Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Initial Impressions: Artillery: Through the Years

I have been wanting to buy this boxed set of Artillery material for at least a couple of years. It's not often that I find a boxed set that I want to purchase. This is pretty much only the second one I have set out to find, the other being Slaughter's Tortured Souls boxed set. I have pretty clear standards for getting one: I cannot have any of the material that appears on the boxed set prior because I don't like repeating albums in my collection, and it must be a band I can logically enjoy listening to for about five hours straight because that's how long these things usually are.

Which brings us to Artillery. I have wanted this boxed set since about 2007 but never really had the opportunity to buy it. After checking out the band's latest album earlier this year, my desire to get this set kicked into overdrive. About two weeks ago, I finally placed the order on Amazon.

To begin with, the packaging looks great, significantly better than the aforementioned Slaughter boxed set which was a box with a couple of CD cases in it. This is a book that opens up with four CDs on the covers and a very nice booklet inside detailing the band. I really do like the packaging and will have to read through the booklet later on.

The CDs are remastered onto gold discs, which is Metal Mind's habit. Metal Mind is one of my favorite labels these days, mostly because of their tireless efforts to bring old school classics back by reissuing out of print metal albums. I have a few of these releases such as Sadus and Solitude Aeturnus, but there are quite possibly hundreds more. Instead of reissuing each of Artillery's albums individually, they went for the boxed set.

Artillery is an extremely underrated thrash metal band from Denmark in the 1980's. Perhaps it is because of this that many people have not heard much of the band. There was not a real well-known metal scene in Denmark, even though the great Mercyful Fate started out there. There certainly was not a well-known thrash metal scene, so this band flew under the radar when bands in the Bay Area and Germany were making huge waves. It's a shame because this band was truly something.

I don't feel like doing a full review of four full albums, so I will do a short write-up of each album here. The only complaint I have applies to all four discs. I don't like them adding a whole bunch of bonus demo tracks. The demos are interesting, don't get me wrong, but I would rather they all be on one extra disc so that each album would end where it was meant to do so. Oh well, not a major complaint.

FEAR OF TOMORROWArtillery's debut album was released in 1985, a major year for thrash metal releases. 1985 saw major releases from Anthrax, Exodus, Megadeth, Overkill, Slayer, Destruction, and Kreator. So it was that Artillery's debut did not register as much of a wave. But this is an amazing debut. From the opening salvo of "Time Has Come" which starts out with some sounds of warfare, to the long closer "Deeds of Darkness", this album is absolutely intense and is a great opener to a long career.

The band's principal sound, a kind of highly energetic, technical thrash metal was already in place on their debut. The band often plays very fast but even when they are playing slowly, retain a lot of that energetic vibe. Artillery sounds more like fellow underrated European thrashers Coroner and Sabbat than either of the two major scenes. The distinguishing feature Artillery possesses is the amazing, soaring vocal style of singer Flemming Ronsdorf, on these albums anyway as he does not appear on their latest album.

TERROR SQUADArtillery's sophomore album finds them with a meatier, more muscular sound and a thicker production. They have also tightened up their sound a little and added the occasional gang vocals. This album is a maturation of the sound that they created on their debut album. The songs are not quite as memorable on this album, but the overall sound has improved, not that it really needed to.

For the most part, this album is an improvement over the last album, but it does not quite have the same energetic vibe. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, but it is not as raw and honest as the first album, nor as musically incredible as the follow-up.

BY INHERITANCEThis album is frequently cited as Artillery's best. And it's pretty easy to see why. Everything was working for Artillery on this one. The album starts out with an Eastern-European sounding melody, which is quite the beginning impression. The main melodic idea carries over into the next track starting things off very strong. The sound quality has again improved massively.

The riffs have also improved quite a bit. Riffing is what Artillery has always done best, but this particular album features many of the band's best riffs, beginning with the opening riff to "Khomaniac". The soloing has also improved immensely on this album and they all have a great tone.

Vocally, I think this is Ronsdorf's best performance. He has always had soaring vocals, but they seemed to fit in with the music a lot better on this release. They have attained a little similarity to Blitz Ellsworth's vocals for Overkill on this album. I love Overkill, so this is not a problem for me. The vocal performance on the ballad (yes, a thrash ballad) "Don't Believe" is particularly incredible.

If I had to recommend one album by Artillery, this would be it.

B.A.C.K.Artillery disappeared during the mid 1990's, a bad time for metal in general. They re-emerged in 1999 with this album, which is appropriately titled. The time away has not harmed the band in the least, this is as good a comeback album as is possible.

The band has proven that they have not lost a step. Much of the sound from the prior album is still put to good use on this release. The band does play a little bit slower and there is a heavier groove element to the riffs, but this is still clearly a thrash metal album. The Overkill similarities are still there, punctuated by the fast riffing and vocal styles. Artillery still uses more technical riffing and progressive structure, but they do bear similarities to other bands.

Hey we have a bass solo on this thing. Don't hear that too often.

Unfortunately after this album, the band disappeared again for awhile. They released When Death Comes last year, an album I reviewed some time ago.


  1. Are the four CDs individual or placed in the box?

  2. The four CDs are unfortunately in the box.

  3. Ok. Thanks for the quick answer.