I like to think of the Deadly Relics compilation as a friendly apology to the band's scattered fanbase, but it was also a renewed statement of Artillery's intent. You see, for some insane reason, after releasing the masterpiece By Inheritance, the band saw fit to split up. They put out a demo in '91 and then dissolved. In my opinion, this was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, but then, there was also a bright side to the action: the Danes have never released a bad album. No Neo Destruction. No St. Anger. No Risk. No Diabolicus in Musica. No mid-90s identity crises. Just an empty void in which to cry out our obsessions and hear nothing but a faint echo, until the band formed once more and prepared the new material for their 1999 album, adequately titled B.A.C.K.
Now, I said it's a friendly package, but it's not exactly mandatory listening. Much of the Deadly Relics release consists of demos for songs that were better mixed for full-length albums. To be precise, there are three demos here: Fear of Tomorrow (1985), Deeds of Darkness (1984), and Shellshock (also 1984), rounded out by a pair of By Inheritance promo tracks and a war sample in Japanese with some cheesy effects that is used as the intro ("Artilleristic Prelude MCMXCVIII"). A lot of the tracks here have seen better days, namely "Khomaniac", "Don't Believe", "Out of the Sky", "Deeds of Darkness", "Fear of Tomorrow" and "Time Has Come". However, there are also a songs here, in particular from the '84 demos, that were not revisited for the studio albums, and these provide the bulk of the admittedly sparse value.
Some of these are before even Flemming Rönsdorf had joined the band, when they were fronted by a gentleman named Carsten Lohman. He's got a fairly evil, mid-ranged tone here, but pales in comparison to his replacement. But most of these older tunes, like the shaky "Too Late to Regret" with its middling heavy metal riffs and groovy, bass-thick breakdown, are simply not that good to begin with. The shredding is fair, but the rhythm guitars are quite dull, almost the opposite of what the band would later develop into. "Deserter" has a cool, spacey synth intro, but then a pretty slow, chugging volley of riffs that also do not sate the curiosity. "Hey Woman" is probably the best from the Deeds of Darkness demo, with some fast, feral energy behind it, but the guitars are pretty average and the vocals suck. The Shellshock demo is quite a bit better, with Lohman using an even more vile tone to his metal scripture, and songs like "All for You" and the pumping "Bitch" at least curry a raw charm to them that, and you can hear a smattering of that Fear of Tomorrow enthusiasm. The final track "Blessed Are the Strong" is pretty straight, slow thrash with a good, violent atmosphere, and a few riffs that feel as if they might be reused and sped up for By Inheritance.
As a slice of history for a band that too many had brushed over in the first place, Deadly Relics does a fairly half-assed job. I would have really liked more content. The 1982 demo We Are the Dead would have been a fine addition, or the super rare 1991 demo Mind Factory which I'm assuming had some material more in the vein of By Inheritance which I would have strangled numerous innocents to attain. Tack those two rarities, and you'd at least have a complete glimpse back, rather than partial obscurement. As it stands, this is nothing more than a purchase of time before the Danish band would vault back into life (and then, subsequently into another breakup) with B.A.C.K. The unheard tracks are meagerly written, with a not unexpected bad production. Not worth bothering over, in my estimation.
Verdict: Fail [4.25/10]