Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Artillery - My Blood (2011)

All trains must come to a stop. Or at least, we've yet to discover an infinite, self-perpetuating combustion system to keep them on the tracks forever. Thus is also the case for Artillery, but their sixth full-length My Blood is thankfully not a complete halt, just a cautious deceleration. Not in actual speed, mind you, but quality. The reasons are numerous, but the most telling is this is the first album which seems not to add anything new, or rather, not anything new and welcome. From Fear of Tomorrow to Terror Squad there was a positive evolution, from Terror Squad to By Inheritance there was a massive leap into genius. When they reformed in the 90s, B.A.C.K. was a fresh and modern mutation. In the 21st century, they silenced the opposition with a fine performance from new vocalist Søren Nico Adamsen.

There is simply nothing all that compelling to be drawn from My Blood, an in listening through I've felt like I had just taken a trip to the Red Cross to donate my plasma, only to be turned away because the banks were full for my type. Most of the trademarks of When Death Comes are intact: generic album title, fantastic production, bright and melodic thrash interspersed with a few clean guitar sequences, but the songs simply cannot match up. You will hear quite a few, thinly veiled self-referential hints in the compositions that hearken back to By Inheritance ("Death is an Illusion" in particular, or the very Eastern intro to "Mi Sangre/The Blood Song") or the groovy havoc of B.A.C.K. (as in the preview tracks "Monster" and "Warrior Blood"), but they don't offer anything intriguing to the formula. My Blood is not void of variation, as the band rove through ardent thrashers, rock-spliced ballads ("Ain't Giving In") and cheesy crowd pleaser anthems ("Thrasher"...ugh!), but none of these fields are conquered here, unless production and musical proficiency are your only measures of success...

To that effect, Artillery are still quite on fire. Morten and Michael Stützer still blaze know how to blaze trails with busy riffing and excellent lead technique, but I can't think of more than a half dozen riffs on the entire album that brought me back to that salivating state I was zoned into as recently as When Death Comes. Adamsen's siren-like nasal potential is once again realized, and to be fair he's practically the only memorable element on several of the tracks ("Dark Days" and "End of Eternity" are examples), his power metal roots shining straight through. Though I've been disappointed with his performance of the band's classics in the live format, he doesn't make a hack job out of the energetic remakes of "Show Your Hate" and "Eternal War" from Fear of Tomorrow (included as bonus tracks in the digipak). The rhythmic duo of Thorslund and Nielsen is tight as ever, and the mix is so spotless you can see your reflection in more than just the back of the CD.

In summation, the album's polished, substantial deluge of content is simply not on par with what I've come to expect from the Danes. It's good enough to separate itself from the thoughtless, derivative droning of so many throwback thrashers, but it's not above a moment or two of brain death itself. Clean as a whistle, just as piercing, and sometimes as irritating. Not a letdown as far as the constituents' individual skills are concerned, and not a necessarily bad or even mediocre album, but a dearth of truly memorable writing from men who generally carve out a far larger slice from the pie of passion.

Verdict: Win [7/10]


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