Unleash The Archers
Time Stands Still
26th June (Europe)/10th July (North America) – Napalm Records
01. Northern Passage
02. Frozen Steel
03. Hail of the Tide
04. Tonight We Ride
05. Test Your Metal
07. No More Heroes
09. Going Down Fighting
10. Time Stands Still
The last year or so has been a big one for Canadian power metal group Unleash The Archers. Hailing from the laid-back west coast city of Vancouver, they won a contest to play Wacken 2014 in Germany, and coupled with some intense touring and self-promotion, they attracted the interest of Napalm Records. They’ve actually been going since 2007, and have already released two full length albums and one EP off their own back, but now they’re releasing a label debut, a full four years after their last.
Titled Time Stands Still, it’s fairly obvious right off the bat that their biggest strength is vocalist Brittney Hayes. Her pipes are tremendous, able to belt out both low and high notes with impressive power. She really carries the band’s anthemic fist pumping choruses and bridges. Her finest moments come in the closing section of the title track, as well as the lead single “Tonight We Ride”, where her screams reach untold heights of glory.
Though sparsely used, growled vocals add some lower vocal elements to the songs, but it’s mostly in the outros or bridges, which is really too bad, as it would have been more interesting to utilise them more; perhaps layered under the chorus or pre-chorus vocal lines to give them more weight.
Fairly classic heavy metal with Iron Maiden-isms front and centre, the guitar work is well executed, with some scorching lead melodies taking the forefront in songs like “Hail The Tide” and “Tonight We Ride” – and the harmonies are just as tasty. There are death metal elements mixed in, but much less so than on previous albums, meaning that whilst the songwriting is fairly varied, it maintains the band’s formula whilst allowing for other ideas to mix in.
It’s the drumming where Time Stands Still really seems to be lacking, however. Without much in the way of creative imagination, the lifeless kick-snare-kick-snare beat during some choruses nearly ruins the momentum the band have built up during the rest of the songs.
Something about the mix feels weird too. It’s hard to put a finger on, but something just seems disengaged and hollow – and it’s an issue from which their previous works have suffered as well. The guitars don’t punch as hard as they could, and seem entirely vacant from the centre channel aside from a few leads. Combined with somewhat inconsistent riffwork at times, it ultimately ends up with the music sounding fairly lifeless and vocally driven.
In fact, it’s almost reminiscent of the way a pop song might be mixed, but with metal instead. The same problem was present on Eluveitie’s last album, but on a far worse scale. In a genre as energetic and powerful as metal, the music really should not be as downplayed as this. It’s only during the bridges and guitar solos that this is salvaged; where some lead element or tension is allowed to build up.
It’s a shame, then, that it’s left to Brittney’s to essentially carry the album. Her voice is a wonder to behold, but is let down by instrumentals that, while generally well written, feel lifeless at times due to a mix that seems to sorely misunderstand what the band is playing. A sorely-needed injection of creativity to things would go far to match Brittney’s kick-ass vocals. As it stands, it’s just a solid, if somewhat underwhelming record.