – surely – a ton of respect.
Ed’s note: Oh, they got serious competition. Vandor sent something.
|1.||At least a little.|
|2.||Whenever that may be. Hopefully soon.|
|3.||Which won’t happen, of course. They’re too busy applying shampoo to their hairdo.|
|4.||Anything less would suck of course. At least they’re not looking for unicorns in space. Just sayin’.|
|5.||If you play that to me long enough, I’ll tell everything. It’s like torture.|