WITH their fourth album 'Apex' Unleash The Archers could be forgiven for sticking to the formula that has stood them well so far in their career.
While all the elements of previous releases are present and correct this is a collection of 10 songs that are exhilarating.
True, on first listen it may seem that they are treading familiar ground, but on subsequent spins the band have clearly stretched themselves. The arrangements elevate a lot of the tracks, but opener 'Awakening' sets the benchmark with seven plus minutes of varied metal bliss.
And, 'Awakening' isn't the only track that stretches the time: 'False Walls' and 'Apex' clock in at over eight minutes. Indeed the title track is a showcase of a well thought out arrangement.
There are many highlights on display across the 100 minutes of 'Apex' with the unsung heroes of Scott Buchanan (drums) and Nikko Whitworth (bass) power the album along with intelligent rhythm work.
Not that you could say there is a lot of intelligence in terms of lyrical content - daft tales, takes on a fantastical battles and ascension...Hey, it never harmed Manowar, and the slightly daft words suit the grandiosity of the music.
What rings true on 'Apex' is that there is a sense - despite the lyrics - that there is a musical sweep from the intensity of 'Matriarch' through to the lengthier songs.
Yes, it took a few listens to 'get' the development of Unleash The Archers on 'Apex', but it is well worth the effort.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Apex is out now on Napalm Records