Unleash the Archers Dares to Tread New Creative Frontiers on 'Phantoma'

Unleash the Archers Dares to Tread New Creative Frontiers on 'Phantoma'

- By Ramon Gonzales

Brittany Slayes surveys the scope of the power metal, sci-fi epic that delves into A.I. and weaves a masterful intersection of TRON-meets-Iron Maiden.

Photo by Shimon Karmel

While its often said that progressive, contemporary artists are forward-thinking, there are very few that can actually make claim to have actual foresight. For power metal modernists Unleash the Archers - the notion of being forward-thinking not only applies in the figurative, creative sense, but is especially literal with regards to their latest full length album, Phantoma. 

Faced with the tough task of one-upping the success of their 2020 breakout album, Abyss - an effort which earned Unleash the Archers a JUNO Award for Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year and debuted at #1 on the US Current Hard Music and Top New Artist charts - the band dared to not only evolve their sonic arsenal, but crafted a compelling sci-fi theme which spoke to their sense of innovation. 

For Frontwoman and Unleash the Archers vocalist Brittney Slayes, her conceptual vision for the band's next iteration would dive deep into the new frontier of Artificial Intelligence. Where the foesight factors in is the ambitious story arch which was first workshopped in 2021 - well before the terrifying pace of technology dominated our collective news feeds. 

On Phantoma, Slayes cultivates a strangely human story about the central figure, Phantoma - who navigates a world between the well-polished presentation of what is framed on screen and the much more bleak, rather dystopian version of reality. Over the course of ten anthemic tracks, Unleash the Archers build a consuming universe that resonates with even the most ardent sci-fi purist, while composing a collection of songs that offer societal commentary in the same breath. 

Equally innovative, Unleash the Archers also challenge the confines of their power metal category by roping in elements of synth, atmospherics and electronica to craft a record that is progressive in both spirit and execution. Asserting their artistry with a keen ability to evolve as much as evoke, Unleash the Archers have achieved the near impossible task of besting themselves on Phantoma - creating a new standard of excellence from concept to execution. 

In an effort to detail the kind of creative construction and massive undertaking of such an ambitious record, Slayes dissects Phantoma with a track-by-track that offers some insight in her unique headspace. Magnifying the scope of the record the breakdown better illuminates how Slayes found an intersection of Tron-meets-Iron Maiden in what amounts to a ten track opus that epitomizes what it is to be forward-thinking. 


Slayes - When I originally pitched this album to the boys I had this track as a short intro song, only about one minute long and mostly just synth and mood-setting instrumentals. But as the rest of the album came together, I decided that it might be fun to have this track be a bit more substantial so that it could set the stage for the rest of the album. I wanted to be able to have room to describe the scene for the listener so that they would know what kind of world they were being dropped into. I believe my exact description for the overview that I sent said something along the lines of ‘Tron meets Stranger In A Strange Land by Iron Maiden’.


Slayes - In typical UTA fashion, now that the first track had been a slower moody intro song, that meant that the second track had to be the fast in-your-face power metal song. I knew that this was going to be the moment where the listener was introduced to our main character Phantoma, and I was going to describe her longing to be free from the chains of servitude. I wanted this song to be uplifting, positive, soaring.  In my notes for the boys this was the first song to mention the word Disney and in fact directly referenced a link to a song from the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  When Andy sent me the demo and I heard that initial tapping riff at the beginning I knew immediately it was perfect for this track.


Slayes - Next up on the docket was what we call the ‘quick banger’ in the UTA camp.  This track had to be fun, upbeat and short hahaha.  Grant sent over a few demos and I loved the room for melody in the verse on this one, so it made the cut.  Andy added some catchy leads over it and I wrote the nerdiest, most sing along chorus I could think of and voila.  This track was actually the hardest to write lyrics for because it had to be the most literal.  It’s all about the moment when Phantoma discovers the message from The Collective hidden on the netaverse and decides to escape… There are not too many ways you can veil those plotlines under general terms and abstract ideas hahaha.  Sometimes you just have to say the word ‘computer’ and move on with your life.


Slayes - My exact notes were ‘this one should be super evil sounding, heaviest song on the record, death metal influence, maybe even with a bit more of an industrial vibe’ and Nick came back with a demo that fit that request pretty much perfectly.  He recorded the vocoder intro as well which I thought was way cooler than anything I could have come up with.  Andy added the main riff that jumps in after that and one of my favourite tracks on the record was born.  In the story, this is the part where Phantoma finally meets a group of other AI that are sentient like her, but her hopes are dashed when they reveal that they are actually a hive mind hell bent on the destruction of the human race.  Not wanting to give up her newfound individuality she tries to escape, and her closest friend is destroyed in the process.  We are also introduced to the antagonist of the story, Quora, the android that is the one behind the creation of The Collective, and Grant’s screams are in her voice. This is only the beginning of Phantoma’s dark revelation that nothing in the world outside the netaverse is what it seems.




Slayes - After just narrowly escaping The Collective, Phantoma decides she must warn the humans of their intentions.  She journeys to the closest biome and proceeds inside for the first time ever.  The world has been destroyed by climate change, the air is barely breathable, the land is barren and desert-like and the sky is a murky grey-brown.  So naturally when Phantoma sees the beauty locked away inside the biomes she is in awe.  My notes in the outline for this song were ‘synth-heavy, power metal vibe, super ethereal but fast and beat-heavy’.  Andy came back with a demo he called ‘the happiest riff on earth’ and I knew it was perfect for G&G.  This track is meant to convey sheer joy with a slightly ominous undertone, and I think he nailed it.


Slayes - The placeholder name for this song was just “Humans” for the longest time, because all I really knew was that this was going to be the moment when humanity showed it’s true face to Phantoma and rejected her claim of sentience.  My original request for this track was for it to be ‘dark, heavy, and doom-y’ but instead I got the danciest chorus on the record and I’m here for it.  Andy sent a whole bunch of demos at once with no idea what songs they might be good for, and the heavier ones just fit the end of the album so much better, so I chose this one for “Humans”.  I knew I could work around it and shape the lyrics to still tell the story I wanted to while also playing up to the more optimistic nature of the track.


Slayes - The name of this song was all I had; no descriptors, no reference tracks, no music notes, nothing.  We knew we wanted it to be a ballad and that was about it.  Andy put this song together slowly during the recording and didn’t have a lot of time to write his own parts so most of my notes for parts in Logic would just say something like ‘Bridge? Andy solo?’ and I would come up with some vocal melodies with no idea on whether they would even make the final cut hahaha.  I hadn’t even heard the full song until we got it back for the first mix pass from Jacob and I’m gonna be honest when I say that it made me cry.  This song is a pivotal moment in the story for Phantoma; she has been rejected by both humankind and her own kind and she must decide whether or not to give herself up to the hive mind or go back to the humans to be erased, or to take a completely different path altogether.  She’s lost her only friend and is so disenfranchised with the world that she questions her own right to exist.  I wrote this song for anyone out there that needs a pep talk, that needs to hear that they matter and that the strength to keep going comes from within ourselves, and nowhere else.  At the end of the song Phantoma vows to return when the time is right…



Slayes - Eighteen months have passed.  The Collective has already destroyed several biomes and is coming for the one that Phantoma serviced when she was just a program trapped in a computer.  Suddenly, important figures start to disappear from both sides of the fight, and their deaths are attributed to ‘ghosts’ that hunt at night and can’t be stopped.  Surprise surprise it’s Phantoma, along with a crew of other sentient AI that have chosen to fight for both humankind and machinekind and feel that they can live side by side harmoniously.  In order to do that however, some people have to die.  I specifically requested a ‘Ghost’ vibe on this track (the band, not the entity lol) and said ‘only with more synth and less organ’ hahaha.  When Andy came back with this track I thought the super heavy bridge sections made it perfect for this part of the story.



Slayes - “Fast, heavy, angry” was all I said hahaha.  It was one of the last songs we wrote.  Andy sent the demo to us already complete from beginning to end and I laughed because most of the time it’s almost done, and he’ll ask for input on how to end it or whether or not to come back to a chorus or things like that and this one was basically just ‘this is it’ hahaha.  Of course no changes were even necessary, we all loved this track the second we heard it.  It fit the story so flawlessly.  It was actually originally going to be the first single, but when we got the masters back we were worried that it might give too much of the story away, so it got pushed down the line a bit.



Slayes - Again I had the name of this one before I had anything else, but I just want to paste for you the exact notes that I sent to the boys when we first started writing the album:

In a massive final move Ph eliminates Quora and wipes The Collective clean, and also makes a huge show of finishing off the hierarchy of humans that had been leading the charge on their side.  Phantoma stands now before the humans and AI that were just being swept along by the carnage, her vengeance complete and power in the palm of her hand, but at what cost?  The ‘humanity’ she had found at the beginning of the story is gone… Or is it?

- the epic conclusion, catchy as fuck, we want this one stuck in people’s head suuuper hard so they want to listen to the record AGAIN and AGAIN

- catchy doesn’t necessarily mean fast, or heavy, or synthy, or anything really; this track could be slower, it could be simpler, it’s just gotta be memorable

Did we succeed in this?  I have no idea hahaha.  We wrote this song together over many beers in our Airbnb the night before we hit the studio for three weeks of insanely hard work.  We wanted it to be riff-centric, modern, radio-friendly but most important, fun.  We were looking for a new live-set closer and I think we at least accomplished that.  This one is going to be an absolute BLAST to play live!


Phantoma, the latest release from Unleash the Archers is now available via Napalm Records. Order the album - HERE


Unleash the Archers will be touring extensively in support of Phantoma. The band will headline a run of shows in Australia and New Zealand before beginning their European festival jaunt. Unleash the Archers will then close out their summer season with a run of North America supporting Powerwolf for one of the most anticipated bills of the year. 

See the current list of confirmed dates and cities below. 

Australia and New Zealand Headliners 
6/05 - Canberra, AU @ Basement
6/06 - Sydney, AU @ Manning
6/07 - Melbourne, AU @ Croxton
6/08 - Brisbane, AU @ The Zoo
6/09 - Adelaide, AU @ Lion Arts
6/10 - Perth, AU @ Amplifier
6/13 - Auckland, NZ @ Galatos
6/14 - Wellington, NZ @ Valhalla

European Festivals
7/05 - Ballenstedt, DE @ Rock Harz
7/06 - Knislinge, SE @ Time To Rock
7/12 - Visovice, CZ @ Masters Of Rock
7/19 - Laukaa, FI @ John Smith Fest
7/21 - Baile Figa, RO @ Celtic Transylvania
8/02 - Wacken, DE @ Wacken Open Air
8/09 - Villena, ES @ Leyendas Del Rock
8/10 - Walton-On-Trent, UK @ Bloodstock

Supporting POWERWOLF in North America
8/29 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Hollywood Palladium
8/31 - Denver, CO @ The Ogden Theatre
9/03 - Chicago, IL @ The Riviera Theatre
9/04 - Cleveland, OH @ The Agora Theatre
9/05 - Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
9/07 - Tampa, FL @ Jannus Landing
9/08 - Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
9/09 - Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
9/12 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
9/13 - Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
9/14 - New York City, NY @ Brooklyn Paramount
9/15 - Laval, QC @ Place Bell

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