Interview by Alessandra Cognetta
Canadian heavy metallers Unleash The Archers have recently released what s probably their best work yet with “Apex” [read our review here] an incredibly heavy and incredibly well-crafted album that conveys their style to the fullest. I had the chance to talk about “Apex” with lead singer Brittney Slayes to learn more about the themes of this concept album, how the band approached it from a musical and lyrical standpoint, what to expect from the band in the future and… working with a gyrfalcon!
Hello and welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, Brittney! How has it been going for Unleash The Archers since the release of your latest album, “Apex”?
Hello Alessandra! Everything is going great so far, I think! The album has been selling well and we are getting some positive reviews so that helps 🙂 Every day we receive messages from fans and they really seem to be enjoying it so, that’s what matters the most to us 🙂
While I was listening to “Apex” I couldn’t stop thinking “This is a kickass album!”. What is it in your opinion that Unleash The Archers brings to the table to create this “fervor” in your music?
Thank you! I think maybe it is just a passion for creating music that comes across, as we work very hard to write music that is fun not just for the fans but for us as well, so that when we play it we have a good time too! We try to keep our music upbeat and approachable, so that even those that are new to metal can find something they like. I think it is important for musicians to ignore the expectations of others and just create music that they are proud of, no matter what others’ opinions may be, because the day you stop doing this for the love of it, and do it for someone other than yourself… That is the day you write hollow, meaningless music that means nothing to anyone!
“Apex” celebrates the band’s 10th anniversary. What is the memory (or memories) that you cherish the most from these first 10 years of Unleash The Archers?
For me the best memory so far is our first Europe tour with Tyr and Sirenia. We all had such a good time and really became great friends with all of the bands. It was so exciting to finally play these European cities that we had been shipping CDs and t-shirts too for so long hahaha! The fans really came out for us and it was great to finally put some faces to names I have known for a long time 😉 Unfortunately we did not get to play any Italian dates on that tour but we had several fans drive up to the Swiss shows so we have done our very best to make sure there are Italian dates on the next tour!
For this record you worked with Jacob Hansen from Hansen Studios, in Denmark. How did this affect your approach to the album compared to your previous releases?
Knowing that we were going to be abroad and only had three weeks to get all of the tracking done meant that we had to be ready, and I mean really ready, before we left for tour, because we were in Europe for three weeks and then right into the studio. We pre-produced like crazy, making sure that as much as possible was written and solidified prior to arriving in Denmark. I of course was only half done my lyrics but I knew I was recording last so I had two weeks to catch up 😉 We were also very familiar with Jacob’s mastering style, as the fact that I am a HUGE fan of his work (he has done almost all of my favourite albums, including “Under the Grey Banner” by Dragonland and “The Living Infinite” by Soilwork) was the whole reason we decided to work with him. So, we wrote some pretty heavy guitar parts and focused a lot on downpicking, to get that powerful, full-bodied guitar sound that Jacob is so good at. We are so happy with how this record turned out, there is no doubt we will be returning to Jacob for the next one!
The lyrics are as powerful and straightforward as the music, but are there any specific themes or messages that you wanted to convey while you were writing them?
The album is a concept record, so there is one linear story throughout, but aside from that I cannot honestly say that there was one theme or message I was trying to convey… Perhaps that absolute power corrupts absolutely… 😉
The story follows our protagonist, The Immortal, as he serves the antagonist, The Matriarch, in her quest for immortality. Although they are both equally powerful, The Immortal is tethered by a curse that forces him to serve whoever awakens him, and this circumstance has kept him humble and just. The Matriarch on the other hand, has never had anyone or anything stand in her way, and because of this her thirst for power grows unchecked and with seemingly no end. In due time however, I think the Matriarch will soon learn her lesson…
Your vocals on this album are top-notch. Extremely powerful and precise, with great range and a clear sound. How did you develop this style and how do you maintain your voice in shape without neglecting any of its nuances?
Thank you. I have taken a lot of influence from other singers, mainly Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon) and Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), and I do my best to emulate their tone and power. I always warm up before every show and I take care never to drink ice water or eat dairy; both of these are very bad for your vocal chords. I sing along to my favourite bands to keep my voice in shape during time off, and I always give myself ample time to work up to those wails and belting chest-voice parts; can’t just do those right off the bat!
I read that you have more of a classical background, and even worked in musical theatre productions. Is there anything from this kind of training that was useful and anything that you felt as a barrier to achieving your current singing technique?
Learning how to use and strengthen my diaphragm was probably the most important lesson I learned from classical training. Your ‘voice’ is actually made up of three parts of your body: the diaphragm, which is a boomerang-like muscle that supports your lungs, the vocal folds, which are in your throat and control the air movement through your trachea, and the mouth, which combined with tongue, cheeks and lips, is what controls the sounds and tone. All of these are important but the diaphragm is where it all starts. Think of it like the foundation of a building, without it, over time the building will collapse! Your voice is the same 🙂
You filmed a very atmospheric music video for your first single from “Apex”, “Cleanse the Bloodlines”. What can you tell us about the concept of the video and the filming process?
I can tell you it was very cold! It was snowing almost the whole time… But then, we lit the fire around sunset, and it became very hot! Our clothes were constantly being hit by sparks and even our hair was burning hahaha 😉 But other than that filming went very well and it was an amazing experience. Getting the chance to work with a real live gyrfalcon was one of the most incredible opportunities I have ever had, and he was so cute and such a little ham for the camera! I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with him both on and off set 🙂 The concept was loosely based on the storyline, being that we had The Matriarch (the woman), The Immortal (the hooded character) and The Soldier (one of the Matriarch’s four sons, whom The Immortal must bring to her so she can kill them to achieve immortality). The action that plays out in the video does not mirror the song exactly, but it extrapolates a little bit on the main plot of the album. It was all thanks to our director Richard Olak, who has a great eye for the epic 😉
We’re in the middle of “festival season”. Are there any places where we can catch Unleash The Archers live in the upcoming months?
Unfortunately we will not be playing any festivals this year but we will be coming to Italy and the rest of Europe this fall with Orden Ogan and Rhapsody of Fire! You can check out our tour dates on Facebook or follow us on the Bandsintown app to see if we are playing close to your town 🙂
Thank you so much for your time, Brittney! We wish Unleash The Archers all the best with “Apex” and hope to see you soon on the road. You can leave a message to fans and readers here!
Thank you so much for having me! Really appreciate your support of UTA and for taking the time to learn a little bit more about us 🙂 If you would like to reach out we are most communicative on Facebook, or you can follow us on Instagram or Twitter! And we have our own online merch store if you are interested in picking up our older albums or any t-shirt designs that Napalm Records doesn’t have, or if you would like to get something signed by the band 🙂
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