Saturday, March 12, 2011

Artillery - Terror Squad (1987)

It might look as ugly as sin, but Terror Squad marked a mild, steady evolution from Artillery's 1985 debut. The band honed in their chops, better channeling their aggression into an act to be reckoned with, with thick and charging guitars that remind me of Master of Puppets' more forceful gallops. The lineup was precisely the same here as on Fear of Tomorrow, and it was recorded once again in the El Sound Studio, Copenhagen, but its cleaner. The drums are more perky sounding; the guitars more engaging (especially the mutes in the voracious riff patterns) and an inkling more technical; the vocals better blended into the fray, although I would honestly say that the chorus parts on the debut were as good as these.

Again, they choose their pacing wisely, with some of the most memorable tracks dominating the first half of the album and ensuring the interest of the listener. "The Challenge" has some of the most technical, intense guitars Michael Stützer and Jørgen Sandau had yet manifest, seeming strangely enthusiastic despite the rather negative worldview of the lyrics. "In the Trash" has some excellent riffs in the verse, and it also sets up a sequel for the following album. But then comes "Terror Squad" itself, a slower piece oriented in massive grooves with Morten's bass sliding all over the place. The hooks within this incredible, with Ronsdorf screaming with the same passion he'd be pursuing for the brilliant follow-up, gang shouts joining him for the potent if predictable chorus. I can't say I love the little samples that the band throw in here, but they're at least flush with the riotous subject matter.

"Let There Be Sin" returns to the higher velocity that opened the album, and the muted riff in the middle of the verse (around :30) is simply loaded with awesome. But the second half of the album doesn't necessarily maintain the consistency of the first. "Hunger and Greed" has a great, screaming chorus and 1-2 decent guitars, but the rest are forgettable; and "Therapy", while a pleasant foreshadowing to some of the tactics used for By Inheritance, is perhaps a little too silly in the vocal area, Fleming screaming like a little girl (or like King Diamond, if not as piercing) before the trot of the bridge. "At War With the Science" is largely another groover, but the riffs aren't quite as effective as "Terror Squad". Thankfully, the closing thrust of "Decapitation of Deviants" ties everything together, and so ultimately if feels like at least six of the tracks here have stormed your arse off.

You keep reminding yourself
That life is just life when you're active
If you expect to be paid
You have to be fuckin' attractive

Terror Squad was not exactly a foremost highlight of European thrash for 1987, being that it was up against titans like Terrible Certainty, Finished With the Dogs, Persecution Mania and Chemical Invasion. However, it proved that Artillery was no one hit wonder, and readily evolved their high strung, energetic sound from the debut, even if by small increments. That said, in retrospect it seems like it suffers by comparison to what happened next. But really, what wouldn't? This album might be a shower nozzle compared to the forthcoming 1990 tidal wave, but nonetheless it belongs in the collection of any discriminating thrasher.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10] (head in the sky, you're aimin' higher)

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