About Me

Interview with Unleash The Archers

Which band is this that released one of the best albums this year? Brittney Slayes, the friendly and charismatic vocalist, spoke to us about “Abyss” - released on August 21 via Napalm Records - about the composition process and its concept; the favorite author; The Cranberries and more.
It’s worth reading!

M.I. - Hi there. How are things with you and in Canada?

They could be a whole lot worse, that’s for sure!  We, on the West Coast, took the virus pretty seriously right away. So, we haven’t had too much trouble with it, aside from the six-week lockdown right at the beginning.

M.I. - “Abyss” was released on the 21st August, via Napalm Records. Why did you decide for this title and how did you prepare yourselves, in terms of lyrics and music?

The titles for “Apex” and “Abyss” were both decided back in 2016, when I wrote the story for the albums.  “Apex” was titled for the mountain stronghold that our main character lives in, and “Abyss” was titled for the massive expanse of space that is our universe.  The story was written first, then I broke it down into ten chapters for each album, and the boys used that ‘track-by-track’ to write the riffs. Then we arranged everything together, and Scott wrote his drum parts.  Once everything was laid out, I wrote the vocal melodies and lyrics. The lyrics came absolutely last for both albums, and I didn’t really struggle too hard with them, because I knew exactly what had to be said. It was just important that I say it as clearly and eloquently as possible.

M.I. - This is a sequel to “Apex” and the hero, The Immortal, awoke alone out in space with no master to be found. The overwhelming silence surrounds him completely, launching him into a journey of introspection and self-discovery. What quests will he achieve, while discovering himself? Could you please tell us more about it?

Introspection is incredibly important; if you don’t have the strength to look inside yourself and face your strengths and your weaknesses, then you will walk through life blind to your own shortcomings, as well as probably never find what truly makes you happy. The Immortal was constantly blaming his past masters for the fate that was dealt him when he should have been looking at his own complacency in the situation. Once he did that, he finally had the power to forge his own path in life and found the confidence to fight back against the expectations of others.

M.I. - This is a 10-track album. Why these tracks? Was it difficult to choose them?

We are not the kind of band that just writes a bunch of songs and chooses which ones go on the album; “Apex” and “Abyss” were all written with the story in mind and each song had a very important part to play.  The riffs were inspired by the emotional tone and narrative progression of the story.  It was imperative that each song reflects exactly what was going on in the story, otherwise they would be disconnected from one another. I wanted the listener to be able to feel what was going on just as much as they could read the lyrics to understand it.

M.I. - “Abyss” unfolds on another world and dimension, especially sci-fi… I know it’s your favourite genre. Was this album based on any book you’ve read? Movie? Which author do you like the most?

The story is really just an amalgamation of every book I’ve ever read I think, haha. I love science fiction and fantasy, so I tried to come up with a way that both could be portrayed without it becoming too convoluted. For the most part, the story was born of the two main characters and how they would interact with one another, being that they are both extremely powerful beings. I had to determine their limitations and excesses and use them to create motivations and obstacles.
My favourite science fiction author is probably Alastair Reynolds, being that he is an actual astrophysicist. His stories are so well written and reflect the realm of the possible. My favourite fantasy author is much more difficult, hahaha, but right now I think it would be Joe Abercrombie.

M.I. - While “Apex” has a more hybrid sense between Heavy, Power and Death Metal, with “Abyss”, you took a giant step forward and this album is one hell of an album. Were there any barriers or any limits? Which were they?

Thank you. We gave ourselves a lot more time to write “Abyss”, which I think is why it is quite a bit more experimental. We did the opposite actually and gave ourselves zero barriers and zero limits. We wanted to find a way to incorporate many different genres into the album and yet still have it sound cohesive. That’s where the time came into play. We would work and rework a riff for weeks if that’s what it needed in order to fit properly into the bigger picture. We constantly had every other song in mind when working on something, making sure that it made sense with the one that came before and the one that would come after. It was the same with the riffs; if it didn’t have a purpose it was tossed. We dissected absolutely every second of this album, making sure that everything was exactly where it needed to be. There’s no fluff here!

M.I. - Which tracks were a challenge, in terms of riffs, melody and lyrics? And which one was the easiest?

“The Wind That Shapes The Land” was the last song we wrote and I think was the most challenging for all of us. We wanted it to be an epic, an odyssey, to tell its own story within the story, and it had a lot of emotional ground to cover. Things moved around a bit in that regard, and we struggled with which riffs were right and which ones were unnecessary. When it came time to write the lyrics, I broke it up into sections: the intro, the battle, and the recovery. It was super important that I tell the story in a clear and concise way so that the listener could tell what was going on, otherwise it would become quite boring, I think. I used as much vocal movement as possible and used every aspect of my voice to tell the story with melody as well as words. I struggled with how to express some things without being too literal, but figured it out eventually, I think…  It turned out to be one of the favourites of the band actually, so it was definitely worth it to take our time and give it the attention that we did.
The easiest I think was “Through Stars”. The whole song started with that intro riff, and everything else just poured out after that. The song flows so well, and we originally had it ending on the chorus again, but I thought that guitar solo was a better headspace to leave the listener in before coming into Legacy.  Once we figured out how to combine the two it was perfect. The lyrics came easily as well, the whole ambiance of the song projects itself into you and you can’t help but understand the moment.

M.I. - This album was, once again, recorded with legendary producer Jacob Hansen of Hansen Studios in Denmark. How was the trip from Canada to Europe? Was he strict on the sound? In what more ways did he help you?

The trip was fine, uneventful. We are getting pretty good at travelling. So, it was just a matter of getting over the jetlag once we arrived.   We work really well with Jacob; he is an easy-going guy that doesn’t interfere if he doesn’t feel the need to. We always come prepared with every song written and our parts memorized so it is just a matter of laying down the best take we could. He loved the songs we had written, so he made very few changes, and if we asked his opinion on something, he would always throw it back to us, saying it’s really our opinion that matters. He helped out with harmonies quite a bit on “Abyss”, which I loved. I would come with a set prepared and he would push me to do one more, one higher, one lower; it was a lot of fun. We love working with Jacob and hope that we can continue to do so!

M.I. - The first video is the self-titled track. I know it symbolizes five years of hard work for you and it has a mystery vibe. Who helped with the effects? Are there any symbols, regarding the hero? What do they represent?

The video centres around the band being sucked into a portal, which is definitely representative of the “Abyss” and hence represents the album. It was basically us saying “ok, here we go, follow us into the abyss if you dare!” Inviting the listener to join on us the adventure that is the album. Our director Rod Scobie did most of the work, but he has a couple of VFX companies that he works with, so they helped out as well. It was a very tight time frame due to coronavirus; the studio we needed to film in only opened two weeks before the video was due, so it was a long day of filming and many long days of post-production after that, but it turned out alright. Just imagine if we had had months to do the VFX!  

M.I. - “Soulbound” re-introduces the four sons of The Matriarch. Who are they? Who is this character? Tell us more about it please.

In “Apex”, The Immortal is tasked with bringing The Matriarch’s sons back to her so she can kill them in a ritual to achieve immortality. The Immortal does this, of course, and four of the songs on the album introduce the sons one by one.
The first is a politician, a wheeler-dealer that manipulates people into giving him what he wants – this is the first son that we meet in “Soulbound”. The second son is a bit of a cultist and is the one that brainwashes people into working for The Matriarch and himself as well, this is the hooded one. The third son is a soldier, the muscle, and before The Immortal came along in Apex this was the son that led The Matriarch’s armies. At the end of “Apex”, the sons are ‘soul bound’ to The Matriarch, not dead but not alive, forced to do her bidding in a sort of undead state. There is a fourth son, but he is spared this fate because, unbeknownst to The Matriarch, he has a son of his own, and therefore cannot be bound.

M.I. - Roderick Scobie directed “Faster Than Light”, alongside Frame Lab Studios. He even mentioned “The Long Walk”, one of the oldest Stephen King’s novels as an inspiration for the video. Tell us more about the novel.

I have never read the novel; Rod was the one that came up with the idea of us all being killed. Originally it was just going to be us racing one another because, well, we had to see which one of us was faster than light of course. But Rod decided to spice it up a bit, and we all thought it was a great idea. I think the gist of the book is that in a post-apocalyptic world these young kids are forced into ‘the long walk’ kind of “Hunger Games” style, and if they slow down or stop, they die.

M.I. - You did a cover of “Zombie”, from The Cranberries. Why have you chosen this track in particular? Will you do another cover? Which bands or singers would you like to cover?

When I heard how George Floyd was killed this is the song that popped into my head – another child is taken, another family destroyed by unnecessary violence, so this was me showing my support for the movement currently sweeping through the United States. It is extremely controversial but one thing that can not be debated is that racism is wrong. It is disgusting. To think that you are better than another person just because of the colour of your skin. Bullshit. We all have to stand up and stop this from happening. We have to call it out when we see it. Racism needs to end, and that will only happen when we ALL say something.

M.I. - This year you were supposed to come to Portugal to play at Vagos Metal Fest, but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Will you come next year? What do you expect of Portugal, the crowd and the festival?

We have been rebooked for 2021, yes!  We are so excited. We have heard from many people that Portugal is beautiful, so we can’t wait to do some sightseeing. I think the crowd will be amazing, we look forward to lots of energy and lots of singing along! Hopefully it will be able to go ahead and not be postponed due to coronavirus again, we do not want to put anyone in harm’s way, but we really hope to play live again very soon. 

M.I. - Is there a tour plan for 2021? Which countries will you visit?

There is yes, but it is very much up in the air because of the virus – nothing is certain.  We have plans to tour Europe, North America, South America and Australia, but it can only happen if it is safe to do so.  We are planning for the best but preparing for the worst.

M.I. - Thanks so much for the interview. Any final words for your Portuguese fans and readers?

Thank you so much for listening to the new album and thank you for your continued support!  We love you so much and hope to finally see you all in person in 2021.  

For Portuguese version, click here 

Interview by Raquel Miranda