Artillery play, as their name might suggest, hard-hitting thrash metal with a powerful melodic edge. Notable for having formed during the genre’s formative years, Artillery went on hiatus between 1999 and 2009, returning with all guns blazing on 2009’s ‘when death comes’. A second post-reformation album consolidated that success (2011’s ‘my blood’) and now, following a line-up shuffle which saw the departure of drummer Carsten Nielsen and vocalist Soren Adamsen, the band are back with a new line-up (Josua Madsen on drums and the mighty-lunged Michael Bastholm Dahl on vocals) and a monumental new album in ‘legions’.
Featuring ten tracks spread over fifty-five crushing minutes, the most notable thing about ‘legions’ is how alive it feels. The band sound fired up from the first, strangely exotic bars of ‘chill my bones’, through to the closing strains of ‘Ethos of wrath’. ‘Chill my bones’, the album’s cataclysmic opening track nails the listener’s attention straight away with an Eastern introduction giving way to a blazing thrash riff that recalls Testament in their prime, while vocalist Michael delivers a performance of astonishing power and precision, striding into his newfound role with the band with utmost confidence and style. With a memorable, chest-beating chorus and blistering solos it is one hell of an opening track and there is no doubt that Artillery hit the ground running. Amazingly the high quality is absolutely maintained from first to last with each track detonating like a high velocity round. ‘God feather’ opens in a welter of crashing cymbal and the sort of riff that makes thrash metal fans close their eyes and bang their heads in pure delight. This is metal at its purest, the band clearly indulging a fierce love of performance that is translated through each and every crushing riff. It is quite impossible to listen to this without a huge smile plastered across your face, and even with the glut of thrash metal bands currently doing the rounds, Artillery have that mysterious ingredient that raises them far above the opposition over whom they tower like the colossus.
The title track has a nimble Megadeth feel to it before hitting an almighty groove combined with an eastern feel that dominates the solo. Brutal, uncompromising and delivered with the force that a band with half their years would envy, ‘legions’ is a showcase of Michael’s stunning vocal prowess and you can’t help but feel that the band have benefitted greatly from the new blood adorning their ranks. Even the title of ‘wardrum heartbeat’ gets the adrenalin flowing, and when the pounding percussion comes charging over the hill like the cavalry of old, you know you’re in for a rough, mosh-pit inducing ride. ‘Global flatline’ is a lengthy, doom-laden track that briefly slows the pace without reducing the intensity, the band indulging in a track that edges into Black Sabbath territory before the mood is shattered by a succession of shockwave riffs that slice into the song at around the half-way mark, flattening any remaining opposition with ease. ‘Dies Irae’ deals in martial death, opening with a tattoo before shifting into a groove that sounds like Testament covering Iron Maiden. It’s a high point of an album already filled with high points and the fluid aggression of the riffs coupled with the magnificent vocals leave you feeling giddy with excitement. ‘Anno requiem’ has the sort of massed-vocal chorus that demands to be sung by rooms and fields full of metal-heads and it is a genuine anthem, destined to sit proudly amongst the band’s back catalogue as a live-set highlight. With your head reeling from the brain-melting riffs on offer, ‘enslaved to the nether’ allows a brief moment’s respite, opening on an acoustic trip before reaching a sweaty climax of fluid solos and sky-scraping vocals. ‘Doctor evil’ offers up a darker sound that skips into minor key territory like Tank making a pact with the devil, and then the album reaches its stunning conclusion with ‘ethos of wrath’, a furious, metallic blast that leaves you slack-jawed with awe.
Thrash metal is a genre that has become, of late, somewhat populous. As a result it takes something special to leave you lying wrecked and broken on the floor, and yet that is exactly what Artillery do. Some thirty years after their formation (albeit with a lengthy hiatus) the band shouldn’t, by all the laws of averages, sound this brutal, and yet each and every song sounds like a classic in waiting. The addition of Josua and Michael has clearly lit an almighty fire under the band and the result is ‘legions’, possibly the thrash album of 2013. No metal fan can be without this album, it is laden with a fire and fury that is indicative of thrash at its very best (think ‘rust in peace’, ‘master of puppets’ and ‘reign in blood’ and you know what I mean) and there is no question that ‘legions’ is a goddam gold mine of furious riffs, addictive melodies and classic musicianship. Artillery, I salute you, ‘legions’ rocked my damned socks off!