One of Vancouver’s most beloved metal bands are playing on home turf before they start a major world wide tour this summer.

Have you ever bought an new album from your favourite band and after a few listens, you could not remember one of the songs?  Such is the case with me when I got to listen to the new album by Unleash the Archers called Phantoma. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad album!  In fact, I think it’s just so good, that all the songs are so solid that not one at the time of my first few listens jumped out at me.  But no worries, this is one of those albums that borrow into your mind and grow on you.   It’s one of the best metal albums of 2024 so far, I have no doubt in my mind now and as they announced their album release show a few months ago, I began to wonder how well these songs from Phantoma would do live.  FINALLY tonight we get a chance to hear it!

Brittney Slayes

Unleash the Archers are at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver Canada, with support tonight from locals Hyperia and Gross Misconduct.   If you attended the show, you were one of the lucky as this was SOLDOUT rather quickly.  I bet they could’ve sold out the larger Vogue Theatre or Commodore Ballroom just as fast but the Rickshaw Theatre is the premiere establishment for metal that they grinded out in from their birth.

No changes in personnel within the band since we last saw them in 2021, with Grant Truesdell (guitar, unclean vocals), Andrew Kingsley Saunders (guitars, clean vocals), Nick Miller (bass), Scott Buchanan (drums) along with his life partner who is lead vocalist Brittney Hayes (Slayes).

Andrew Kingsley Saunders

First song starts off with Andrew in a black smock like outfit on stage, playing the opening riff to “Human Era” off Phantoma.  Scott starts pounding on drums as the rest of the band rolls out and they let their parts introduce themselves on stage.  I am really digging their style here, as this start gave me a rash of goosebumps from the excitement!   It’s a good choice for Brittany too, as the vocals are not too intense to begin with but steadily move more challenging as progresses

Thereafter they pushed it a little harder, with another from  Phantoma called “Green & Glass”.  If you recall all the major blowback that song’s video received from viewers with the use of AI technology early this year.  That certainly caused some controversy that I feel was an eye opener, especially for the future use by artists, and how fans may perceive it.  So I think it was actually not a bad thing to test drive it for the industry as a whole.  Good on this band for exploring new frontiers, and boldly go where no band may dare in the future.

Nick Miller

Song 3 to 5, with a taste test from the past from 2020’s Abyss album, with “Abyss”, my personal favorite from that album which is “Soulbound”, and thereafter Brittney’s opening scream on “Faster Than Light”.   You had to feel really bad for Grant who struggled on guitar as he was having some technical issues with I believe his wireless for the first 4-5 songs.  I guess if anywhere you want this to happen, it’s on your home field that is always a forgiving audience.  Shit happens right?

You know what this band could use in the future? Some crazy lights and props.  The sound was great but I think once they have a good budget they can dazzle with some better lighting.  This is show was also by far the craziest show I have seen with a merch lineup.  It wrapped around all over the place,  as they probably could’ve used further help in the merch area or next time suggest even a merch area located in or even outside the Rickshaw?   Some wanted to buy merch, but the lineup seemed too daunting to some and gave up.   We want to support you !

This band’s discography is starting to deepin’ now, as they move with a couple from 2017 Apex album with “The Matriarch”, as Vancouverites fist pound and sing this one.   Mid-set at this point, with Andrew’s frantic guitar work at the start of “Awakening” as well as Grant’s galloping guitar work.  Love how they add Grant’s unclean vocals in these songs, which remind me of the band Enslaved.  Also, let me mention Nick Millar, who is out there living the dream since he became an official member of the band.  Always looks like he is having the time of his life and enjoying every second of it smiling out to the crowd.  Scott is not a show boat on drums but he keeps this train in time the entire night.

Grant Truesdell

Prior to song 8, Brittney does a fan vote on what they should play and she says she could not make it out with everyone having a different say.   Then she says “Northwest Passage” and we got a loud roar from crowd.  However they don’t hit that one tonight, which is a testament to how many amazing songs they actually have in their arsenal.   One that I thought was a big hit from the Apex album (and my favorite from them) was “Cleanse the Bloodlines”, was not played.    However, we move on with next few as they re-focus back to Phantoma with “Ghosts in the Mist” which to me has an Arch Enemy feel to it on guitars, and I thought came off fabulous live, and better than on the album. “Seeking Vengeance” where we hear more of Grant’s seething vocals from Phantoma, but we also witness Andrew with most of the killer leads on guitar tonight.  Song 10 is “Blood Empress”, and you know this one didn’t really do much for me on the album but after seeing it live, I thought it was amazing.  Brittney’s vocals were certainly on point tonight.   I now love that song – by the way, if you are a hardcore Unleash the Archers fan you would’ve noticed songs 8, 9 and 10 on the Phantoma album are songs 8,9,10 on this setlist too.  

Scott Buchanan

The farthest they go back tonight is from 2015’s Time Stand Still with “Tonight we Ride”.  It’s no wonder they wait towards the end on this one because this song really tests the limits of Brittney’s vocal abilities, and she does it  just spectacularly as all of us have grown accustomed to seeing over the years in Vancouver.

Here we are at the last song of the set with “Apex”, it’s such an incredible song from that album, as the night seems to have gone by in a wink of an eye.  They come back to the hometown (well we adopted them anyway, it’s really Victoria) fans with a great ending with a sing a long type song with “Afterlife” from the Abyss album.    Such a happy and fun way to end the night and it just felt like we were all sending this remarkable band off on their next journey over sky and sea to tour the world and spread their music to the masses.  That’s no fantasy either, next week they are inflight to the down under in Australia, and I am sure they will do us all proud.


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