I love the first two Artillery albums. I’ve said so often and I’ll continue to trumpet the work those great Danes did until I’m in the cold, hard ground. Since I went on an Angry Metal Tirade about this very topic in my review of Artillery‘s 2011 My Blood opus, I’ll digress from further gushing here. Suffice it to say, since those treasured platters, Artillery has had its share of ups and downs, with My Blood being particularly unimpressive and legacy bruising. After some line up tweaks and a new vocalist, they’re B.A.C.K. with Legions and a slightly new approach while still trying to resurrect their former greatness. The result is one of their most accessible albums to date, coming across like a mash up of their By Inheritance opus, vintage Heathen, Anthrax and Steve Grimmett era Onslaught. There are a few moments that nearly recapture the power and glory of old and overall this is a way better and more enjoyable take on their classic thrash approach.
Things start strong with “Chill My Bones,” which sports a nicely balanced mix of chunky thrash riffs and clean, clear singing. The chorus is ominous and moody and new voice Michael Bastholm Dahl acquits himself well with his slick delivery. “Godfeather” has a bit more of a Heathen vibe, but works just fine and features some inspired riff-work and overall energy.
The big hit comes with “Legions of Artillery” which brings back the flavor and punch of the classic Artillery era. The riffs could have been any of the first three albums and Dahl fits in well despite his more melodic approach. The chorus is poppy in the same way the By Inheritance material was and it works well. Equally good is the melancholic, thrash tinged balled “Enslaved to the Nether” which is awash with big, emotional vocal hooks and beefy riffs intertwined with beautifully melodic acoustic work. It’s catchy as hell and the chorus will stick in you like a meat hook.
Other tracks are solid, but not Earth-moving, like “Anno Requiem” and “Global Flatline,” but they grow with repeat spins. Only “Dies Irae” falls flat, since it’s one of those cutesy “let’s name all our songs and albums” kind of disasters and I really hate those (yes, even when Manowar does them).
Original members Michael and Morten Stutzer bust out some zippy, choppy thrash riffs and it seems they’ve been reenergized and inspired to craft some of their best stuff since the early days. They sound razor-sharp and ready for battle and while they’re not doing anything new, their riff lines feel gripping and memorable more often than not. I also dig the raw, slightly buzzy guitar tone they employ, which serves as an effective counter-point to the more melodic vocals. Speaking of which, Michael Bastholm Dahl adds a new dimension to the Artillery sound with his crystal clear, higher register singing, and while I didn’t like it at first, his style grew on me with each spin and now I’m sold. Sure, I wish they still had original throat Flemming Ronsdorf, but this guy is no slouch.
I jumped off the Artillery war wagon after My Blood, but these guys did quite an about face and show they have some shells left in them old cannons. This has some of the best stuff the band has written since the 80s and they seem to have stumbled on a successful fusion of their old sound and newer, more melodic influences. If you like your thrash with a bit more of a catchy, edge, this is well worth checking out. Hell, even old fans will find something to like here. Nice to see these guys firing accurately again!