Under The Archers: Abyss (Napalm Records)
Hot on the heels of their covers EP, Brittney Slayes and her merry men return with their latest full length, the bands fifth (!) it's a conceptual record that acts as the follow up to their previous full length Apex. Unleash The Archers have really become something of a leader in the power metal genre since their inception in 2007, much of this is due their thrashier, modern electronic assault than many of their contemporaries as well as Slayes' amazing vocal prowess, a four octave mezzo-soprano, which if you don't know anything about singing is about as good as you can get. Now she uses this to full effect throughout, but it really grabs you on the brilliant Return To Me where there are even growls (and orchestration) but also on the rampaging title track which also shows off Unleash The Archers' classic metal chops with nods to Helloween and Priest as well as the pinpoints of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica. Much of this due to their employment of synths that are used as a garnish more than a main course, infusing the riffs with a more melodic feel that harks right back to the neon 80's, just listen to Through Stars and you'll be able to make the connection.
However due to synths only really coming into their own on the big ballsy ballads that this record features the faster heavier numbers are very much about letting the guitar interplay of Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley speak out loud as the often echoed, galloping drumming of Scott Buchanan binds these tracks together like Gorilla Glue. Yet again, like so many bands the production comes from Danish knob-twiddler extraordinaire Jacob Hansen it zings with a clarity that sends shivers down your spine when there is an emotional moment and makes you put your fist in the air when the anthemic choruses kick in. Although Hansen can't take all the credit as the Canadian's are at their most impressive on Abyss, keeping up the incredibly high quality of songwriting they have always brought to the table but there is more variation on this record than before as the rollicking power metal numbers such as Soulbound and the rampaging Faster Than Light (which would give Dragonforce a fright with its speed) are counterpointed by ballads like The Wind That Shapes The Land and big AOR styled rockers such as the epic sounding Carry The Flame which evolves into some Manowar-like "woahs" at the climax. Unleash The Archers are operating on a bigger scale than before cementing their place as one of the premier heavy/power metal bands around! 9/10
The Georgia Thunderbolts: EP (Mascot Records)
Moths/The Stone Eye: Split (Electric Talon Records)
Back 2018 I gave Puerto Rican doom/sludge metal band Moths a big 8/10 for their debut EP comparing it favourably to bands like Rush, Jane's Addiction, although they also have a lot of Sabbath and Neurosis too. So I was intrigued to see what they could do when put against Philly garage rockers The Stone Eye on this 4 track EP. Both bands play one original and one cover on this record which opens with Moths psychedelic stoner metal sound, Intervention is a monolithic slab of shamanistic left of center heaviness with the fuzz-drenched bass of Weslie Negrón and crunchy Electric Wizard-like riffs of Omar González, underpin the jazzy proggy lead guitar of Jonathan Miranda. It's a 6 minute ride into the world of Moths as Daniel Figueroa's drumming gives power and spacial awareness to the songs as Damaris Rodríguez's vocals move from a Grace Slick croon to a colossal growl.
Their cover is of Sabbath's Hand Of Doom is loaded with huge pounding organs and a sucker punch of explorative prog jazz. The Stone Eye however takes things into more traditional sounds with some powerful riffs on Presence Of Mind that take things into the spacey rock realms but their cover is more obscure taking traditional folk song Wayfaring Stranger which sounds like it's a Nick Cave song, in a good way of course. I'd heard of Moths before as I said and here they once again show why their brand of doom is so interesting to listen to, but having never heard of The Stone Eye I can say that they have more than outdone themselves on this split providing a great counterpoint to their heavier compatriots. 8/10
Black Lesion: Mindless Feeding Device (Self Released)