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Artillery – X

Artillery
X
by Leanne Evans at 25 May 2021, 12:37 PM

ARTILLERY is synonymous with being one of the early influencers of the thrash scene way back when. The original Danish thrash beasts have been speed demons over the years, serving up deliciously riff-centric offerings throughout their catalogue, which spans a few glorious decades, even with a few bumps in the road along the way and personal tragedies. Today, with vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl marching ARTILLERY forward since 2012, the band bring their tenth studio album, “X”. These guys have never been ones to deliver the rawer, filthier side of thrash; they’ve always come across as ‘thrashers with manners’ to me, comfortable in their own skin offering up a cleaner, more polished sound. Nonetheless, the guys have created a diverse eleven track offering for your enjoyment, so let’s dig in…

“The Devil’s Symphony” opens up the album with raging energy, lethal speed and plenty of double-bass drumming and catchy licks. The syncopated rhythm in places and dissonance of the vocals layer an unnerving, but infectious, feel about the track, and the more you listen to it, the closer you feel to a DIAMOND HEAD-esque creation. It’s a great almost neck-breaking start to “X” and merges seamlessly into “In Thrash We Trust”, which is a great example of ARTILLERY’s take on bullet-spitting brutality, but ironically not quite as ‘thrashy’ as one would hope. The pure speed hits like a bullet train and savagely ravages, with the soaring solo mid-track absolutely belting; this is the kind of anthemic sound familiar of the NWOBHM, but with all the aggression of traditional thrash. The same can be said for “Turn Up the Rage”, which is brimming with plenty of formulaic old school heavy metal tricks and transpires as a great foot-tapping, head-nodder of a track.

ARTILLERY has mastered serving some rather delicious heavy metal moments, of which “Silver Cross” doesn’t disappoint. Deep bass line trails throughout the track with melodic riffs a plenty, pulsating drums and a catchy vocal hook. Again, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m supposed to be listening to thrash… this doesn’t pull through as much as I’d like, but it’s, nonetheless, enjoyable. “In Your Mind” doesn’t blister with the brutality that I’d expect midway into “X”, but still, it’s a great bit of sonic satisfaction with the heavy metal leaning it carries with a contemporary twist. The mid-section of the album is, for sure, VERY diluted with thrash tendencies, as seen in “The Ghost of Me”. The track is pleasant, offering an introspective aspect and pensive reflection, with a polished SAXON meets SCORPIONS meets ACCEPT feel… but do I want that from my thrash? Not especially.

Thankfully, there are very few low-key moments on “X” and “Force of Indifference” salvages the tame ballad sounds of “The Ghost of Me”, opting for a more brutal aural attack, just the way you like it, picking up the lightning speed ARTILLERY so incredibly and masterfully execute when they get it right. The ‘squealies’ come through perfectly, with great lead guitar action and all the bone-breaking skull-crushing authenticity you need to fill your thrash-o-metre right back to the top. “Varg I Veum” continues the sonic onslaught further, compounding everything into a meaty tonne weight of aggression and then there’s the ‘new’ KREATOR sounding “Mors Ontologica” that rips at your metaphorical thrash gnads, and snarls like a demonic beast as it does so, with the guitars and drums simply rolling over you, especially with the virtuosity and sincerity that comes with the solo later in the track. ARTILLERY nail the shit out of their music when they get it right, it’s spot-on!

Rounding off “X”, ARTILLERY opt for a MEGADEATH sounding track in penultimate piece, “Eternal Night”, with its fillllllthy projection from the rhythm section and, incidentally, it vocally displays as the most abrasive on the album, with grit and balls bigger than an elephant’s. But, my God, do ARTILLERY save the best ‘til last?! “Beggars in Black Suits”, this is EXACTLY what I’ve been craving throughout the album! The guys switch to their thrash roots with an absolutely thunderous BANG! producing a track as nuclear and thrash-meltdown worthy as Chernobyl mating with Fukushima. The guitar action is utterly sensational, everything about this piece sodomises you with sound, the relentless drumming, the grit, the over-the-top tempo, down to the traditional political thrash thematic. Absolutely *chef’s kiss*.

Over the years, there have been many moments where ARTILLERY has almost lost its thrash identity and led the way as more of a heavy metal outfit with thrash undertones in places. The latest release, “X”, is very true to this almost confused sonic output, but then it’s impossible to expect that ARTILLERY would be able to emulate the same sound from when they first started out, especially with multiple line-up alterations. That said, the likes of TESTAMENT, KREATOR and SLAYER managed to stand the test of time and ensured that, even with line-up changes – some more than others – their fistfuls of brutality still packed a punch. The ultra-clean vocals from Michael are very pleasant (I personally love them), although don’t always reflect the tracks’ intended projection and may be a bit too polished for the hardened thrash listener.

“X” is an enjoyable LP where the technical virtuosity is ever present, and the fistful of fight is expertly delivered when ARTILLERY get it right. I love the shit out of the new record, even if a couple of the dialed down tracks didn’t quite hit the spot, but it wouldn’t be my go-to for a full-on throwing-myself-against-the-walls-maiming-thrash-esh. “X” is definitely more of a post thrash-fest cool-down listen, with a couple of the tracks still able to get you hot under the collar.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Devil’s 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
Lineup:
Michael Bastholm Dahl – Vocals
Michael Stützer – Guitars
Kræn Meier – Guitars
Peter Thorslund – Bass
Josua Madsen – Drums
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
     


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