By Colonel Angus

I was never really into power metal until recently. I don’t know what changed but I sort of skipped from traditional metal to thrash metal and never really gave power metal much of a chance. Even in the day, when HELLOWEEN was just starting to make waves, I never really caught on to what they were dishing out. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have the soul or emotion that I was craving in my music. Fast forward many years and here I am discovering bands that have been making waves for quite some time. “Abyss” is the fifth full length release from this Canadian group and it is quite the statement. I like this disk because it has some diversity and is not full on power metal throughout.

“Waking Dream” is a great intro that starts off slow and builds to a nice crescendo before launching into the epic title track. The beginning reminds me a little of something BLACKMORE’S NIGHT would do until it really starts to build and goes into metal territory. Elsewhere, “Through Stars” and “Carry the Flame” are chugging metal tunes that have so much melody that you can’t help but sing along with; at least not as well as Brittany Slayes or Andrew Kingsley. I’m also a big fan of prog and prog metal and UNLEASH THE ARCHERS delve into that territory with “The Wind That Shapes the Land” and create this prog power metal classic. Although it is over eight minutes long, it never gets boring or over-stays its welcome. There are a number of twists and turns that keep the song interesting throughout and really is the highlight of the record. For fans of power metal, have no fear, the record has a lot of that material and while almost all of it is top notch, the other flavors of metal that the band inject really stand out and make the whole disk enjoyable. Even the final tune “Afterlife” has this epic, cinematic feel while still keeping power metal as the underlying foundation. That is the type of material that hits home with me and makes “Abyss” one of the better power metal albums I have heard; and this coming from a relative newbie to the genre.

While I hate to pick out one person from the band to shine the spotlight on, I have to admit that Brittany Slayes puts on an awesome performance and her vocal abilities throughout the tunes is other-worldly. She does have a tremendous vocal talent and it on display all over “Abyss”. Andrew Kingsley also shows off his vocal abilities on “Carry the Flame” which are in stark contrast to his “unclean” vocals during other tracks. I’m not a fan of that vocal style but when it is intermingled with Slayes stellar vocals, it works. Kingsley also provides guitars along with Grant Truesdell and while they possess some serious power metal guitar chops, they also have add a good amount of melody and emotion in their playing which makes “Abyss” sound warm and not have that sterile sound. Scott Buchanan rounds off this quartet with almost machine-like drumming while putting in some nice groove into the slower material. I also have to commend Jacob Hansen’s production job as this is a great sounding record. Everything can be heard cleanly and nothing gets drowned out. As mentioned earlier, I was not into power metal until recently and if albums like “Abyss” keep coming out, then I will definitely have to follow other releases. Until then, “Abyss” has been on my playlist for a couple of weeks and I don’t see it being replaced any time soon.