Canada's Unleash The Archers storm the senses once again with their as-advertised-epic concept album, Abyss.
A sister-record to 2017s Apex in both story while piling on the style and genre-melding that the band of berserkers have been known for, Abyss is heavy, melodic, power metal meets death meets folk meets sci-fi fantasy pulpy goodness. Just the type of immersive distraction fans want and deserve as the COVID-dominated summer of 2020 marches on.
Vancouver's own fierce front-woman Brittney 'Slayes' caught up with Metal Injection to talk all things Abyss, the art of concept records and world building, providing unique means of connecting with fans, working with Fleshgod Apocalypse's Francesco Paoli for the albums closing track "Afterlife", and serves up a list of her defining albums and must-binge films!
On Connecting with Fans During COVID-19
It's kind of forced everyone to innovate a little bit here and find another way to stay relevant and to stay out there. Twitch has been a big one for us. I'm really enjoying hanging out on there, and so is Andrew. Hopefully once the record comes out we can get the whole band streaming on there a little bit, just kind of like some impromptu hang outs or questions and answers or that kind of thing. There is no way that touring this fall is going to be a thing, that's for sure at least. And next year is kind of up in the air. So live streams or just connecting with your fans, virtual pubs, videos, podcasts, really help you get out there.
I mean, I personally am so excited for new music Friday, and I'm constantly on my Spotify and looking for new albums and new releases and singles and things like that. I just am starving for something to listen to while we sit at home and can't go out and can't do anything. So I think it's gonna be interesting for sure to release an album during his time. It's either going to be super awesome or not so great.
On Concept Albums and World-Building
We had originally written it to be a two disc album kind of thing. And then when we realized that we wanted to focus a little bit more on each song and make sure that it was the best that we could write it, we decided to do Apex first and then just focus on Abyss later. So it's actually really interesting to have it happen like this because people are really looking forward to finding out what has happened in the story. So it's kind of like a bit of a cliffhanger for an album, which I don't know happens too often out there. But definitely some of my favorite records of all time are concept records. It's interesting that they aren't more prevalent in the scene.
I'm super nerdy when it comes to my hobbies. I'm a reader. I like comic books. I like video games. I like science fiction and fantasy movies. That's just kind of who I am as a person. So I guess it's natural, I suppose you could say, for that to come out in my songwriting and to want to tell a story like so many others that I'm such a big fan of. So it's definitely coming from my personal influences for sure. And I never really even kind of thought of it as world building, but that's an interesting way to put it. And I know Andrew's a really big science fiction/fantasy nerd and so is Scott. And we all are just kind of on board with having this cool underlying motivation for everything, as opposed to just a collection of random songs, you know?
I feel like it really brought us together as songwriters to have this sort of foundation to work with and to keep moving us all in the same direction. And so it wasn't even really about the story. It was kind of about making sure the records were cohesive and not sounding like they were all written by four different people, which is kind of the way that we used to do things. So yeah, it's just kind of a fun way to experiment with songwriting.
On Bending Genre Rules
Yeah, we kind of have always been genre benders or whatever you want to call it. Back in the day it was more like a death/power combination. Even like a metalcore or deathcore kind of power metal combo. But then when Andrew came on board, he was more of a power metal guy and more of a trad metal and that kind of thing, heavy metal, classic styles. So he brought a whole new side of things to us.
He's also big death metal fan and he also loves prog metal. And so as the guy kind of writing a lot of the riffs, it really just broadened everyone's horizons to the point where we all are just excited to try something new. And when he came to us with what was obviously kind of a black metal riff, we were all like, yep, let's do it! Let's give it a shot! We've never done a black metal song before. But then, of course, just because we are influenced by so many different things, it didn't turn into a black metal song. It was just kind of like it had that feeling a little bit, you know what I mean? And that's kind of what we tend to do.
It's like layers to the cake, you know, and the first layer started with us being influenced by djent or whatever. And then we just kind of put our spin and it turns into something completely different with a little bit of a power metal spin on it, I guess. I think vocally that's kind of where people go because of my style. So it's always just kind of like blackened power, metal or death infused power metal or folk infused power metal and kind of a little bit of everything. But we just don't like to put rules or boundaries on ourselves when we write. So we always are interested in trying new things.
On Early Metal Inspirations in Vancouver
3 Inches of Blood was a big influence for me. They were the local boys, but they were the successful local boys, and I looked up to them a lot. I was going to university. I hadn't started the band yet. I'm singing in choir, but I was listening to a lot of heavy metal and it was really going to those 3 Inches of Blood shows that inspired me to start fronting a band.
I mean, aside from my love of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Megadeth and all that sort of stuff, where I was like, these guys sing well, I could totally do this. It was 3 Inches of Blood that kind of cemented that for me, saying, you know, these are just a bunch of guys from Vancouver and they have this really awesome band that's doing really well. Who's to say that I can't do that? So that was really the personal influence for me was the 3 Inches of Blood boys, and I definitely was very upset when they called it quits.
On Her Defining Albums
I mean, there's sort of a few that are the bigger pieces of the puzzle. Operation Mindcrime from Queensrÿche is a good one. And of course Fire Up the Blades by 3 Inches of Blood and Brave New World by Iron Maiden. Painkiller by Judas Priest is like one of the greatest metal records of all time. Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth. The Crucible of Man by Iced Earth is a big one for me, because that was the first time I heard a concept record and I was just kind of like, what? He's telling a story right now?That's the greatest thing ever! Iced Earth has always been a huge influence for me when it comes to storytelling for sure. And I know it's all Jon (Schaffer) and his ideas behind everything and I love hearing what he comes up with next.
On Working With Francesco from Fleshgod Apocalypse
Andrew came to us with that track ("Afterlife") almost completely written beginning to end. And we were kind of like, whoa, what is this? Because he had all the orchestra there and the ocarina, which is definitely my favorite part. And we were going like, okay, are we writing a folk metal record now? Just add that on top of the list of genres that we've included in this record (laughs). It worked and we loved it. It fit.
We wanted a triumphant sort of cinematic end to the record. And he was like, alright listen to this with a grain of salt, but I think that this could be our closer track. And we all agreed that he did such a killer job. So when we brought it to Jacob (Hansen) to record, he was like, OK, well, who's doing the orchestra stuff? And we were like, what, that's it? You've got it right there. He said, what! This sounds like a computer tried to play a symphony.
He said no no no, I got a guy and he had mixed and mastered the Veleno record the year before from Fleshgod Apocalypse, so he knew what Francesco was capable of and was like why don't we get him to take a look at it and see what he can do? And so he did a really great job on everything. He kind of picks the instrumentation. He added some of those little flute trills in there, those little accents and things like that, and then just kind of took everything that Andrew had done and made it better and bolder. But then we did end up taking Andrew's ocarina because I just loved the original one that he had written and how well he did that. So there is still a little bit of Andrew's original intent in there. But for the most part, Francesco just kind of transformed it and did a really great job. We're super honored to get to work with him.
On Movie Recommendations
Well, I'm a big horror nerd as well as science fiction and fantasy. So I don't know if you've seen The Lodge yet? What's funny is for me with horror movies that it's difficult to not fall into those typical tropes. So you got the demon trope, you've got the ghost haunting trope and the haunted item or the haunted person kind of thing. And it's just like, ugh, every time you think it's going to be something super unique and it's just not. And that one, I thought it was great. I thought it was really cool because it was scary in its realism and how that could totally happen. But yeah, that was kind of the one that has stood out to me lately.
I don't know. I've been kind of going back watching some of the oldies. The Fifth Element is always a classic. I can watch that movie over and over again. I haven't had too much time, unfortunately. When I do get a free night I try and use it to Twitch stream. So I haven't really had too much time to watch movies.
On Best Laid Future Plans
Yeah, we are booking for next year. We haven't announced anything yet because who knows what the heck's going on? But we are booking just in case things do kind of manage to clear up and get to the point where live shows can happen again. We're booking for Europe and North America and South America and Australia and Japan, rescheduling everything for the summer. So if all goes as planned, I really just kind of hope that we can be on the road for like six months next year and just kind of hit as many spots as possible and then probably take a little breather. Take some time away to focus on what's next or some personal time with the family or whatever the boys need and just kind of tour the absolute crap out of this, that's kind of the plan.