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Unleash the Archers “Phantoma” Album Review by Curtis J. Dupree

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS Band Members

When I first discovered Unleash the Archers I was hooked. The combination of intense and excellent musicianship, plus incredible vocal lines courtesy of the ridiculously talented Brittney Slayes, was an immediately appealing mixture. As the Phantoma press release notes, the band blends “power metal, traditional heavy metal, modern prog and pop sensibilities.” This blend is quite captivating. When the chance came to review their upcoming album I jumped at the opportunity. But was Phantoma worth the wait?

To start things off the album sounds great. Clear production with sufficient bottom end is present, but the mix is neither sterile nor muddy. As one would expect with this band, the musicianship is top-notch. The rhythm section drives the music along, the guitar work is exceptional, and the keyboard work adds strong melodic touches. And, of course, Slayes’ vocals are magnificent.

Song-wise there are no duds here, although some songs soar higher than others. As with the previous two releases, Phantoma is a concept album. Per the press release: “The story recounts the trials of AI gaining sentience on a dystopian, near-future planet earth.” Style-wise, the album is fairly close to Abyss with its strong melodic leanings, but the overall feel is darker and more ominous.

Human Era” kicks things off by fading in slowly before an eagle cries. We then get what I would describe as a grungy guitar part as the rest of the song slowly kicks in. Slayes’ vocals are as fantastic as we have come to expect and the mid-paced nature of the song spotlights her vocal lines. The prechorus features a rhythm that keeps you a bit off-kilter, and it works quite well. The chorus is classy Unleash the Archers material with appealing guitar lines, double kick work, and vocal melodies. After the first chorus the verse picks up the pace, but it still is far from frantic.

Ph4/NT0mA” is next, fading in with a keyboard line before coming in full force. The combination of double kick, great guitar lines, and keyboard work gives the song a classy feel. The verse melodies are excellent and are undergirded by solid riff work. The song builds to a soaring chorus that just screams classic Unleash the Archers. The instrumental break focuses on the keyboard work before giving way to a shredding solo. Slayes shows her incredible range on the song’s final chorus.

A hooky chorus opens “Buried in Code.” The galloping rhythm during the verse is a nice touch. The chorus will implant itself in your brain. The drum work on this song is a highlight. I also appreciate the moody nature of the instrumental section that comes in a little over two minutes into the song. The solo here is simply excellent, both shredding and tasteful.

An appealing, subtle guitar part opens “The Collective.” When the song kicks in full gear we get a soaring guitar line and pounding drums. The thrash riffing undergirding the verses is compelling, especially underneath Slayes’ vocal melodies. We get some of the album’s harsh vocals on this song. The chorus has a haunting, ominous feel. The instrumental section is excellent.

Green and Glass” was released as a single and it’s easy to see why. The melodies here are brighter and harken back to Abyss. The verse melodies are excellent. The chorus soars and is immediately likable. We also get a great solo and some compelling riffs.

Grungy guitar work begins “Gods in Decay” before a strong keyboard melody comes in. The chorus sports a galloping rhythm, appealing keyboard work, and strong vocals. The solo work is top-notch.

Give It up or Give It All” falls within the realm of power ballads, but it ebbs and flows in a compelling fashion. The song begins with light musicianship before Slayes’ powerful vocals come in, as well as some tasteful soloing. Each section of this song is excellent and it even sports a sing-along “whoa-oh” chorus. The songwriting here is richly dynamic, although I’d love a return to the excellent chorus before the end.

An ominous keyboard line kicks off “Ghosts in the Mist” before one of the album’s heaviest—and best—riffs comes in. All the riff work here is compelling, as are the vocal melodies. This song sports one of my favorite choruses on the album. We also get some harsh vocals for emphasis.

Seeking Vengeance” ups the intensity. The verses are supported by strong, thrash-influenced riffing. The chorus slows things down and sounds positively dramatic, with Slayes’ powerful vocals joining with some appealing keyboard work.

The album concludes with “Blood Empress.” I really like some of the riffing in this song. The song is more mid-paced and definitely on the side of traditional heavy metal. The chorus is a bit slower in feel at first, but we get some blast beats when it’s repeated towards the end of the song. While the song does not feel as epic as previous closers on their albums have, it is quite likable.

On the whole I am very impressed with Phantoma. Time will tell how it stacks up to Apex and Abyss, but those who enjoyed those albums should find plenty to like here. The album might take a few listens to sink in fully, but the songwriting is compelling and dynamic, the musicianship is excellent, and Slayes’ vocals are incredible. What we have here is another engaging release from Unleash the Archers.

Curtis’ rating: 8.5/10

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS Album Cover

Release Date: May 10, 2024

Tracklist:
1.   Human Era
2.   Ph4/NT0mA
3.   Buried In Code
4.   The Collective
5.   Green & Glass
6.   Gods In Decay
7.   Give It Up Or Give It All
8.   Ghosts In The Mist
9.   Seeking Vengeance
10.  Blood Empress

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS on tour:
Legions of Metal Festival:
5/03 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies

Australia and New Zealand Headliners: 
6/05 – Canberra, AU @ Basement
6/06 – Sydney, AU @ Manning
6/07 – Melbourne, AU @ Croxton
6/08 – Brisbane, AU @ The Zoo
6/09 – Adelaide, AU @ Lion Arts
6/13 – Auckland, NZ @ Galatos
6/14 – Wellington, NZ @ Valhalla

European Festivals:
7/05 – Ballenstedt, DE @ Rock Harz
7/06 – Knislinge, SE @ Time To Rock
7/12 – Visovice, CZ @ Masters Of Rock
7/19 – Laukaa, FI @ John Smith Fest
7/21 – Baile Figa, RO @ Celtic Transylvania
8/02 – Wacken, DE @ Wacken Open Air
8/09 – Villena, ES @ Leyendas Del Rock
8/10 – Walton-On-Trent, UK @ Bloodstock

Supporting POWERWOLF in North America:
8/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Hollywood Palladium
8/31 – Denver, CO @ The Ogden Theatre
9/03 – Chicago, IL @ The Riviera Theatre
9/04 – Cleveland, OH @ The Agora Theatre
9/05 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
9/07 – Tampa, FL @ Jannus Landing
9/08 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
9/09 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
9/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
9/13 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
9/14 – New York City, NY @ Brooklyn Paramount
9/15 – Laval, QC @ Place Bell

Lineup:
Brittney Slayes – Vocals
Scott Buchanan – Drums
Grant Truesdell – Guitar, Vocals
Andrew Kingsley – Guitar, Vocals
Nick Miller – Bass

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS Online:
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