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Artillery is a band that, popularity wise, belongs the "second league" of thrash. Not reaching the fame that some bands even outside the Big Four and Big Three achieved, they were known and respected among the thrash metal fanbase, releasing three succesful, good to very good albums. Like for many bands, the end of golden thrash era would turn out to also be the end of band Artillery. And like many bands, after the nineties hibernation they reunited. Actually, they've done it two times, first one resulting in a merely two years activity, albeit releasing a decent full-length. When Death Comes is a product of the second one, featuring four members previously composing the band and a new vocalist, Søren Nico Adamsen. Can it also be said that, like in many bands' case, the reunion ends up being more of a dissapointment than success?
The element which most likely will raise the most interest regarding this album, is the presence of a new vocalist. Singing previously in a power metal, I'll say it clearly: he hasn't adapted to playing in a thrash metal band yet, even if we can hear attempts where he's trying to. Generally his vocal manner changes between more thrashy and more power metal one. The mellower power metal voice is much more present though, there are advantages that come with it like delivering a catchy chorus, but for the most part they sound "radio friendly" - too clean and polished, even if Artillery never performed thrash of the raw or extreme kind, and plain cheesy. Sometimes he'll put out a wanna-be aggressive scream (see Sandbox Philosophy). The lyrics being understandable don't help either, being quite cheesy (read the ones for Damned Religion for example).
Instrumentally, the spirit of old Artillery is still here, the melodic riffs with uniqute oriental touch, the inspiring solos, and proper songwriting delivered mostly by Morten. That is, when it actually gets to work, as the album is uneven, fillers in the middle can't stand up to first three tracks for example. Artillery clearly feel better during fast tempo songs/parts, the slower ones sometimes coming "dangerously" close to power metal, especially when adding in the vocals. There are few accoustic parts as well. Drums and bass play smaller role than on, say, By Inheritance, leaving no impression for the most part: the drummer usually focuses on not interrupting the lead guitar, serving rather standard beats with some fills at mid tempo. The bassist seems to play even safer, except for Uniform's nice intro, he's also not hearable so well in the production. Which on the other hand gets and approval - it's modern but not overpolished, an attempt to create more oldschool sound wouldn't fit this album.
Overall, this album unfortunately falls into the typical reunion category. Although there's much of my subjective opinion behind this statement - fans of Artillery shouldn't be turned off by vocals as much, and would probably find my complaints about mediocrity overdone - at the end of day, this release doesn't fall behind their early releases that much. So if you see By Inheritance as one of best thrash metal albums (I don't), you're likely to enjoy this album more than I do. If not, this is still far from embarassing album, and worth a listen at least for the first three songs and Uniform, although except nothing above average.
Artillery... Just hearing the word come up in common conversation gets my heart racing, my mind going, and my blood pumping. Most of those reasons would be greatly influenced by their 1990 anomalous masterpiece, By Inheritance, an unbelievable collection of timeless rampages and jaw-dropping riffs. So, when you're reviewing a newer release by the same band that made your all-time favorite thrash album, one has to be careful about being over judgmental and critical of the smallest flaws. Fortunately, I found absolutely no need to do that. When Death Comes is simply superb fun from start to finish. Obviously, it's no By Inheritance, but that wouldn't be possible to recreate in this day and age, anyway. People need to accept that these bands will never recreate their masterpieces. If one enters this release with that mindset, I'm certain all he or she will find here is an outstanding display of thrash.
This is thrash only the way Artillery can play it. There's no mistaking an Artillery riff; from the very first note, you know who it is. Basically, nothing has changed in the guitar department, thank god. Immediately one recognizes riffs that would feel right at home on the band's 1990 opus, and all possible anxiety I had that this might be another disappointing comeback dissipates. Here's the makeup of a typical Artillery riff: 25% Egyptian, 10% melodic, 40% technical, and 35% INSANE. Add that up, and you've got a perfect 110% on the pure heaviness scale. Now multiply that by about 30, and you've got a full-fledged Artillery album. Well, I can tell you now, When Death Comes is a full-fledged Artillery album.
Okay, okay, so an album would be nothing if it was just a random collection of riffs with no regard to songwriting. Well, worry not, friends; we have ten doozies. No filler, all killer, if that old adage is even in use anymore. Cutting it down to the more specific highlights, one only has to press play. The opening title track is the perfect way to kick this festival off. With riffing the most similar to BI of all the songs and an awesome chorus that I can never get out of my head, this gets one in the thrash mood right away. Look ahead to "Rise Above It All", which does exactly as its title proclaims with the insane display of soloing about halfway through, seeming to go on and on just for the fun of it. Couple that with Adamsen's convincing snarls and we've got another winner on our hands. "Delusions of Grandeur" is the semi ballad of the album, which in general tends to be thrash suicide with most bands. Artillery, however, knows how exactly how to do it. I can't help but sing along to that insanely melodic chorus every time. Also, Adamsen shows his great ability to really sing on this one.
Finally, "Damned Religion" arrives, my favorite on the album and quite possibly the very definition of the term badass. That riff during the verses makes me want to start destroying anything unlucky enough to be in the nearby vicinity. This thing rivals the sheer energy of the break in "Back in the Trash", something I previously thought to be impossible. All in all, When Death Comes is just freaking awesome. I almost feel guilty just trying to narrow down the highlights to meager few, because they're truly secreting out of every filthy, heavy corner of this album. The performances are tight, the songs are killer, and the production is perfect. What more can one ask for? I believe the biggest concern fans had coming into this release was how Adamsen was going to perform as Ronsdorf's replacement, but as far as I'm concerned, he lives up to the legend, doing both the fans and the band no disservice. The killing spree will only continue...
I have always had strong feelings for the legendary Artillery, the band that produced one of my all time favorite metal albums, By Inheritance, an apex of incredibly structured riffing, passionate explosive vocals and unbridled velocity. Since that album would be nigh impossible to top, I can forgive the band for the long hiatus between each release since '90. B.A.C.K. (1999) was a good album with a ton of the band's original energy, even though it couldn't match up song for song. When the band parted with Flemming Rondsorf I was terrified of what would become...an early live video I saw of the band with replacement Søren Nico Adamsen was abysmal.
It is fortunate that my fears were misplaced and premature. Adamsen does a pretty good job with this album. Though his power metal past (Crystal Eyes, etc) bleeds through, and he lacks that edge of UDO-like brutality to his delivery, his melodies are sound and fit in well with the band's busy melodic speed/thrash riffing. When Death Comes is actually a very tight production, with tracks that become more infectious upon repeated spins. The title track feels a lot like the B.A.C.K. material, but infused with so much melodic grace that one can only smile and remember just what this guitar duo is capable of (the Stützer brothers are the best there is, hands down). The riffs are complex but accessible. While strong, it's not the best material here. "Upon My Cross I Crawl", "Sandbox Philosophy", "Not a Nightmare" and "Damned Religion" are all classically composed Artillery tracks that left my jaw in a half-broken state near the floor. The rest aren't shabby either.
When Death Comes is thick and meaty, with guitars that want to punch you in the throat. Adamsen's vocals soar over them in a true old school Germanic speed style, the inflection reminding me of early Scanner or Mania. There are some truly stupid lyrics on the album, as in "Damned Religion" where Adamsen intones "Your double talking jive motherfuckers Take your bullshit stay away from me"... but lyrics have never really been this band's forte. This is a 27 year old band here...the fact they can still write such infectious material so deep into their career is a testament to their raw talent. By Inheritance will always secure them as one of the finest speed/thrash metal bands the world has ever known, but I have to hand it to the band for choosing a decent new vocalist and not letting their legacy stagnate with a sub-par 'reunion' album.
Artillery is one of these bands that never got recognition they deserve. Hailing from Denmark, they’re one of the biggest classic metal forces in their country, but somehow they never managed to achieve worldwide success. Of course, those who listen to thrash metal at a regular basis surely know who these guys are, but it’s not the popularity Anthrax or Testament reached (not to speak about Metallica or Slayer). And that’s too bad, because this is certainly one of the most powerful thrash acts ever, or – simply put – one of the very best. They prove it better than ever with “When Death Comes”.
One of the reasons why Artillery remains relatively unknown outside the thrash metal box may be the fact that they broke up after releasing three classic albums in late 80’s. After quite a while they decided to come back and released CD called “B.A.C.K.” in 1999. While still very enjoyable, it didn’t manage to be up to par with previous ones. The worse thing was, though, that the band chose to… break up again. It seemed like a definitive end of the band, but surprisingly, they decided to kick some asses again and returned with new vocalist and new album.
Let me get this straight right now – this album is a damn BEAST. It shows it at the very beginning, with the riff of the title track being so technical, fast and just plain awesome that every fan of the genre who downloaded this album will surely stop the CD after a first few seconds just to run to the nearest CD store and correct his unforgiveable mistake. And this is only the start, for metal madness doesn’t stop even for a moment during whole album. Tracks can be a little slower or faster, but the overall feeling remains more or less the same, causing you to headbang till you don’t know what your name is. Mellower moments happen only as introductions to proper songs, which all are constant relentless rifffests we’ve all been begging for. But the riffs aren’t the only thing metalheads live for, and that’s why guitarists show us their unbelievable skills by playing a lot of solos. The leads aren’t one-dimensional, you will hear some heavy metal, melodic vibe put here and there between shredding moments. That’s why the album never gets boring – instead of full-on assault we get extremely well though-out blend of speed, technicality and melody. That’s right, “When Death Comes” continues in the vein of their previous albums, being rather “melodic technical thrash metal” than brutal thrash in the vein of Slayer. And that’s what’s great about it!
The thing one could fear was how the new vocalist will present himself, for the vocal performance was, besides the riffs, the most important thing about early Artillery records. The new frontman has a different way of singing, he doesn’t utilize those high-pitched, almost power metal vocals that were trademark in band’s early days, but there’s absolutely nothing to fear! Soren Nico Adamsen is still not your typical thrash metal barker, his vocals are also closer to heavy/power metal territory and add a lot to how the record sounds. It’s impossible not to sing with him when he uses his great “almost high-pitched” voice to shout out what he thinks about modern society’s issues, religion, foul relationship, war and all this stuff that usually fills metal albums. The good thing is that the lyrics are not cheesy, don’t try to be evil or trve, but instead of being bullshit, they’re well written, catchy lines encouraging listener to yell every word with the full capacity of his lungs. So, all in all, the band lost nothing hiring new frontman. They rather added whole new quality to their music (still, Flemming Ronsdorf is one of the greatest vocalists ever!).
Drums and bass are not the most important thing here, but also in this territory the band members did their absolute best to contribute to overall quality. You won’t hear any jaw-dropping drum fills here, but what you surely will hear is precise, fast, skillful drumming that every thrash metal band would like to present on their albums. And although the bass is hard to hear for most of the time, the moments when it’s in the spotlight also show good skill and even better songwriting, because all those moments are well put into the songs and everything falls just into place. On top of that we have brilliant and clear production. The album doesn’t fell like it’s overpolished, but everything is just like it should be – razor sharp.
Well, that may not be new “By Inheritance”, but it’s not a vice, as “By Inheritance” is only one and it seems impossible to top that record. The bottom line can be only one: screw all this “revival” thing, for Aritllery’s B.A.C.K.!
In 1990, this Danish band released a true blue classic of the thrash genre in By Inheritance. Artillery however failed to build on the momentum of the album and the band split up soon after. They did reform to put out the album B.A.C.K. in 1999 but broke up once again soon after. A second reformation was announced in 2007 with a spate of re-releases and box sets and finally this year sees the band release its fifth and latest album. When Death Comes is another classy slice of heavy metal by a band that has always been a bit better than the rest. The thrash has taken a bit of a backseat and the band is operating in a speed/ traditional metal area with the emphasis on catchy vocal lines and memorable guitar work. It is business as usual through most of the album with very little that is new for the band.
The first four songs starting with When Death Comes, Upon My Cross I Crawl, 10,000 Devils and Rise Above it All take the album off to a terrific start and are reminiscent of the classic work this band put out with their first three albums. 10,000 Devils especially sounds like something that could have easily been on By Inheritance. Sandbox Philosophy has a slight hard rock feel to it and sort of breaks up the momentum a little while Delusions of Grandeur is the big metal ballad of the album and again somehow hampers the flow. The band doesn’t really live up to the promise of those first four songs though and the albums tapers off a little before Uniform and The End close things in a reasonably effective manner.
Overall I’d say this is another good album from the band. Not as manic as their best stuff and doesn’t really hold a candle to the first three albums but overall pretty good. Hopefully they’ll stick around long enough to add a few more entries to their discography this time around.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
So then, my first review post-Hellfest and one of a band that would be a nice addition to most festival line-ups this summer. It is the return of the old-school Danish thrashers Artillery, who following the re-release of all their old material decided to open the casket and let in air once again. Now surprisingly I'm not overly-well acquainted with their past material but if you'd have asked me what I would have thought a comeback album from a B-league European 80's thrash band would sound like, it would be very similar to this.
The performance is more than competent, the song writing honed and tight and production is clean and crisp. The pace is a mid-fast largely throughout with the odd moment of it dropping to allow the band to display a variety of weapons in their arsenal. The band's trump card is revealed in the vocal melodies found in the chorus of almost all the songs. "10,000 Devils", "Delusions Of Grandeur" and "Upon My Cross I Crawl" are all fine examples of Søren Nico Adamsen's vocal range and his ability to lead the song from the front at times where a lesser man could not have brought the songs up a level like he has. Long-time Artillery fans will be aware that Mr. Adamsen has not held vocal duties for Artillery before and have a bit of difficulty getting over this change of duties, especially for a thrash band so vocally-reliant like Artillery are, but Adamsen's Tim Aymar-like (Control Denied) is excellent and will be your main memory after a few listens to "When Death Comes".
However, this is also partly due to the absence of any really killer riffs or songs. It has to be said that there are no bad songs on the album, but in their similarities to recent efforts from Testament and Onslaught and a resemblance to old Forbidden, Artillery aren't doing anything here that no seasoned thrasher will not have heard before. This fact is evidenced in the recent works of many thrash bands, showing the genre to be a very difficult one in which to be creative unlike others like black metal and doom, and which in my opinion will soon see the end of the current thrash revival unless steps are taken to inject some truly fresh blood into proceedings. You should be able to guess the score this will get by now; "When Death Comes" is a perfectly good thrash record. There is much worse out there, there is also much better. Pretty simple that one.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
With “When Death Comes”, Artillery turns into yet another unexplored musical path. After a turbulent period of almost twenty years, the classic “By Inheritance” line-up finally reformed in 2007 with a new frontman, power metal vocalist Søren Nico Adamsen. After a live DVD and numerous European concerts, the band entered the studio in March 2009. Søren Andersen, guitarist of Oliver Weers and candidate for the Eurovision Contest (yes, you're reading this right) was surprisingly chosen to handle production duties. The result is “When Death Comes”, a fresh and interesting take on the Artillery sound of old.
As has become tradition with this band, their sound has been completely reinvented and updated into a new version. The core of the music is Thrash Metal, with very strong power metal overtones, more traditional songwriting and that Oriental touch, which has become the trademark of the band since 1990. Compared to the band's back catalogue, the songs are much more straight-forward and centralized around the vocals. The riffing has returned to more conventional grounds, maneuvering straight through all of their other albums. With less noodling and more muscle, I couldn’t help but think that Nico had a big part in the songwriting process, compared to Flemming’s tradition of non-involvement and laissez fair mentality. Starting with the title track, this album seizes the listener’s mind and rarely discharges.
But there are some critical remarks to make. First of all, there are moments where the vocals feel very uncomfortable, most notably on Not a Nightmare and The End. It has to be said that Andersen has done an amazing job replacing Rönsdorf, maintaining a strong sense for aggression and power, proving his capabilities as a vocalist. However, it is hard to erase the background of cheesy EuroPower, something which does not always matches Artillery’s sound. Luckily, these are exceptions and Nico has done an overall fantastic job. A second remark I would like to make is that not all songs manage to absorb attention all the way through. This is most clear on Damned Religion, which is simply put way too long and even tiring towards the end. Third and final remark: clipping. While the loudness war rages at full capacity, the damage here is limited but (unfortunately) not absent. It never gets to the point of being annoying, but it is still a mistake on the producer’s part.
On to the drums. The big difference on this level is that Carsten plays in a much more controlled manner, compared to the frenzied madness of the 80’s releases. A good idea, but I can’t help but state that the old-school psychopathic thrashing of the drums had its charms too. This is an evolution that can be seen in the entire band, which has -as mentioned before- resulted in more traditional, song-based music. For the production I already made the criticism of clipping, but other than that, Søren Andersen has done a good job. The sound is very compact, heavy and modern, something you will love or hate according to your own taste. Oh and before I forget: the solos! Well, do I even need to say anything about them? Blistering, flashing, crushing, ablaze, you name it: on guitar we have two Stützers and that should say it all. Bassist Peter is a bit more on the background, but that doesn’t detract from the dozens of towering bass-lines scattered through the album.
Conclusion: this is Artillery at their best and every self-respecting metalhead should order it. After 27 years, there is finally a chance that this band will get the respect they have always deserved. “When Death Comes” is not perfect, but what is? Let’s hope they can continue their killing spree of good releases! Best songs: When Death Comes, Uniform, Rise Above It All, Upon My Cross I Crawl and Chaos Ride (why oh why is this a bonus track?!).