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UNLEASH THE ARCHER's Brittney Slayes: "We wish we could turn back time and fix whatever it was that happened, and get to play those shows for those people who have been waiting to see us for so long."

Interview with Brittney Slayes from Unleash The Archers
by Kevin Lewis at 24 September 2021, 5:32 AM

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS is a Canadian Power Metal outfit from Vancouver. Formed in 2007, they spent some time building to what they are now, a powerhouse on the scene who writes epic concept albums that tell their stories both lyrically and musically. To say the least, Brittney Slayes is a great singer/songwriter and an even better person. She is an absolute beast on stage and genuinely nice person on the ground. Having come through the pandemic relatively unscathed, they have started their first North American tour in well over a year. After a rocky start, getting delayed an extra week, they hit the ground running in Providence, Rhode Island for night one of the Unleash The Abyss Tour with AETHER REALM and SEVEN KINGDOMS. Metal Temple writer Kevin Lewis recently caught up with the band for an interview. To see the most watched UNLEASH THE ARCHERS video, and one of the most reacted videos on YouTube, check out the official version for “Awakening” at:

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me! So, you’ve gotten pretty well established on the YouTube review circuit. This is not going to be like your chat on “The Charismatic Voice.” I am not that smart about vocals. I did love watching that video, though!

Brittney Slayes – Laughs. Thanks for having me.

First off, what is your official range? Do you know? Like octaves?

BS – No. When I’m in really good shape, like the best shape perfectly, I can do a four-octave range. Like from my lowest note to my highest note, there is four octaves in there, but that’s when I’m in really great shape and when I really work on it. Regularly, it’s probably like 3, 3 and a half, but I don’t know my lowest note and I don’t know my highest note. Honestly, I just never paid attention.

And that’s perfectly fine. As a fan, I don’t notice what those notes are either, I just know that they sound awesome.

BS – I think there’s a website out there that kind of dives into the music and tries to figure it out. So, maybe give it a Google, it might be out there somewhere.

So, Apex and Abyss both cover the story of The Matriarch, and they have the same story arch. Is it going to be a trilogy?

BS – No, not as of yet. I’m working on some other ideas right now. I just kind of needed a break from the story. There’s that 50-year gap between Apex and Abyss that a lot of things happen, so could come back to that or could do a prequel, or even maybe a sequel. I kind of left it open ended and left options available. But right now, I’m focusing on something new, just something that I haven’t been so familiar with for the last six years.

So, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS is one of the hot new bands in the Power Metal realm. I love hearing that. It’s Canadian Power Metal and you’re touring with some American Power Metal. Going back to the roots, let’s talk Germany. HELLOWEEN did Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I and II, then took about a 25 year break, and then did Keeper Legacy.

BS – Totally could happen.

That open ended you just talked about could be great. Also referring to them, they just brought Michael Kiske back in and Kai Hansen, so they now have three vocalists…

BS – I saw that.

Y’all use three vocalists, is there a possibility that another story going forward may use the different vocalists in distinct characters?

BS – I mean, I tend to use them pretty loosely right now as is. A lot of times I’ll have Grant (Truesdell)  be the voice of The Matriarch, and Andrew (Kingsley) was the voice of one of the sons in Apex so I made him the voice of the grandson in Abyss. That was kind of some, forgot the word now, but tried to keep that as running things throughout, for the most part. I never had them as characters. That’s very much a Metal Opera kind of thing. A lot of times bands will do that, in fact there are a lot of bands out there that do that, like AYREON and

AVANTASIA.

BS – AVANTASIA, yes. Jason from HELION PRIME is doing that same thing kind of a little bit with PLANESWALKER. He loves doing that kind of stuff. I’ve been a part of those projects. I just find that sometimes it can lose the cohesiveness, and it’s hard to follow along with what’s going on when you have all these different voices piping in. And if you don’t know who’s who and who’s portraying which character, it can get a little disjointed. That’s just my personal opinion. I’m not a huge fan of that kind of music, but there’s amazing records out there that do a good job of it. It’s just not something I aspire to do I don’t think.

Okay, fair enough. I’ve heard you use distortion a decent amount, but I’ve never really heard you growl. Is that something you aspire to?

BS – I would love to… (random concertgoer asks if where his car is is a parking spot, so conversation gets sidetracked, not sure the guy even knew it was Brittney Slayes he was asking)…

Is growling something you aspire to?

BS – I would love to be able to do it, but that’s just mostly because I hear it some a certain way in my head when I write it, then I hand it over to Grant, and I say, “Okay, here’s your part,” and he does it a different way. I don’t want to tell him how to do it, because he’s the one who has to do it live. Sometimes I’ll be thinking, “I thought you’d hold this part a little bit more.” And he’ll be like, “Okay, cool, I’ll try that.” Sometimes he’s like, “No, I want to do it this way.” That’s totally fine. That’s the only reason I would ever want to do it. It’s just to really have it come out exactly the way I write it. There’re a million bands out there that do it, so it’s not like I’d be doing anything new.

True. Again, I guess it would give you creative control over how you hear it in your head more than anything else.

BS – Yeah.

It’s always fun to hear when you and Grant harmonize. I guess that works out really well for the listeners.

BS – He’s great, I’m going to use that.

He absolutely is!

BS – I got what I need.

I wasn’t saying try to replace him, by any stretch of the imagination. Especially since watching his fingers fly over that guitar while he’s screaming is mind blowing. So, you just cut Nick Miller into the video for “Faster Than Light”…

BS – We didn’t actually, it was just a joke.

Okay, it was just a joke. I wasn’t sure, so you know, inquiring minds want to know.

BS – Absolutely. Everyone on Instagram thought it was not a joke. It was really funny. We were just like, “oh maybe we should have been a little clearer about this.” We just happened to be across the street from where “Faster Than Light” was filmed. We were like, “Nick, get over there and give us a run.” And we just filmed one quick second of it. I thought it was hilarious that everyone thought it was such as a great idea.

It looked towards the end like he might start tripping.

BS – (Laughs) Yes, yes.

Of course, now that I’m 50, I wouldn’t want to try to run like that either.

BS – No judgment here (laughs)

I’m going three steps and taking a quick break. So, you got held up a week, and that had to have hurt.

BS – Ha, you have no idea.

So, how does it feel to finally be touring in North America again?

BS – Feels great. It’s still not the best time. There’s still a lot going on, and so we’re doing our best to work around everything. We’re really happy to be here and we wish more than anything that we could turn back time and fix whatever it was that happened, and get to play those shows for those people who have been waiting so long for us. We’re going to work on seeing if we can get something in the spring of next year. Just to make up for everything, because all of those towns got cancelled within a couple of days last year. It was just so heartbreaking that we did it again. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about it. It was basically just the worst thing that’s ever happened, so, I’m glad that we’re here and that we made it. I’m so excited to be touring again.

Is there any new writing or recording in the works?

BS – Yeah, that’s what we were going to do next year. We weren’t going to tour; we we’re just going to focus on new material. That is going to have to change obviously. So, yeah, we’ve got the wheels rolling very slowly on some new stuff.

So, the baseline is kind of set, you have a new storyline forming your head…?

BS – Yeah.

Nice! Of course, your fans are going to love hearing that, because we always love new music from our favorite bands. That’s just the way that it is.

BS – That is the greatest thing ever. I love a lot of new bands coming out on Spotify.

Yeah, I found SEVEN KINGDOMS (opening act) because of this tour, so I’ve been listening to them on Spotify for a couple of weeks. They’re a great find. Now that I’m writing for this magazine, I’m finding other bands, but here’s the beautiful thing, when you put out a new album, I can probably request to write the review on it.

BS – Nice.

So, of course I’m going to be doing that.

BS – Hand it over!

“Hey, hey, no! That’s mine!”

BS – Laughs

I’m hoping to do that with SEVEN SPIRES and a few others, because there are some great albums coming out, and we are eagerly awaiting yours because the last two albums have been absolutely fantastic.

BS – Thank you.

I’ve had them on loop for a month in my car now.

BS – Awesome!

I switch one out for the other and just back and forth because the story is very compelling.

(Conversation gets interrupted to chat with tour personnel about items to take inside)

BS – Sorry about that.

No problem, I’m on your time here.

BS – It never ends.

I know that you have to get to dinner and everything condensed down because this is now actually the first night of the tour instead of the fourth.

BS – Yeah. We are scrambling.

I’ve noticed that. I got to watch the soundcheck, and I just cannot wait to see this show. This is my first show since February 29th of last year. I had seven concerts cancel on me last year. I’ve got one that’s already pushed back three times now, and that’s Nightwish. So this is my first one since Geoff Tate, formerly of QUEENSRYCHE.

BS – Wow!

Who by the way is another iconic voice.

BS – Oh, dude, he’s one of my biggest influences.

Nice! Love it. That was going to be my next question, who are some of your biggest influences?

BS – Vocally, Geoff Tate, Dan Heymann. Rob Halford…

So you like the elite.

BS – (Laughs) I like the classic, traditional guys. All the guys you would expect. Ronnie James Dio. He was more of a lyrical, emotional.

He was a lyrical genius.

BS – Yeah. I really just love how he plays with things and he doesn’t care about if it sounds weird or whatever. He just did whatever he wanted to. He was a huge influence for me as well. Like as a front man, Bruce Dickinson is unrivaled in my opinion. I have seen IRON MAIDEN live five times, and every single time I learn something new from that guy.

I’ve also seen them five times, three times in the 80s and twice in the last ten years.

BS – Wow, so lucky!

I’ve seen them in two different eras, and they’re still just as powerful as they ever were. Now, musically, who are some of your influences. You guys are power metal and I hear like some HELLOWEEN, but I also hear some BLIND GUARDIAN, especially with some of the fantasy type lyrics and stuff like that.

BS – I’m not a huge BLIND GUARDIAN fan. I’ve had some songs that I’ve listened to and thought, yeah, this is great, but I’ve never been able to listen to them on repeat like others have, so it’s kind of funny because you’re not the first to say that. People are like, “oh, you must listen to BLIND GUARDIAN” and I’m like no…

I was thinking more the lyrical themes kind of thing.

BS – Yeah, yeah

Hansi Kursch is one of those spectacular vocalists…

BS – He’s so awesome.

but I understand. I’ve never been a huge BLIND GUARDIAN fan, but I did really like DEMONS AND WIZARDS.

BS – Yeah, me too. I really liked them.

They were extremely interesting. So who are some of your biggest musical influences?

BS – QUEENSRYCHE, I love them. Of course, JUDAS PRIEST. Again, Rob really knows how to write a story in one song. He’s all about creating characters for you to connect with. I love that. That very much inspired The Matriarch. With his whole “Sentinel” and “Nightcrawler”.

The “Sentinel” is my all-time favorite JUDAS PRIEST song.

BS – Yeah, it’s like he’s telling this story about an awesome being, so that’s kind of where that came from. ICED EARTH, I love some of their earlier records. They are just so good at writing. Back in the Matt Barlow days, really good at the concept records. Who else, there’s a million of them? I really love FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, they’re big for the heavy side of our music. SOILWORK as well, huge influences. LOST HORIZON for sure, musically. Those guys are shredders and Daniel will always be, in my opinion, one of the best metal vocalists of all time. So, he’s a big influence both in our shreddy writing style and me vocally.

You have two guitarists who absolutely shred. When they harmonize, it’s a thing of beauty, and then when they run away from each other and chase each other back and forth, it’s playful, it’s fun, and it’s incredibly engaging. I mean how do you…

BS – How do I write over that?

Do you write that, or do you just give them a baseline and they work it out?

BS – On Apex and Abyss, I basically said, here is the story, chapter by chapter, so like chapter one is song one. I said, “this is how I want it to sound, this is how I want to make the listener feel, this is how I want the song to feel. It should be super heavy and foreboding, or it should be light and fast.” Then I would give the band a suggestion and be like, you know this part of the IRON MAIDEN song, I’m thinking like that or remember that song from this band… and they took that and wrote the riffs. Then I said yes or no when they brought the riffs to me for certain songs. Basically, Andrew brought “Cleanse The Bloodlines” to me and was like, “I got this song and the riff just came to me,” and I almost wrote the whole song and I said, “That was perfect.”

That riff is absolutely beautiful.

BS – Exactly. Sometimes he would come to me with stuff and I thought, this is just not quite right. It’s not the right feeling or I need it heavier. You know, that kind of thing. Or I’d be like Yes! That’s close, a little less of this or that or whatever. We work through it together.

If I had to choose two songs that you would play tonight, it would be “Cleanse The Bloodlines” and “The Wind That Shapes The Land”.

BS – Oooh. Alright.

So that song, I cannot not air drum to. The bad thing is I typically do this when I’m driving.

BS – Yeah, of course.

Thumb drum on the steering wheel.

BS – The old drive with the knee thing.

Or the heads going back and forth, because of those drums. Of course, I call him Scott Bundy, I know it’s Scott Buchanan, but I have to call him Scott Bundy because of the shirt in the “Awakening” video.

BS – (Laughs)

I’m a child of that era, so I watched the show religiously when it was on. He’s a beast.

BS – He is.

His poly rhythms, the way he can just shift from the full double bass, that back and forth, and then sow everything down… and he does it all with a minimalist drum kit. I mean, he sounds like he should be sitting behind Neil Peart’s drum kit, to go with a classic Canadian drummer.

BS – Yeah.

You have this Power Metal band that does all these fills, classic Power Metal moves, and they feel like they time just right. Like a little bass fill, and it just hits. It seems so precise, so prefect… It’s impressive. How do you figure this out? Do you all end up in the same room going, “okay, here’s the song we’ve been working on. I’ve tweaked my part to this.” Is that how a song fully comes together?

BS – It’s a little bit of everything. For the most part on these last two records, it was very much; here’s the story, then riffs, and then once we got all the riffs sorted, then we put drums and bass to it. Once that was done, I did vocal melodies, then lyrics. It was just kind of this process of making sure everything works and flows properly, then adding the next layer. Then make sure nothing is fighting anything else. The riff process is very much the whole band doing it together. Sometimes, Andy will come with one riff, and we’ll just figure where it should go from there. Sometimes he’ll come with almost a whole song and say, this is where I got to with it, where do we think it should go next? Then we’ll jam it out and play it together. Sometimes he’ll come up with something on the spot and we’ll riff on that. It’s really just a lot of applying the layers once it’s laid out.

Like in the lyrical overlays in “Soulbound”, where you have the low going and the really high coming in over that, You guys are experts at layering the tones. I don’t hear a lot of keyboards, but I do occasionally hear strings or something.

BS – We put synth on it, but it was just because we were trying to do something new. There was nothing on Apex. Apex is very much a grounded, fantasy record. I wanted Abyss to be like an ethereal space, science fiction record. So, we were all into synth, got super into synth and dance and electric and a lot of synth-wave and retro-wave, so we’ve been listening to a lot of that. What better way to make Abyss a science fiction record than to use synth, so we used that for the first time on this record, and that was very much a part of the guitar process. Some riffs, Andy would write it on guitar and add a little something in the background, but others he wrote solely by synth first, then that inspired the rest of the song. So, it’s a little bit of both on that.

Interesting. You don’t really add many symphonic elements.

BS – No, it was just a sprinkling.

So, that’s not something you aspire to? It seems like it really caught with a lot of bands.

BS – We’ll put it on the next record. I think we will keep synth in there, but it will never be a full-on instrument like it is in other bands.

With a lot of bands, like NIGHTWISH and SEVEN SPIRES and some of those others, they’ll layer in not just synth, but strings and woodwinds and all that stuff. That’s not something you aspire to?

BS – I don’t know. I mean, we did it in “Afterlife” because it just felt right for the song. I don’t think we’re ever going to be a symphonic band. That’s very much what I equivocate with that. If you are playing symphonic metal, you are going to add in those orchestras all the time. I think we’re just going to kind of dabble here and there.

There are a lot of bands that do cross over, but you excel at power, power and progressive.

BS – That’s the fun stuff!

There’s a lot of progressive in y’all as well. Some of your shifts and changes, the tempo will just all of a sudden turn on a dime. That’s obviously part of the prog. Now, I love power and prog and symphonic, love the NWOBHM, I’m a thrash guy from years ago.

BS – We’ve got a little of that in there, too.

So, you’ve got all these elements, but you really specialize in power and prog, and it’s really impressive to hear. Your entire catalog is good, but these last two albums have been stupendous, and we really can’t wait for the next one. I know you’re busy, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I really don’t want to take up any more of your time. I really appreciate you taking to time to speak to me.

Thank you so much.


BS – You’re very welcome.

How was the show, you ask?

The band love their fans and prove it by playing a high energy set consisting of some of their best music. They played almost an hour and a half and it was like hearing the story of The Matriarch condensed to the time allotted. Starting with “Waking Dream”, they drew the crowd into the story. They played a decent amount of Abyss up to “Faster Than Light”, then hit a few songs from Apex, plus “Tonight We Ride” (their second most watched with almost 10 million views). They finished this killer set with “The Wind That Shapes The Land” and “Afterlife”, two crowd favorites. Fans will understand this is a blending of the last two records they’ve done, telling the story of The Matriarch in both eras. If you ever get a chance to catch this band live, do yourself a favor and get the whole experience; concert, meet and greet, sound check (if offered) and then hit the merch table. The guitars are electrifying, the bass pounds through the speakers and the drums lead the charge from start to finish. Vocals are on point and brilliant. The stamina of every member of this band is amazing and it makes for a great show. This is a show you feel in your soul. Many thanks to Brittney and the band (Andrew Kingsley, Grant Truesdell, Nick Miller and Scott Buchanan) for putting on a great show and (re) “Awakening the love for live music!



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Edited 16 October 2021
 

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