Artillery are thrash legends. Pure and simple. Their Fear Of Tomorrow debut, released way back in 1985, was a direct shot up the ass of their peers and both Terror Squad (1987) and the sublime By Inheritance (1990) established them as technically astute thrashers par excellence, during what was a particularly fertile period for these Danish denizens of all things thrashy.
However, Artillery circa 2021 are categorically not the Artillery of their glory days. With founding member and guitarist Morten Stützer sadly departing this world in 2019 and latter day albums such as Legions (2013) and The Face Of Fear (2018) proving to be good, not great (and saddled with a little too much power metal pomposity to sate the appetite of old-school fans), Artillery were seemingly on a steady yet not particularly impressive trajectory. Fortunately, new album, X, sets Artillery back on a resolutely thrashing path, and one that belies their years and results in Artillery penning their finest album since By Inheritance.
High praise indeed.
But well worthy of it, especially when you kick-start an album with an opener as feverish as “The Devil’s Symphony”. Sounding lively and committed, Artillery’s distinctive style is evident and yet the ‘changes’ observed over the preceding years have now been assimilated more succinctly. Sounding pumped-up and full of ambition, Artillery are heavy yet highly (and we do mean highly) melodic throughout – with “Turn Up The Rage” proving particularly potent – and, overall, this superb set of tracks gave us the all-important thrash feels in our soft and squidgy bits. Tingly!
We are gonna hark back to the melodic thing here though as there are times when X is so damn melodious that we’d swear Artillery are aiming for some kind of pop-thrash mash-up…..and it works too! Heavy as fook one minute, soaring the next, Artillery clearly had fun writing this record and they’ve put everything into it.
It’s worth acknowledging that fellow founding member Michael Stützer and new blood Kræn Meier have seemingly tapped into an inexhaustible well of inspiration, with X’s riff-work proving to be the most urgent and memorable since the bands heyday, and while frontman Michael Bastholm Dahl’s vocals fail to conjure the same histrionic fervour of original frontman Flemming Rönsdorf , he applys himself admirably well, dialling back (a little) on the power metal preening in favour of a highly melodic thrashier style.
How Artillery have managed to sound this exuberant 40 years into their career is anyone’s guess….but it sure is a pleasant surprise! Old-school (melodic) thrash fans will be pleased. 8/10.
Artillery’s X was released on May 7th, 2021 via Metal Blade Records