By Sean Palmerston
Reunion albums are bloody scary things. You never know exactly what you are going to get, will it be a masterpiece or something that you wished never happened? More often than not, it’s the latter that rings true but in this case I am proud to report that the return of Artillery with a new studio platter is a delightful surprise that will not only fulfill the wishes of veteran fans, but should also pick the band up an new army of devoted thrashers more than ready to help further the cause.
To be honest, this is really the Danish band’s second time around on the reunion circuit. After releasing a trio of solid thrash metal albums in the late eighties, it was a nearly ten year break before the band came back with 1999’s B.A.C.K. An attempt was made at demoing more new songs at the beginning of this decade, including When Death Comes‘ title track, but for reasons unbeknown to me the band pretty much ceased to exist again until Metal Mind’s impeccable 2007 Through The Years boxed set collected all four of their studio albums, loaded to the tits with unreleased bonus and demo tracks. Its release put the band back together once again, first for some festival dates (as seen on 2008’s live DVD One Foot In The Grave, The Other One In The Trash) before hankering down on a new studio effort.
And what a new studio effort it is! To be totally honest, When Death Comes completely surpassed my expectation of what a new Artillery album circa 2009 could be. This sucker cooks. From the kick off riff of the album opening title track the stage is set for the return of Denmark’s second greatest metal band (sorry, Mercyful Fate still takes the cake for this old geezer). The participation of both Stutzer brothers on guitar – easily the best twin lead fraternal combination in metal (sorry Haunted fans!) – as well as powerhouse drummer Carsten N. Nielsen pretty much ensured this was going to be a quality album, but the real surprise here is new vocalist Soren ‘Nico’ Adamsen. Instead of trying to emulate original vocalist Flemming Ronsdorf, who admittedly had a voice that divided the masses, Adamsen instead approaches both old and new material with his own singing style. While it doesn’t always seem to work on the One Foot… live DVD, a fact that may have to do with my own familiarity with Ronsdorf’s unique vocal delivery, Adamsen proves himself the perfect vocalist for the band’s new material.
The band has crafted an entire album of quality songs that are tight, well structured and have enough hooks to keep things interesting. There are moments on the album where things are reminiscent of latter day Slayer and Kreator (especially on “10,000 Devils” and the post chorus breaks on “Rise Above It All”) but it is not done in a copycat style that would have have one wondering if they couldn’t come up with anything more interesting. One really weird twist in the album is the chorus of “Sandbox Philosophy” – it’s pretty much the catchiest phrasing this band has ever done, bordering almost on eighties hair metal pop while the rest of the song is full balls out thrash. Who’s the pop punk fan in the band, huh? “Delusions Of Grandeur” also starts on an acoustic guitar rhythm track that is somewhat deceiving, as the song ends up back in more familiar thrash territory less than two minutes in. It is the little things on this album like these that transform it from being just another comeback album to a true return that doesn’t just play by the rule book. Artillery prove they are back, but it’s on their own terms or not at all. The band definitely could have played it much safer than they have, but by stepping out of their own historical boundaries Artillery has made a fresh, new statement that deserves its place next to their original albums. Now uh, how about some tour dates over in North America next – any chance at all? Please don’t make me have to fly over to Denmark, because I need to see this stuff live and I need it sooner than later.
(Metal Mind Productions)