Phantoma by Unleash The Archers

Release date: May 10, 2024
Label: Napalm Records

For 17 years Unleash The Archers have taken the powers of metal into a massive spark of light to reveal its true glory. Despite line-up changes, five studio albums and four EPs in the can, you can tell that the sound will never, ever go away. The masterminds of power metal are back in full swing to kick the doors down with their sixth studio album, Phantoma.

This is a gripping story detailing the controversy surrounding A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) written by front woman and lyricist Brittney Slayes. This was three years in the making for Brittney to bring the story to life, detailing the structures of a protagonist named Phantoma, a Phase 4 / Network Tier 0 unit. Alongside the genre of power metal, there’s also elements of symphonic, prog, and pop rolled into one. The band are taking chances by pushing the envelope even further.

‘Human Era’ starts the album off with the sound of the rainforest, thunderstorms, and an Eagle crying out into the darkness as it swoops in to see what the future has become. Opening riffs and pounding bass drums are setting up the tones that what we’re about to witness isn’t going to be pretty.

There are some elements to the Snakes & Arrows-era from Rush that comes to mind, but a powder kegging-like attack between the doubling guitarists of Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley, setting up this nightmarish scenario Phantoma has to go through. The synthesised arpeggiated attack with a galloping approach between ‘Ph4NT0-mA’ and ‘Buried in Code’ will hit you in the stomach, nonstop with a hardcore punch.

I felt some tugs to Iron Maiden’s golden years in the ‘80s during the process of Number of the Beast and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son rolled into one. The Archers know their love of the NWOBHM movement very well. Mind you, I’m very new to their music, but this here is a roller-coaster ride that’ll never stop!

 

Then, everything changes by walking into the pop-orientated electro grooves for ‘The Collective’ to arrive. Buchanan’s machine gun-fire improvisations on the drums takes the band into battle. Let’s just say that Slayes herself is proving herself that she’s more than just an incredible vocalist, but almost like a conductor, giving each of the band members a chance to have carte blanche when they come in, and when they come out.

Listening to ‘Green & Glass’ brings in the orchestral fight for survival, you can hear the nods to Edenbridge and Blind Guardian with its dramatic overtones that shine brightly, but then the snarling and shrieking cookie-monster vocals come marching in. It sounds as if the late George Carlin puts it, a wolverine who’s high on angel dust!

The epic arrangements, the operatic ascending pop melodies, angelic choir at the end, it’s all there. I felt some tugs to The Bonding on this bad boy. But just as they go to their power metal chops, they go into this mid-to-late ‘80s rocker by looking up to the sky as the invisible man looks down of the planet he created, knowing how messed up things are with ‘Gods in Decay’.

They return to the ballad once more on ‘Give It Up or Give It All’. Now, this took me by surprise. The Archers doing a Power Ballad? Well, why not! There are some nods to Bon Jovi, Cinderella, and Skid Row which comes to mind. Brittney and her fellow band mates have done their source material very well. And they can knock it out of the ball park before returning to their roots once more for the ‘Ghosts in the Mist.’

With its Oldfield and Goblin-sque synthesized intro, the blood-thirsty riffs and rampaging drum work, there is a sense of hope for our main character to go out in a blaze of glory while ‘Seeking Vengeance’ sees the shrieking monster vocal lines come back in action that’ll keep you pumping out for more.

‘Blood Empress’ closes the album out with a bang by returning to the genre once more, but essence of bay area sound of the thrash metal movement as Brittney spreads her wing and flies across the heavens, knowing that she ain’t backing down without a fight. She has a whole lot of tricks underneath her sleeve by giving the character a chance to know that the battle that she’s preparing for, isn’t going to be pretty.

Phantoma is like an imaginative movie inside your head. And for the Archers, they brought out all of the ingredients in all of its passion. If you’re very new to the band’s music, their new album is start for anyone who admires the works of; Edenbridge, Within Temptation, Rush, and Iron Maiden to get an understanding on why this band are still growing stronger than ever.

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