Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Artillery - When Death Comes (2009)

I have always had strong feelings for the legendary Artillery, the band that produced one of my all time favorite metal albums, By Inheritance, an apex of incredibly structured riffing, passionate explosive vocals and unbridled velocity. Since that album would be nigh impossible to top, I can forgive the band for the long hiatus between each release since '90. B.A.C.K. (1999) was a good album with a ton of the band's original energy, even though it couldn't match up song for song. When the band parted with Flemming Rondsorf I was terrified of what would early live video I saw of the band with replacement Søren Nico Adamsen was abysmal.

It is fortunate that my fears were misplaced and premature. Adamsen does a pretty good job with this album. Though his power metal past (Crystal Eyes, etc) bleeds through, and he lacks that edge of UDO-like brutality to his delivery, his melodies are sound and fit in well with the band's busy melodic speed/thrash riffing. When Death Comes is actually a very tight production, with tracks that become more infectious upon repeated spins. The title track feels a lot like the B.A.C.K. material, but infused with so much melodic grace that one can only smile and remember just what this guitar duo is capable of (the Stützer brothers are the best there is, hands down). The riffs are complex but accessible. While strong, it's not the best material here. "Upon My Cross I Crawl", "Sandbox Philosophy", "Not a Nightmare" and "Damned Religion" are all classically composed Artillery tracks that left my jaw in a half-broken state near the floor. The rest aren't shabby either.

When Death Comes is thick and meaty, with guitars that want to punch you in the throat. Adamsen's vocals soar over them in a true old school Germanic speed style, the inflection reminding me of early Scanner or Mania. There are some truly stupid lyrics on the album, as in "Damned Religion" where Adamsen intones "Your double talking jive motherfuckers
Take your bullshit stay away from me"... but lyrics have never really been this band's forte. This is a 27 year old band here...the fact they can still write such infectious material so deep into their career is a testament to their raw talent. By Inheritance will always secure them as one of the finest speed/thrash metal bands the world has ever known, but I have to hand it to the band for choosing a decent new vocalist and not letting their legacy stagnate with a sub-par 'reunion' album.

Verdict: Win [8.5/10]

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