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Metallica, Slayer and the earliest thrash acts set the rules for an upcoming huge movement of young musicians inspired by that new violent sound. There were some minor generic groups along with other more promising who defied the Fantastic 4 with their attitude and good skills. Let’s be honest, a big percentage of them were 5 minute wonders who didn’t manage to evolve and get rid of the subgenre clichés, other weren’t that lucky and simply could get no record deal and of course, there’s those who made a difference from the rest and survived till the end of the 90’s. Artillery rather fit that last type, they became the greatest thrash band of their home country with Fear Of Tomorrow, instantly because who else did it that way in Denmark? Invocator? Pixie Killers? Sacrificial?
You will find here all the predictable elements of a thrash debut: tremendous speed and aggression, uniformity, lack of maturity and sophistication…those were the characteristics that made mid-80’s records so entertaining. “The Eternal War” or “Out Of The Sky” are completely straight tunes, for instance, obviously giving guitar lines absolute control and attention. They define everything on those songs: direction, breaks, structures, varied tempos which are mostly pretty dynamic; the 6-string section supremacy came as no surprise, although the presence of vocals is also quite indispensable. Lyrics are numerous, choruses repetitive, providing this stuff of a tenuous commercial essence that gets completely smashed once Artillery attack instrumentally with those raging riffs and loose rhythms of extreme nature. “Time Has Come” or “Show Your Hate” fit that description particularly, you might feel the temptation to join Rönsdorf and sing along at times. On other hand, the efforts of the group are basically based on making their music as heavy as possible, as reasonable as it can get too. Song configurations aren’t a result of spontaneous schemes; they show a bit of complexity and musicianship from these guys, who try to give consistency to the cuts by using diverse riff series, alternating structures and creating slightly progressive instrumental sequences. In fact, compositions like “Deeds Of Darkness” or “King, Thy Name Is Slayer” aren’t that direct and simply focused on brutality, Artillery make use of some low tuned weighty riffs and obscure intros, trying to achieve a sinister climax and some musical versatility to avoid playing it repetitive, something most of their peers didn’t think about. So after all, this isn’t a really predictable work after all, it might surprise you.
It’s a totally harsh record that will satisfy the most diehard subgenre fans for sure, with Michael Stützer & Sandau’s insatiable fierce riffing and rhythmic section Morten Stützer (yeah, he used to play bass at first!) & Nielsen’s uncontrolled frantic tempos. Energy, power and motivation aren’t lacking on any of these tracks. They were certainly young inexperienced kids when they did this but they start proving a good technical potential and preceding song-writing process talent. Actually, Artillery sound very precise and disciplined on their performance, nothing to do with most of their pals inevitably clumsy early works. The compositions construction by those leading riffs and their convincing variations demonstrate as well these guys’ decent abilities and ideas. However, expect no difficulty or progression in the style of By Inheritance, this material is musically competent and professional but quite simple and primitive. They didn’t develop yet that burning ambition for complexity, their intentions are rather humble like most of thrash beginners and just want to make it hard and heavy. Pickin’ parts reflect that evident immaturity and limitations, compositionally poor but at least not shredding or tapping in vain repetitively or deafening incompetence with pedal effects extravaganzas. Of course, words are also completely topical, the Taastrup thrashers talk on them about space, warfare, a bit of fantasy and a recurrent obsession with extinction on Earth (“Feel the radiation burn, it killed your friends and enemies, no leaves no one alive”/“A world without people, could that be right? Got to get my soul away from here”). All those themes are expressed with vivid words, neither explicit nor vulgar luckily. Rönsdorf’s voice sounds absolutely crude and unpolished on those lyrics, dark, low, nothing to do with the third CD comical attempt; I could hardly believe it was the same guy! Here he manages to give these tunes a wicked vocal texture without being guttural or extravagant on his modulation, a great job.
Artillery didn’t get as far as the big daddies of thrash but gained respect among the European underground metal scene. No money, no caviar, just the admiration of the fans; that was a more genuine kind of success that made them prevail until the apocalyptic 90’s. Nowadays they have an undisputed status of cult band, a fair recognition they reached with all honors with records like this. It’s inevitable to mention their name when you think of the Danish metal scene (if we could say there was any…) and their contribution to the European thrash movement consolidation was essential. I don’t think you need any more reasons to check this out, enjoy unique old school gold with these tracks.
If you take a look at the year of release for this record, then you understand that the thrash subgenre had not even yet entered its prime, so when some relatively unknown act (globally speaking) coming from Denmark hit the scene with their debut full-length “Fear of Tomorrow,” I’m sure not many people expected to hear something this terrific. Sure, this record isn’t usually referred to when people talk about their favorite Artillery album and it's never a common one thrown around in thrash circles when talking about "greatest thrash albums ever," but that does not take away just how well this album came out and how it is looked at now. This band is typically revered by fans around the world because of their masterful ability to weave in technical excellence with a thrashing energy and mentality, but on this album, it’s pretty much non-stop thrash mayhem.
Before Artillery was making a name for themselves with the Stutzer brothers’ incredible fret work, they were smashing skulls with upbeat and fast riffs that were more akin to the bay area bands than the Germanic beasts in Europe. The opening track “Time Has Come” starts with an acoustic piece before it escalates to a track full of fury and shredding solos. “Out of the Sky” and “Fear of Tomorrow” are two of Artillery’s most thrashing onslaughts, with fast riffs that rip past the listener as well as stomping and crushing midpaced ones, battering drums, and Flemming Ronsdorf’s unique vocal delivery. Ronsdorf’s vocals are definitely reminiscent of vocalists from the USPM scene, where over the top vocals are commonplace, but unlike a majority of the power metal frontmen, Ronsdorf also possessed a real gruff edge to his voice that reminds me of Paul Baloff or Bobby “Blitz” during this time period.
In addition to some catchy riffs and charismatic vocals, Artillery also provided a good deal of variety that other thrash acts at the time didn’t have. Germany had bestial thrashers in Kreator and Sodom, but songs like “King, Thy Name Is Slayer” and “Deeds of Darkness” provided plenty of head banging moments while also captivating listeners with top-notch solos and fantastic songwriting. One of the band’s most classic songs also makes this album a must listen, as “The Eternal War” has more than enough spectacular qualities than many a thrash band’s albums do, including some incredible riffs, bass lines and brilliant vocal passages. “Fear of Tomorrow” is an absolute classic, yet Artillery would still go on to top themselves and permanently stamp their name on the thrash genre.
“Out of the Sky”
“The Eternal War”
“Fear of Tomorrow”
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.
Though few could compete with or be compared squarely to the German pioneers and headsmen of thrash metal, small scenes had sprung up all about Europe. Most countries had a small handful of bands who would sign record deals, perhaps release a cult classic or two, and disappear into the roll of years. A few, like Holland and England were able to hurl a few more names into the theater, but Denmark was better known for its melodic heavy/power metal acts like Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Pretty Maids. That all would change upon the arrival of one of the greatest thrash acts the continent would ever know, but it took a few years and some lineup shifts before Artillery could achieve its potential.
Fear of Tomorrow represents the fundamental elements that the Danes would refine into the masterwork By Inheritance, but by this point in the mid 80s the band didn't have nearly that level of musicianship or technicality. They managed to distinguish themselves through two characteristics: a more uplifting style of writing that wasn't nearly so dark as comparable acts like Onslaught, Destruction or Sodom; and the vocals of Flemming Ronsdorf, which were thicker and higher pitched in general than was typical for the genre. I'm not just talking about the screams used at the ends of passages by Tom Araya or Schmier, but these were more like a crude power/speed style, more akin to Udo Dirkschneider or Kris Boltendahl, heavily glazed with Ronsdorf's native accent. One the one hand, his presence creates an endearing and goofy effect, but he carries enough resonance as the reverb spits him over the dense, workmanlike guitars here.
The debut begins with some of the band's best early cuts, most culled from the demo of the same name that had come out earlier that year. "Time Has Come" opens with screams and hails of gunfire, a brief acoustic segue and then a storm of thick thrashing guitars below the haunted melody of the vocals, which is alternated with a more brutal mid-range in the little bridges that lead to and fro the verses. Michael Stützer shows his lead skills almost immediately, though he's not joined by his brother Morten quite yet, as he was on the bass for both this and Terror Squad (and pretty amazing with the four strings, to boot). The drums here are pretty standard rock and metal beats with grooves, and Artillery possessed a higher than normal swerve towards the classic, chunky NWOBHM style of moody riffing, but then, thrash had just been emerging from this leaning, or at least certain bands were drawing from that influence more so than the punk and hardcore that others admired. "The Almighty" follows in a similar schema, with more wild leads, memorable vocal lines and a solid, mosh inflected breakdown.
It doesn't slow down from there, "Show Your Hate" seeming even more aggressive with spikes of melody and some of the most viral, intricate speed riffing on the album. Ronsdorf's chorus of 'looser - it's time to kill/looser - show your...hate' is also pretty charming and distinct. Then the Danes shift to a slower gait with the opening slog to "King, Thy Name is Slayer", later exploring a more groove heavy aggression. But this track is an exception, as "Out of the Sky" and "Into the Universe" return to the band's enthusiastic throttling. Another track I really enjoy is "Fear of Tomorrow" itself, and engaging and cautionary pastiche of cliched future paranoia, basically the 80s Danish thrash answer to The Terminator, with a great chorus to it. The other tracks, "The Eternal War" and "Deeds of Darkness" have never seemed so catchy to me as the rest of the album, but they're consistent enough not to cock it all up.
This was absolutely a great, skilled debut, and showed nothing other than promise for their future, with its simple but icon cover image, a hooded monstrosity with a giant ass gun. Cheesy, but it gives you a tingly feeling when you see it represented among the cult faves of the 80s. That this is actually my least favorite Artillery album speaks volumes about what they would soon transform into with just a few years gestation.
Europe should have been delighted and proud to have had (and still have) one of the most representative thrash metal bands in its territory. Instead of looking at the other part of the ocean, it should have been sufficient for the metalheads to look closer and more carefully to discover one of the greatest bands that this genre ever gave us. These Artillery from Denmark are easily one of the best and, unfortunately, one of the most overlooked bands in the history. Their skills and power immediately caught the attention and the respect of a quite large but silent slice of people that were practising their cult in the underground, with constancy and loyalty, like this band always did.
The first thing you can think about them, after “Thrash metal from Legends!” is the word “passion”. This is what they are about and this debut, like the other albums in their discography, is an obligatory stopover and a Mecca for the thrash metal fan. The one and only that was so pure at the middle of the 80s. No innovations, no will to be sweet and gentle; just pure aggression and hyper speed. This is where the first form of speed metal that exploded at the beginning of the 80s is filtered through the energy and the violence of the first wave of thrash metal.
This Fear Of Tomorrow starts with a sounds of shots to continue with the first thrash/speed metal assault. The production is not so clear and the drums are a bit hidden in the background to prefer the guitars loud sounds. By the way, everything is perfectly audible and to appreciate it you must also forget about modern and polished productions. This is thrash and it doesn’t need your pathetic and commercial productions! The tempo parts are in fast succession and the up tempos are never too impulsive because sometimes they are mixed also with more technical and complex parts. The solos are just great and with this production, they seem ever more powerful. The first thing that you can immediately notice, along with the very good music, is the vocal style by the TRUE, the ONE and ONLY singer that deserves to be credited as one in the history of this band: Flemming Rönsdorf. He’s just one of the most personal, characteristic singers in this genre. His tone is not common and truly hard to put in words. He’s powerful and unique in its not so melodic but catchy style. The best thing is to hear it by yourselves.
The most fitting example of his inimitable style is “The Almighty” song where he gives the melody to the entire song, both in the verses and the refrains. Although, the refrain of “Show Your Hate” is great and the speed restarts of this song are just blowing. The energetic, killer and intricate riffage is mixed with more simple and devastating fast parts where the patterns, still remaining quite complex, are always catchy and powerful. And this happens in all the compositions here. What I’ve always found truly great on this album is the intensity it achieves to transmit to the listeners even during the mid-paced parts (“King Thy Name is Slayer”). A track like “Out Of The Sky”, with all its burden of a “ready to explode” anger is just amazing. And then, when it does explode is even unbelievable. The classic speed metal influences this time are far heavier and the refrain is always perfectly stuck and recognizable. “Into the Universe” is very similar for the total impact style and the vocals always give the right catchiness to the track. This is a perfect combination of opposites. By the way, they are not pop style, but they conserve always a right rawness.
The title track is a sheer assault diluted in three minutes and even this time the vocals are great and more melodic by the refrain. The guitars duets are the most technical side of the band and the solos are always a mix of hyper fast tremolo pickings and tapping parts. The sudden restarts by the drums are truly shocking. The last “Deeds Of Darkness” is the longest song here and during the mid-paced parts there’s the spectrum of Hellhammer flying over. The atmosphere here is darker but the speed parts contribute in filling the sound with galloping parts and fast up tempo parts. So, we reach the end of this 40 minute bloodbath and we are stunned. The guitars tune is still in my ears and it won’t come out. This band was exceptional at the time. They were filled with anger and desire of destroying everything, but always through a great songwriting and intelligent compositions. Don’t let this album be forgotten and covered by the dust of time.
Talk about a badass band name, if you ask me. Anyways if you were to take a quick look at the cover for this release and compare it to their follow up album covers, you could potentially make the assumption that this is probably their darkest venture. Along with this many might tell you that this is not exactly pure thrash. Both of these points are actually dead on. Their early demo's before this were among the heaviest stuff out there for the early 80's and this release is pretty much a perfect take on what they were all about in their earlier career. Regardless of having some non-thrash moments here and there, you didn't get much tougher than this in 85'.
The production is what I think really sets this album not only apart from their later releases, but also keeps them away from sounding like a lot of various albums other bands were putting out in 85'. The sound here is really thick, fairly murky, definitely raw, and the drums literally sound like they're making cracks in the Earth at times in the background. The guitars sound like rusty indestructible chainsaws. This all gives the album a ton of atmosphere essentially making the whole thing sound pretty damn evil. The mix isn't entirely consistent when it switches between tracks, but for the most part it's pretty good and maintains a good level of balance with the instruments and everything. Along with the tough production here, vocalist Flemming RÃ¶nsdorf sounds more aggressive here than he does on their next releases. He's an all around great vocalist in my opinion just with a different and more straightforward approach to vocals here, he tends to stick to mid to low ranges pretty often on this one but still sends out some of his unique screams at times. All in all his performance on this is awesome while sometimes sounding like a twisted psychopath, very aggressive stuff. Most importantly, the guy easily has a one of a kind of voice.
Flemming is far from being the only one here in top form however, every single member on this one is far more than just impressive. Carsten Nielsen whom would stick along with the band for the majority of their career does a fantastic job on drums. The drum work fits every song perfectly and when needed, he has no problem stomping around the place hitting insane speeds. Like I pointed out above, the drums have an interesting sound on this at least with the bass more than anything else, they sound like huge shock waves breaking into the ground fairly often and it just sounds epic. Morten StÃ¼tzer on bass is downright amazing and stands out a lot throughout this album, especially on one of my favorite tracks The Almighty (not only a favorite off this album, but one of my all time favorite Artillery songs). When the solo's are going on in this song Morten completely dominates on the other side, 3:07 - 3:17 is simply unforgettable thanks to the bass (these lines appear before but don't stand out quite as much as they do at this mark). His performance is incredible throughout the whole thing. Just like a few other bands such as Flots and Jets, Artillery really knew how to fairly use the bass here. That leaves us with guitar duo JÃ¸rgen Sandau and Michael StÃ¼tzer, these guys are just all over the place. A lot of the songs are riddled with various leads, multiple solo's, even some nice harmonies from time to time. This was definitely a complete effort with every member getting a nice share of time under the spotlight.
Overall Fear of Tomorrow is a definite classic from the majestic '85. They dab into some traditional instances here and there, maybe even throwing tastes of power and speed around a bit, with a heavy focus on thrash more than the rest. You can tell this was pretty experimental, but hey haven't they always been kind of an odd bunch? Not to mention they weren't the only one with a unique debut blending in a bunch of stuff back then. All in all it'd be unfair to call this inconsistent, because the quality is always there and this album utterly bleeds metal. Time Has Come is a nice classy start, has some instrumental stuff opening up that may or may not be your thing, it's nothing to really complain about though. This one almost sounds like some possessed NWOBHM offering slowly falling into hell or something, when the solo's come in things just go completely over the top. The Almighty is next which I already discussed somewhat above, this song is one demonic stampede with some insanely catchy lyrics. Show Your Hate ... 1:41, it's hard to explain but just imagine all the guys catching on fire with their instruments exploding and going nuts. Moments like these that are pulled off so well like they did here are utterly unforgettable and well, truly hard to come by thesedays (this also happens with like half of the tracks here, insane). Out Of The Sky is another obvious highlight, this song is like a nuke of riffs, metal, whatever, it's chaotic. Same can probably be said about the album self-titled track towards the end. The Eternal War and the finale Deeds Of Darkness both stand out a lot themselves and they also have those odd riffs that would be pretty prominent on Terror Squad, when you hear these riffs you just instantly know you're listening to Artillery. If you want something that's so heavy it's scary while being fairly unique from the norm at the time, get this. But hell if you can, get your hands on a copy of Through The Years. Instead of just saying Fear of Tomorrow is a classic, it's easier to just say Artillery themselves are.
Artillery is probably the second best band to come out of Denmark. The best of course is King Diamond/Mercyful Fate. This is Artillery's first release and in my opinion, one of the best thrash cd's of 1985. It is more mature and technical than many of the other thrash releases of the same year. The production is a little muddy, but doesn't hurt the music at all. It kind of gives it a raw feel. They also experiment a little with their sound, but it all turns out good. I cannot classify Fear of Tomorrow as pure thrash. I'd say that it's about 80% thrash and 20% traditional metal, but it works very well. There are even some moments that it leans toward early death metal. Don't let this turn you off for a second though. It still remains true to thrash, but gets a slightly more gruff, evil edge from time to time. Sometimes they even fuse thrash with slower Black Sabbath-ish music. Like I said before, they seem to experiment on this cd. It all sounds good though.
The cd begins with, true to their name, the sounds of artillery, small arms fire, and screaming. Then it transitions by acoustic guitar and the use of chimes. The chimes don't sound very metal to me, but whatever. They only last a second. It then leads into some nice quick thrash riffs and the vocals. Artillery's vocals are pretty unique. They are very gruff, yet somewhat melodic. I can't even compare these vocals to any other band. They are definitely thrash though and that is what matters.
The first two songs are pretty good thrash. Nothing bad to say about them. "The Almighty" is one of my favorite songs on the cd. Following that is "Show Your Hate". This is the song where you can hear some of their death metal-ish experimentation. The vocals are much deeper and angrier. The music is generally fast and some of the drumming reminds me of early death metal from time to time. Most of the riffs are straight up thrash though. The next song "King Their Name is Slayer" begins in a somewhat doom metal sound. This ends up being a more midpaced song with some thrashy moments. It is yet another of their experimental songs, but again turns out sounding good. "Out of the Sky" and "Into the Universe" are raging thrash songs and definitely highlights of the cd. "The Eternal War" is another that begins with a doomy sound and this time has a deep, dark, muffled demon voice. After that intro, it becomes another raging thrash song like the previous two. The last couple of songs are just more thrash with traditional elements thrown in.
This is one hell of a cd to come out in 1985. I have no real complaints about this cd. Somehow, they kept putting out better cd's with time. "Terror Squad" is even better than this cd and "By Inheritance is even better than that. Listening to this cd, it is hard to even think of how they could get better, but they do. This'll probably be a hard cd to come by. I bought the "Through the Years" box set with all four of their cd's. That is another one of those metal mind re-issues limited to only 2000 pressings. If you get the chance, buy it. This cd, and the next 2 completely kick ass and are well worth every cent.
“…I am the bringer of evil, I am the bringer of fright, I am the one with the power, try me I’ll show you I’m right…”
My first encounter with Artillery was another tape trade with Craig(ore) Pillard about a year after this was released. I remember not knowing what to make of the band, particularly the singer. The gunfire intro was half-expected considering their moniker, then the short baptism of acoustics, then the cool preliminary riff, then…two vocalists? One high, one low, singing in tandem? Then the growler goes at it alone for a few verses. Inaugural song “Time has Come” can throw anyone off, bush leaguer or veteran, and I believe that was the situation for many who picked up Fear of Tomorrow, at least for those whose first taste was a common tape trade. Craig didn’t mention the band membership on the tape insert of course, so I was forced to ponder the dual singer phenomenon for a little while. I kinda liked it, actually.
Yeah, I would later learn those obscure pipes belong to a skinny blonde kid named Flemming Ronsdorf, and the first taste of his true sound comes with the chorus of that song. Subsequent tracks would prove how strong those pipes are.
I’ve never been comfortable calling the five-piece a mere thrash act, kinda like lumping the guy who’s a virtuoso of three instruments into the same group with the kid playing his kazoo. Even at first glance, their music was on the curious side, gleaning a traditional demeanor from the debut of Mercyful Fate (big stretch there, considering where King’s from), a sinewy power base that didn’t sound like Exciter, but exerted the same pressure, and held evidence of the uprising thrash epidemic. This trident of style gave their sound unpredictable precedence without sounding jerky or cursed with attention-deficit disorder, a flow of early progressiveness, the tight knit weave of musical confidence, and at the forefront of it all a lungman stood whose resonance is still largely unclassifiable.
“Time Has Come” tells much of the story except where the vocals are concerned as explained above; a slow churner of a chorus that moves the song along without overkill, a flowing main riff complimented by the experimentally-natured vocals, then launches into an aggressive dual solo blitz underscored by thick thrash rumble. Anyone who complains that the bass drowns in most metal mixes should bend ear to the bubbling cauldron that is “The Almighty”. Compelling lyrics (see the blurb at the review’s start) easily add to the song’s boisterous, solo-shrieked din. “Show Your Hate” further advances the incursion, a song rife with tempo and rhythmic shifts that keep the listener attentive with guesswork. Slowing it down is the weighty “King, Thy Name is Slayer”, but this only sets up the wolf in sheep’s clothing that is the dire “Out of the Sky”, perhaps the most tumultuous and assailing track on the lp where even the slower, level-headed region of the song has a gravitational pull.
“Into the Universe”’s crimson flow ebbs and surges like the tide, meanwhile the ominous air surrounding “The Eternal War” shortly subsides to more mid-paced action that rises and coalesces into a stirring chorus - Invadaaahh!. The title track wastes no time keeping the festivities alive with spurts of double bass rumbling under raucous, sometimes unorthodox passages and a charismatic chorus most bands with this type of raw power couldn’t get away with unless it were an anthem of sorts. A distant bell tolls the menacing riff of “Deeds of Darkness”. Another ration of layered vocals with an effective touch of echo is used again here, but quickly melts into one to be the sole constant variable in a shooting star medley of about a half dozen different rhythms with as many tempo and timing changes.
With that all said, thrash isn’t really a competent aural picture of Artillery. Thrash movements don’t leap out at you from every corner, but when present don’t weakly meander out into the open, and the well-traveled traditional facets only strengthen the blueprint. It's but an element in the band’s musical expanse, and while the demos may have switched gears often and dabbled with different genres, this is where it counts.
"...thy name is written with their blood..."