Artillery – X (Album Review)

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Thrash reaches 10 on the intricacy scale.

Of all the consequential acts to come raging out of the mid-80s thrash metal scene, Artillery was among the more closely tied to its traditional heavy metal roots. Often compared to American trailblazers of the style Megadeth, they often aimed for a more nuanced and developed songwriting approach that differed from the extremes in tempo and aggression exhibited by the likes of Slayer and Dark Angel, though they were by no means slouches at bringing out the auditory violence. Following a tumultuous time in the 90s and first half of the 2000s that eventually saw their long-serving front man Flemming Ronsdorf leave the fold, this is an outfit that has managed a particularly consistent career despite constant lineup shifts, but none so severe as the recent loss of long-serving bassist turned guitarist Morten Stutzer to a blood clot in 2019. But by sheer determination and fortitude, de facto band leader and surviving early member Michael Stutzer (Morten’s brother) and the rest of the fold have forged their tenth studio LP, simply titled “X,” to put the rest of the thrash world on notice.

Despite their formative years being more than 3 decades in the past, this is a band that has not forgotten the value in keeping their otherwise elaborate and involved songwriting concise and to the point. Crushing riff work that is indicative of a strong Dave Mustaine influence litters each anthem, regardless of whether being served up at blinding speeds or a more mid-paced crunch, while the vocal work of relative new arrival and helmsman Michael Dahl bears an uncanny likeness to the cleaner approach often heard out of noted New York outfits such as Anthrax and Nuclear Assault. After a similar fashion, the lead guitar work takes a fair degree of prominence, mixing the technical and quirky character of Marty Friedman’s handiwork during the “Rust In Peace” days with a more melodic and singing quality that’s right up the alley of Dan Spitz. Likewise, the rhythm section doesn’t take things lying down for a second, with Josua Madsen making an intense racket at every possible turn, while bassist and 2nd longest serving member of the fold Peter Thorslund has a few overt stand out moments such as the intro to the banger “Eternal Night” and otherwise makes an impressive showing of tying the highly kinetic riff work in with the ferocious drumming.

“X” Album Artwork

As with a number of early figures of thrash’s heyday, Artillery has a stylistically mixed approach to their craft that will occasionally reach back to the earlier mode of metallic fury first dished out by the NWOBHM. Generally mid-paced and groovy anthems such as “Turn Up The Rage” and the chugging coaster “In Your Mind” have a bit more of a melodic and restrained edge to them that veers closer to a vintage Tank or Saxon sound, which makes a lot of sense given that this band got their name from a song by the former. They even take an occasional to veer into acoustic balladry on “The Ghost Of Me”, which comes off as light even when compared to parallel works by Annihilator and Megadeth, but is masterfully accomplished and complements all of the auditory warfare with a more melancholy foil. Nevertheless, this is very much a thrash album in the classic sense, and there is no shortage of unfettered intensity, be it in the form of lightning fast monsters like “The Devil’s Symphony” and “Force Of Indifference”, or slightly less fast but meaty and beastly riff fests like “Silver Cross” and the mystically tinged “Varg I Veum”. Yet amid all these points of contrast, the song that stands out the most is the well-rounded epic thrasher “Mors Ontologica”, which merges the faster and mid-paced elements of this band’s signature sound seamlessly.

With the current thrash metal revival that is often referred to as the New Wave of Thrash Metal approaching its 20th year of scene reclamation, and nearly 40 years since the sub-genre itself was birthed, Artillery proves to be the right band at the right time to remind the masses as to why this brand of metallic fury isn’t going anywhere. It may not quite have the same vintage charm that made “Terror Squad” and “By Inheritance” seminal classics that helped to define this band, but “X” stands tall amid the material that has been put forth across the entire thrash scene over the past couple years, and is definitely worthy of the legacy of the aforementioned albums. The combination of this band’s raw fervor and affinity for the old school found with the smooth and dynamic vocal stylings of current front man Michael Dahl prove a refreshing change of pace from the multiplicity of rawer, quasi-death metal vocalists backed by a more one-dimensionally brutal and dissonant metallic backdrop. Any thrash metal soldier, regardless of generational affiliation, should want to be present to witness this sonic cannon punch a mighty hole through the enemy’s lines.

Released Date: May 7th, 2021
Released By: Metal Blade Records
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Michael Bastholm Dahl /  Vocals
  • Michael Stützer / Guitars
  • Kræn Meier / Guitars
  • Peter Thorslund / Bass
  • Josua Madsen / Drums

“X” tracklisting:

  1. The Devils Symphony
  2. In Thrash We Trust
  3. Turn Up The Rage
  4. Silver Cross
  5. In Your Mind
  6. The Ghost Of Me
  7. Force Of Indifference
  8. Varg I Veum
  9. Mors Ontologica
  10. Eternal Night
  11. Beggars In Black Suits
8.8 Excellent

Nuance is not a term normally associated with thrash metal, but between the infectious melodic hooks and the varied velocity factor, this iconic Danish outfit has brought just that to the table without losing any of the style’s inherent intensity

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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