Monday, March 14, 2011

Artillery - By Inheritance (1990)

Every so often, an album comes along in your life that is you become so connected to, so addicted towards that you desire nothing more than to scream it to the world. To rain its praises upon the deaf ears surrounding you and catapult it unto the constellations. Artillery's triumphant third full-length By Inheritance was one such work when when I was naught more than an acne encrusted adolescent. An album of almost immeasurable effort, with an anomalous sense of melody and perhaps the best pair of blood-tied relatives to ever wield guitars in tandem. I speak of course of Michael and Morten Stützer, the latter of whom transitioned to the 2nd guitar slot, replacing Jørgen Sandau, and opening the bass gig to one Peter Thorslund.

Turns out that this was one of the greatest moves in thrash history, because combined, these two weave riffs like no other duo I've ever heard, and the Danes achieved a level of brilliant but welcome complexity to which their prior efforts seemed only a crude warm up. It's almost as if there were some sinister, blood-twined psychic link between the two, and not at all fair. They built structure upon structure of unforgettable fire to each of the nine originals pieces here, mixed brazenly with Flemming Rønsdorf's most enthusiastic and endearing vocal performance, and the explosive Nielsen/Thorslund rhythm section. This was a band at their peak, when the walls of the thrash genre were already beginning to crumble around them, and it's a capital offense that so many devotees of the dwindling format let this slide on by, in their rapid and narrow sighted consumption of fare like Rust in Peace. Don't get me wrong, I love that album myself, but there's not a single (original) here without riffs more exciting than a "Holy Wars...", and very often more than a handful each!

It's a stunning conception, inaugurated by the exotic, Eastern threads of the "7:00 from Tashkent" intro, a frantic frolic that seems to summon the listener directly to the thoroughfares of the Uzbekistan capital itself. This is merged perfectly to the opening of "Khomaniac", in which we were given our first glimpse of the new Artillery, arching and dominant melodies escalated into a gloried frenzy before they drop out for Thorslund's distorted low-end grind, and then flowering through some of the most intricate patterns my young mind had ever heard. The trademark Rönsdorf howling returns, with verses and chorus even more distinct than the prior full-lengths, lyrics tearing the fallacy of holy jihad. The leads are likewise, wholly impressive, even the backing rhythm guitars woven with more finesse than most thrash bands could ever muster through their careers. Gang shouts lead up to another brilliant riff around 4:30, another provocation of goosebumps in a ceaseless, copious overload.

So, that's but one fucking song and a half. The warlike hustle of Nielsen's kit breaks out "Beneath the Clay (R.I.P.)", with another bevy of unprecedented guitar glaze and an incredibly attractive, haunting chorus vocal. The basic structure of the song breathes the same airy expanse, but the riffs are equally well balanced to drag the listener through a vortex of wonder. "By Inheritance" is the first to open with the cleaner guitars, but it turns out these are no less busy than their electrics, with another joyous dynamic thrust and Thorslund scaling about beneath the Stützer driven symphony. Queue "Bombfood", a soldier's lament driven through yet another segue of beautiful, clean guitars that explode into a chorus you simply will not believe as it bowls you over with its anti-war lyrical antics. Queue "Don't Believe", which once AGAIN bleeds in the shining acoustic traits to a burst of testosterone and life, and the band strikes you with ANOTHER intense climax.

Don't believe a word
Unless it's proven true
You might just catch a spell
Damnation upon you

"Life in Bondage" cycles and cavorts through an even more frenzied rhythmic drive, and the opening riff to "Equal at First" is unreal catchy, close in tone to the "7:00 from Tashkent" intro and busting out some of the most badass mojo on the album right beyond Flemming's 'hwah' at :35. If there was one possibility of drowning down this album's momentum, it would have been the cover of "Razamanaz". However, as a fan of the Nazareth original, I have to say it turns out to be one of the best renditions I've heard, played with the same spunk and passion as the original content here. Naturally, it doesn't spark the same level of envy in the guitar geek as the rest of By Inheritance, but against all odds it seems to fit. Lastly, the band hurl out a sequel to "In the Trash" from Terror Squad, manifest through heavily chorused clean guitars and the charming screams before the Master of Puppets-era charge begins. Just the last piece in a puzzle of perfection, with even more of the able bodied guitar work running circles about the competition.

All 40 minutes have a spacious resonance thanks to the Flemming Rasmussen production. Most will know that particular Dane from his legendary work with Metallica (1984-88), so needless to say the guy can mix a thrash album. Artillery are obviously quite a lot more melodic than the Bay Area legends, but he captures it all very well, the guitars bold and out front as they should be when this much effort has been placed in their composition. I will admit that in comparison, the rhythm section can often feel a little drowned, since they're rarely the focus, but when the guitars are this good, there is simply no cause for concern. It's an emotional, empowered slab of creative speed, a flawless album that should have had this band's name perched on the tongue of every hesher from here to eternity. They've never released a bad album (even in their reunion period thus far); but this is clearly the summit, and I can only think of a small handful of discs in my entire metallic collection that could hold a candle to it. Acquire at any cost, even if you've got to carve out and auction off a few organs in the process.

Verdict: Epic Win [10/10]
(no one can take it away)

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