Review 2203 : Unleash the Archers – Phantoma – English

Unleash the Archers take on artificial intelligence with their new album.

Formed in Canada in 2007, the band comprising Brittney Slayes (vocals), Scott Buchanan (drums), Grant Truesdell (guitar/vocals), Andrew Saunders (guitar/vocals, Sleeper Ship) and Nick Miller (bass, First Fragment, ex-Killitorous) unveil Phantoma this year on Napalm Records.

Human Era lays the foundations for a catchy controlled sound rooted in a fairly modern atmosphere, with some more melodic Prog influences in the background. The mix becomes more energetic with the vocalist and her backing vocals offering unifying parts, before moving on to the heady Ph4NT0-mA, where cutting harmonics join a lively, jerky rhythm. The combination of futuristic keyboards and fast-paced riffs comes very naturally, whether with Power Metal roots or worked leads, then it’s with Buried In Code that the band shows a sometimes more aggressive aspect to its music, while staying relatively accessible elements such as the vocal parts. The Collective develops a little quietude thanks to the keyboards, then the fury resurfaces, borrowing its epic flavors from Melodic Death like the screams accompanying the heavy break, then Green & Glass returns to the motivating approach and its livelier eruptions, not forgetting the Heavy Metal-infused leads. There’s a slightly darker touch on Gods In Decay, but the band manages to make it stimulating by incorporating its Old School riffs and thoughtful solos, before melancholy veils Give It Up Or Give It All, the album’s Power Ballad on which you instinctively shake your head and hum the chorus. Ghosts In The Mist returns to a heavier and more disquieting register, to which the contemporary touches add an intriguing flavour, but the band doesn’t fail to be more ferocious at times, then rage and complexity come to decorate Seeking Vengeance to create an explosive mix that will undoubtedly prove its effectiveness live. The break gives us a moment’s respite before moving on to the second part of the track, which will appeal to fans of musical technicality, and then the musicians offer us a dissonant yet martial sound to close the album and darken its false quietude before a crushing final with Blood Empress.

Unleash the Archers‘ new influences are reflected in their new riffs. Inspired by AI but also more Prog and Electro sounds, the musicians give Phantoma a marked musical identity that will enable them to diversify their setlists and conquer new horizons!


Version Française ?

Few questions to Brittney Slayes, vocalist of the band Unleash the Archers, for the release of their new album Phantoma.

Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Unleash the Archers without using the usual musical labels?
Brittney Slayes (vocals): We are a Heavy Metal band from Canada that started in 2007 in a small town called Victoria. We moved to Vancouver in 2011 and started touring North America as much as we possibly could. Had a bit of a lineup change in 2013 which was when Andrew and Grant (guitars) came on board and changed our sound to more of a commercial one. Signed to Napalm Records in 2014 which gave us the opportunity to begin touring in Europe and making a name for ourselves, and this album is our 6th studio album, our fourth with Napalm.

What does the name Unleash the Archers mean to you, and how is the link with the music you create now?
Brittney: Honestly, we couldn’t think of anything else hahaha. When the band first started in 2007, we all had very different ideas of what we wanted the name to be and we couldn’t agree on anything. We finally sat down one night and decided we weren’t going anywhere until we had hashed it out. About three hours went by and we still had nothing when finally someone said how about ‘Release The Archers’ and then another band member said how about something more urgent like ‘Unleash The Archers’ and none of us hated it, so that’s what we picked. I like it because I’m a history major and I’m also a pretty big fantasy nerd and it just reminds me of standing on the ramparts of a castle looking down on an oncoming battle and I like the epic feeling it conveys. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the music we play now, I suppose it just translates the fact that we are a nerdy power metal band that likes to sing about epic battles and take you on an escape away from the monotony of daily life.

The band’s new album, Phantoma, will come out in a few weeks. How do you feel about it? Do you already have any feedback?
Brittney: It feels great to finally be releasing it, we’ve been working on it since 2021, so for everyone to finally be able to hear it is a relief. We know that it’s not Apex or Abyss, the albums that came before that everyone loves so much, but we weren’t trying to do that, we were trying to do something new and fun and just experimenting with some new genres. Feedback has been great so far from our friends and fans that have the album and some outlets have posted their reviews and they’ve been mixed but that’s pretty much the way it always is. We’re proud of it, we’re going to have a really good time playing it live, and our fans are excited for it and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

How would you sum Phantoma’s identity up in only three words?
Brittney: That’s a difficult question because Phantoma goes through such a drastic change in this story. Do you want her identity at the beginning of the story? That would be hopeful, positive, unwavering. At the end? Disillusioned, vengeful, and angry.

How did the creation process happen for Phantoma? Did you notice some changes 

compared to the previous albums?
Brittney: The creation process was exactly the same on this record as it was for Apex and Abyss before it. We always start with the story. I write a track-by-track overview that explains each song as if it were a chapter of the story, so I usually will explain what is going on in the story for that song, how I want the song to feel tonally and emotionally, how I want the listener to feel when they’re hearing it, how I want the song to sound (so I’ll give descriptive help like ‘heavy and fast’ or ‘mid-pace and moody) and then I will sometimes give examples of songs or riffs from tracks that I like as inspiration for what I was thinking for the sound. Then I send that to the boys, and they come back to me with riffs. They’ll sometimes say ‘hey I was thinking this riff would be good for such and such a song’ and sometimes I’ll say yes it’s perfect or I’ll say no I think that would be better as a different song or very rarely I’ll decide that the riff doesn’t belong on the record at all. Once we’ve got this foundation Scott will write his drum parts, the boys will finish off the guitar parts with solos and rhythms, and then I’ll go about writing my vocal melodies. The very last thing we do is write lyrics; I always wait to do it in the studio just in case a part gets cut so that I’m not having to write something on the fly if a crucial part of the story was being told in the part that is no longer there. Being that this album is about AI, we decided that it would be fun to use ChatGPT to write some of the lyrics. We put a prompt into GPT that went something like ‘Write a song about assassins in the night in the style of Unleash The Archers’, and it basically just pumped out a poem which I used as reference for words and phrases. It by no means worked at all with the existing vocal melodies that I had so I just used it where I could to say that I had used AI to write a song about AI lol. That was for Ghosts In The Mist and after that I just continued to write lyrics as I normally do.

What about the artwork, what were the guidelines you gave Dusty Peterson and how does it fit with the music you created?
Brittney: We came to Dusty with a very specific vision; we knew that we wanted to depict the moment when Phantoma sees the biome for the first time, and we wanted it to have a very science fiction dime-store novel feel. We sent Dusty some inspiration photos that we found online of futuristic cities and lush science fiction landscapes and explained what we were looking for. He came back not exactly sure that his style was right for it, but we knew that he was going to be perfect. He did a wonderful job and we think it’s beautiful. We think that it properly portrays the feeling of awe and beauty that the biomes represent on this near-future planet earth that has been devastated by climate change and is inhabited by a human race that no longer cares about anything but themselves.

You stated that Phantoma’s concept is an AI-inspired album. How did you work on this as a lyricist?
Brittney: It was actually incredibly difficult. Normally I write about things that don’t exist and I can have a lot more freedom with it, but the fact that this is about (near) present planet earth and cities and biomes and things that are all already in existence, it was much harder to veil everything under a guise of fantasy. I don’t like to be too literal with my lyrics, I like the listener to be able to apply their own lives to the story, and to be able to relate to the story without having to know exactly what’s going on. Normally I write in a much more abstract manner, but that was not exactly possible on this one. There’s only so many ways you can say the word computer hahaha. The album itself is inspired by the old school science fiction trope of AI gaining sentience and turning against humanity like Skynet in the Terminator and David from Prometheus. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek and the struggle that androids often undergo when trying to determine their place in the world. Bladerunner 2049 is another one that really inspired this album. I know that it’s something that has been covered many times in many stories by many people, but I just wanted to see if I could put my own spin on it and perhaps have an original take on the idea.

The band’s sound is inspired by Melodic Death Metal and Power Metal, but how do you manage to create your own touch? What are your own favorites from both genres?
Brittney: We are inspired by so many different genres, not just Death Metal and Power Metal. We love Pop, we love Classical, we love Jazz, we love Country, we love Synthwave. I think by combining all of these we are able to create a melting pot of sound that has somehow become our own. At the end of the day though we are metalheads, and so the music that we create does end up being heavy metal but we like to make it fun, for both the listener and us when we play it live on stage. Some of my favorite Melodic Death Metal bands are Soilwork, Amorphis, Gojira and Fleshgod Apocalypse, and some of my favorite Power Metal bands are Dragonland, Bloodbound, Lost Horizon, and Edguy.

The band previously revealed the songs Green & Glass then Ghosts In The Mist. How did you decide to pick those ones precisely? Do you have a favorite song on this album? Or maybe the hardest one to achieve for the album.
Brittney: Picking singles is always tough when you’ve written a concept record, but we always try to pick songs that don’t give away too much of the story, so it isn’t spoiled for the listener. We also like to try and pick songs that have a new sound so that the listener won’t be bored and think that we put out the same album every time. Conversely, we also try to make sure that it has a little bit of the sounds from the record before it so as to not completely alienate our fans with the first few singles. Green & Glass and Ghosts In The Mist were both great standalone songs that didn’t tell too much of the story but were also examples of us trying out new things with our music while not straying too far from what we had done in the past.

Where do you find your inspiration to create music?
Brittney: Everywhere. Comic books, movies, video games, other bands, other artists putting out their new albums. Talking to fans while on the road on tour. The best part about being in a band is being able to write new music and then go out and tour it. We love being out on the road, it’s our happy place. What better reason to get out there and do it all over again then putting out a new album. Personally, I’m not the kind of person that can go very long without coming up with an idea for a song or a story for a record. We’re already working on the next album lol, just as an example.

The band teams up again with record label Napalm Records, how is the collaboration with them?
Brittney: It’s great, we’ve been working with them a long time and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Signing to a label has given us opportunities to play in places that we otherwise never would have achieved, and they provide us with a team that works hard to make sure that every album release is as successful as it can be.

Do you think you improved yourself as a singer and songwriter with this new record?
Brittney: I’m not sure, I feel like my vocal performance was pretty similar to that of the last album, and that I used a lot of the same lyric writing techniques that I always have. Being that this record was a bit more of a challenge to write may have helped me to hone my lyric writing skills but I don’t feel like I’ve done anything more remarkable then on any of the other records.

Did you use any kind of AI in the creation of this album? Do you think musicians and artists in general could take advantage of AI at any point?
Brittney: Yes, as mentioned above we used AI when writing lyrics for one of the songs, and we also used it during the creation of the music video for Green & Glass. It was really just the case that we wanted to say we used AI during the creation of an album that is about AI. I think musicians and artists are already taking advantage of AI. Just the other day we listened to a band that uses AI to write songs that sound like old lounge singers, but they’re singing about the most ridiculous things and it’s absolutely hilarious. It wasn’t anyone’s voice in particular, it was just a generic sound so, I think that harmless entertainment like that is something that is going to be very rampant over the next few years. I think AI is also already being used in the production process in tools like Pro Tools and Logic and who knows how many other programs. I think it’s just going to become a part of everything so much so to the point that we don’t even really notice it anymore. Machine learning has been around for a very long time and it’s something that we’re just going to have to get used to.

Are there any musicians or artists you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, or maybe more.
Brittney: I’ve always loved Tomi Joutsen’s voice from Amorphis; his clean singing and his screams are just perfect to me, and I think he could play really well off of my vocals in a song one day.

What do you know about the French Metal scene? Are there any bands you know and like?
Brittney: Well, I believe Gojira is French are they not? Definitely one of my favourite bands! I am not too familiar with the scene outside of Canada to be honest, but I do know that when we come to France we can only ever get to Paris, and I really hope we’ll be able to change that on our upcoming tour. Where we live in Canada is quite far away from everywhere else and so often bands will only come and play Montreal or Toronto (thousands of kilometres away!) and we miss a lot of great tours, so I think I understand how most of France’s metalheads feel as well hahaha.

If you had to organize a concert for Phantoma’s release show, which bands would you love to play with? I let you create a poster with Unleash the Archers and three other bands!
Brittney: Oh wow, that is a hard one! But I suppose I would choose Bloodbound, Dragonland and Iron Maiden hahaha!

Last and funny question: which dish would you compare Unleash the Archers’s music with?
Brittney: It’s like a stir fry; lots of vegetables and noodles and egg and a little bit of everything, and it’s very filling and healthy, but then you go and pour a delicious sauce overtop to give it all one cohesive taste and voila!

hat was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Brittney: Thank you so much for listening to the new album and we hope to see you on the road sometime in the spring of 2025!

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