Reviewed: May, 2021
Released: May 7, 2021, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
Veteran Danish thrashers have returned with their first album since the passing of long time guitarist, and brother of bandmate Michael, Morten Stützer in 2019 and and their tenth album since forming in 1982. Their earlier line up included Benny Petersen, who was also in an early version of Mercyful Fate. 1990’s BY INHERITANCE is still one of my favorite thrash albums to this day. To me, they have always been more than just a thrash band and this new album, quaintly titled X, is proof that they are more than just a thrash band. They can be fast and technical but they add just a bit more melody to their sound that has always made them stand out for me.
“The Devil’s Symphony” kicks this one off in proper form with some serious riffs and blazing speed. Michael Bastholm Dahl sound more like a power metal vocalist but somehow his voice fits. This is the second Artillery album I have heard him on and he is a seriously good metal vocalist. The bridge leading to the chorus is melodic and catchy and the solos are blazing, as they should be. Following that is the first single and video from the album, “In Thrash We Trust.” Do not be afraid of the cheesy song title, this is not your typical “kill posers and drink beer” ode to thrash. Instead they went for the thrash anthem and it was brilliant. The riffs are scorching and melodies infectious. Again, this album has a lot of traditional metal elements that would not really fit under the thrash banner. The second single and video, “Turn Up The Rage,” is a prime example of how this band has a tendency to deviate from a normal thrash formula to add traditional and power metal elements into their songs. The chorus of this song will have you headbanging and throwing horns, guaranteed!
What this band also does is show how blurry the line can be between heavy and thrash metal. “Force of Indifference” is the perfect example. There are some serious thrash riffs throughout this song but when we get to the chorus the melody takes over. In a lot of cases that could ruin the song but with Artillery, especially Bastholm Dahl’s incredible vocals, it’s the hook. The vocals on”Varg I Veum” actually reminds me of Niklas Isfeldt of Dream Evil….and that’s ok for me. In fact, that just shows that this band does not want to be placed in any box but with “Mors Ontologica” and the closer “Beggars in Black Suits” they also remind you that their roots are thrash. Both songs brilliantly showcase their ability to add infinite layers to their song without losing the original intent. And the killer guitar work on this album; in both the execution of the riffs and the godly solos have to be mentioned. Losing an integral part of your band as well as a family member can not be easy but with the addition of Sacrificial axe man Kræn Meier it appears that the band found someone that fits with Michael Stützer style.
To be this active forty years into your career is a milestone in and of itself. To overcome just the normal challenges to try and keep a metal band together, let alone overcome the loss of a member that close, shows the sheer resilience and perseverance of this band. Their current formula has been cemented for the past couple of releases now and I think with X they perfected that formula. Call it what you want, I’ll call it an essential metal album from a veteran band who was around when metal was in its infancy…and they’re not done yet!