Talk about boundless energy. I am listening to the 2015 3rd studio album Time Stands Still of Unleash the Archers. And holy shit, these guys take off like a fucking rocket on steroids. Only this is one of those hate/love affairs all over again.
Something is rotten in this record that has received mostly positives to date. When frankly, it is not all infinitive bliss. Yeah, you heard that one right: It is technically flawless, but looking at it as the sum of all parts? Not so sure.
Unleash The Archers perform a brand of Power and Speed Metal that is for sure not as cheesy as some of the reviews I read were suggesting. The solos and riffs are of all kinds and colors that for sure will make Michael Amott of Arch Enemy go pale with envy. And I believe the ghost of Dio is just traipsing around somewhere in the background when hearing this. This mixed with a heavy dose of Iron Maiden to spice it up some.
Power Metal of the typical kind, no surprises?
For sure there is a high level of predictability. Here we have a band, who do everything fast. Sing fast, play fast and forget fast that they need to avoid repetition.
Then, they throw a very talented front chick into the fray who indeed boasts stellar pipes but absolutely strains her vocal cords to the breaking point. So much so that it actually hurts listening to her making mincemeat of ’em.
And by doing that, we got dissonance. And by that, I mean bad dissonance. The strain made her miss notes on some of the tracks. Screeching around the scene won’t do it. It just doesn’t – and it makes me wince all along writing this review, dammit!
This kind of goes hand in hand with a somewhat boring and garden-variety performance on drums. This kick bass-snare, ever repetitive background sound is really getting to me. Then add the totally locked-in bass, which does not convince either. And this makes their tune sound like a freight train coming down this mighty hill towards the broken bridge of sorts in Back To The Future.
And this is a pity. Because all the ingredients (would) exist to concoct a pretty stiff and varied record. Brittney ‘Slayes’ Hayes is very talented, no doubt about it. And it looks like Unleash the Archers have given her much more leeway to perform, which is good – but at the same time not all that great.
I do like those Death Metal-esque growls that appear throughout Time Stands Still with their thrashy interludes. However, ’tis all very subdued. Hall of the Tide will serve as a good example for that.
Now, you gotta love the cheesy marketing on display on Time Stands Still. The clip Tonight We Ride serves a load of Mad Max so bad you start looking for the friggin’ cheese platter. They really marched way down silly road for this, but then Power Metal has this tendency to overdo these things in general. Just check out the latest Gloryhammer record and their video, this one really takes the cake. But in a way, Unleash The Archers‘ video fits the theme pretty well.
What is Time Stands Still really delivering?
Well, for starters, I just cannot get warm with the record. Whenever I attempt another listen, the tracks kind of blur together towards the middle, creating an amalgam of which mediocrity is made. And that is funny in a way: Power Metal records in general often suffer from the repetitive bug, coupled with a lack of innovation. But this one here really tops it.
To the tracks.
Let’s just not talk about the intro. A fucking useless waste of time. Then Frozen Steel emerges. Okay, not bad, taking off with relentless energy and all-in-all pretty brutal in style. This IS Power Metal no doubt. But then come the – what? – synthesized, fucking shreds. A matter-of-factly, upgraded, high-octane version of Hammer King‘s prowess.
What’s up with that?
And in breezes Ms. Slayes, yodeling away. What the fuck was that again? Just showing the reach of the lead? Yodeling, forsooth! This is just pathetic, sorry – not better than a four out of ten.
Moving on to Hall of the Tide. Well, fast does not make it better. And screaming neither. Now, in this one, a few rasps can be found that increase the spice some. The centerpiece is Tonight We Ride – the one with the Mad Max video. This is one of the best tracks, if not THE best, so far. But again: Just terrible drum work. The whole structure of the track is – too fast. And Ms. Hayes – ahem – Slayes screaming until the vocals cords give up belting. The same brand of guitar work all over fails to excite me too. This is like eating loads of salad every friggin’ day of my life – with vitamin pills.
The same goes for Test Your Metal. Those tracks could probably be interchanged and nobody would really notice. And that is bad, as in really bad.
From then on it goes downhill. Not necessarily worse, but – again – it just does not convince. And this is a pity, ’cause all ingredients would be there to pump up the steam in this boiler of theirs and deliver a few really powerful chunks of metal.
Now, just when I was about to give up on them, Going Down Fighting comes along. In the second-before-last position of the original tracklist, without the bonus track. Compared to the rest of the record, this is a pretty neat variation. Followed by Time Stands Still – the title track – that somewhat convinces with a slow, kind of Maiden-ish brand of a tune. If only all of the vocals would hit all the notes true and clear, this would be one of the better tracks.
It is surely not the technical prowess that is missing on Time Stands Still. But more the will to go the extra mile and create something awesome. And I mean this in song structure and vocal delivery, which today is somewhat frayed around the edges.
And they got it all: Talented front, good musicians and a fair pool of ideas to get and – more importantly – keep this steamer going whilst maintaining pretty good quality.
But for some reason, they keep on returning to the same – in their view – proven song structures. And screech around the record like a banshee, when there is no need for it. In all the record got some merit, but I am really not too amused with the outcome.
Ed’s note: Oh, and if you would like to find out how they did on their follow-on record, here is the link to Apex.