Released: 2016, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
You’ve got to give Danish thrashers Artillery credit for their stick-to-it-iveness. Now nearly a decade into their third go-round, and despite the 2012 departure of MkIII vocalist and producer Søren Adamsen, the band are going strong as ever. Indeed, Artillery offer up the best effort yet since their comeback(s) with their latest, Penalty By Perception.
Penalty picks up where 2013’s Legions, which marked the debut of stellar vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl, left off, mixing old school epic thrash with a modern crunch and soaring vocals that recall Steve Grimmett during his brief stint with Onslaught – the resemblance is actually quite striking. Indeed, thanks to its polished but ballsy production and Artillery’s adventurous but never over-reaching performance, Penalty succeeds where Onslaught’s one album with Grimmett - 1989's indulgent and ultimately toothless In Search of Sanity - failed.
Dahl’s resonant voice brings an epic, even elegant quality to Artillery’s music on its own – there's even a certain charm in how he pronounces the silent “c” in scythe all the way through “Live By The Scythe.” And the band – led by guitar tandem brothers Morten and Michael Stützer - are smart enough not to pile it on and bog things down in meandering eight-minute-plus opuses when a series of 4:30 kicks in the ass will do.
Penalty is brash and purposeful, and honors the band's old-school past without dwelling on it or - like many resurrected bands from back in the day, and even more from the ongoing wave of re-thrashers – merely trying to replicate it. The determined, chunky chug of the opener “In Defiance of Conformity” sets the tone here with its beefy riffs churned out at a brisk, buoyant pace, and it's pretty much a modest variation on that theme the rest of the way.
But there is just enough modest variation to keep things interesting. The title track adds squealing lead trade-offs and an infectious chorus while “Mercy of Ignorance” drops martial, Accept-like hooks between fits of full-throttle velocity. The tribal intro to “Sin Of Innocence” is a cool contrast to the otherwise gritty thrash that makes up the rest of the tune, while the surging “Cosmic Brain” and serpentine “Welcome To The Mindfactory” are barn-burners from start to finish.
The rather tepid power balladry of “When The Magic Is Gone,” piano strains and all, marks the lone real divergence here, and it is easily the album's weakest track, sounding like a misguided cover of Styx's “Suite Madame Blue.” It's the album's one real misstep but is easy enough to forgive given the comparative strength of the rest of the material.
Penalty proves that Artillery aren't merely hanging around – or just hanging on – and going through the motions for the fans left from the Fear of Tomorrow early days. They've shown themselves worthy to a whole new audience since coming back, again, in 2007 and should have no trouble winning over many more converts with Penalty.