Unleash The Archers rounded off a trek through Europe with Orden Ogan and Rhapsody Of Fire by adding a few headline gigs of their own in the UK. Before flying home to Canada, the metal outfit had one last stop, the ever popular Bannermans Bar in Edinburgh. Think of a metal version of the Cavern in Liverpool, and you are close enough. Tonight, it was rammed. Something that seemed to genuinely surprise the band.
Before Unleash The Archers took to the stage, Damaj represented the west coast of Scotland by bringing their fiery brand of metal to the masses. Having just recorded their debut album in Sweden, it was time to dust off the studio cobwebs by getting back in front of a crowd. Tracks from their EP ‘The Wrath Of The Tide’ were known to the core fans down the front, and ‘Well Of Souls’ particularly stood out, as did the total banger ‘The Testament Of Judas’. The mix of thrash and old school metal works well on the latter, an ambitious track that takes many twists and turns. Damaj did enough in their allocated time to get more than a few people stopping at the merch stand on the way to the bar.
After a quick turnaround, it’s the turn of the headliners, and judging by all the Unleash The Archers shirts in attendance, no-one has just wandered in off the street. With new album ‘Apex’ rightly lauded as their strongest to date, it’s no surprise that Unleash The Archers chose to lean on it heavily tonight. ‘Awakening’ kicks off the album and the live set, a glorious seven minute romp of piledriving bass drum from Scott Buchanan, who towers over the tiny drum kit like Gulliver in Lilliput. Brittney Slayes quickly lives up to her stage surname and unleashes (sorry, couldn’t help it) what can only be described as a true metal voice. As soon as you mention a vocalist alongside Dio, Rob Halford, or Geoff Tate (for me, the holy trinity of metal voices), it provokes a response, intentional or not. Slayes is not the next Dio, Halford, or Tate, they are all unique, but she is the first Brittney Slayes, and deserving of all the plaudits that will come her way. Christ, she can sing! Her classical background no doubt helping with her range. Do yourself a quick favour, go check out the band’s Facebook page, where you will see a video of her performing in an Edinburgh karaoke bar after this show. Anyone that takes on Queensrÿche at karaoke deserves a stiff drink or two, but she totally nails ‘Queen Of The Reich’, trust me. No time to rest after the opening onslaught of ‘Awakening’, as the band power full steam ahead straight into a pair of new tracks. ‘The Matriarch’ has a great tempo, and fists are pumping the air in unison as the dual guitars from Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley get the pit going. ‘Cleanse The Bloodlines’ quickly follows, and the pit takes a slight breather throughout the seven minute epic. Fists are still pumping skywards as the song ends and the band pause to get a breath in the crucible-like heat.
The carnage continues when Unleash The Archers launch into an oldie (of sorts), ‘Test Your Metal’. People are windmilling everywhere, which is actually rather nice, as the breeze is very welcome. Slayes vocals are incredible, delivering a vocal performance truly worthy of the Metal God himself. ‘Time Stands Still’ slows the pace down a notch or two, but the ferocity is still evident, and the neck muscles get a proper workout. Bassist, Nikko Whitworth deserves a special mention for playing with a back injury that makes even the slightest movement look painful. Not only that, but his unique style of playing is incredible to watch. Top work fella! The set begins to wind down with the arrival of ‘Tonight We Ride’, which is marked with some more high pitched screams from Slayes, quickly followed by Buchanan’s breakneck speed bass drum. Featuring plenty of audience participation, it seems to be the perfect way to end the show. Only thing is, the band have to go through the crowd when leaving the stage, and these guys are not for shifting (one fan came over from America so he is not moving yet!). A quickly arranged encore of ‘Apex’ is produced, and the intro is perfect for a little bit of waving one’s arms in the air side to side like a loon. When everyone else is doing it, it’s not so bad. The title track of the latest album is an eight minute behemoth that evokes a vibe of classic Maiden, easily the highlight of the evening, and one that could have been missed had anyone been foolish enough to leave early.
After a quick freshen up, it was beers with the crowd followed by that karaoke stint. Do check it out on the official Unleash The Archers Facebook. These guys are the real deal.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Dave Jamieson