Thrash metal was such an interesting phenomenon in it’s day. A surface where the Heavy Metal riffs took on a new life when mashed up with the livid tempo of Punk and Hardcore. Extreme in sound and branching out eventually to feature quite a vast range of different kind of approaches within it’s scope. Some of the bands did become the biggest metal acts ever, whereas other went completely unnoticed. Between the ends of popularity were hundreds and hundreds of groups, each with a little bit a different story to tell.
Denmark was never maybe the largest spawning central of metal bands in sheer numbers alone, but the percentage in which they turned into cult classics was/is phenomenal. The keys to it are riffs. Tons of them. Larger than life and ambitious. And one of the finest examples of this (besides the almighty Mercyful Fate, occult Heavy Rock of Evil, or extremity of Invocator) is Artillery. Formed in Taastrup – one of the suburbs of Copenhagen – as early as in 1982, Artillery fired itself (hehe) into the consciousness of the Metal underground with their demos and three globally acclaimed Thrash Metal gems: ‘Fear of Tomorrow‘ (1985), ‘Terror Squad‘ (1987) and ‘By Inheritance‘ (1990). Never too far from Metallica or Megadeth in quality, they maybe suffered a bit from a low-budget production with their first two albums, but when the renowned giant maker Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Blind Guardian, Morbid Angel, Pretty Maids, Rainbow etc. etc.) took over the production duties for the third collection of mosh, Artillery found their way to countless “best ever thrash metal records” – lists for decades to come.
Since then, they have faced a turbulent ride. Just like most of their peers, Artillery split up after the 1990’s, when Seattle and Oasis happened. After a hasty comeback in late 1990’s and fast split-up that followed, they are back again. Since their second exhumation in 2007 Artillery have been going steadily from strength to strength, releasing high quality Thrash Metal for four albums already. Now Metal Blade – their current home – is on the verge of releasing their fifth album in their second afterlife, and ninth in the history of the band altogether. The expectations, if not through the roof, are high. None of the Artillery albums so far has been bad, and the recent ones have been constant promises of riff-bound glory. So, now we are about to Face the Fear, huh? Bring it on!
The title track storms in like Anthrax at their very best. The vocals of Michael Dahl are as powerful as they are melodic. Choruses throw in a hook or two Scott Ian would be proud of and the pace is nicely expeditious throughout. Where things really take off is when the opening riff of “Crossroads of Conspiracy” crawls in. Anthemic like Tony Iommi in his full glory, the mammoth of a riff gives way to the energetic Thrash Metal fire that follows. Holy funkmeisters Catwoman, things are sounding solid here indeed! As “New Rage” and “Sworn Utopia” are better Megadeth tunes than the recent Megadeth ones have been, Artillery seem to be making their way to the top-10’s around the toxic waltzing world with ease.
Then the unexpected happens. “Through the Ages of Atrocity” introduces a more mellow tempo, increased melody and certainly more commercial riffs. Hard rocking away, the momentum of the album bursts like a balloon in a birthday party full of deranged hedgehogs. Bam!! (insert deranged hedgehog sounds here.) “Thirst for the Worst” takes another turn in the story with Iron Maidenian riffery, but the godly gallop never appears to save the tune. As the track eventually leaves an aftertaste of being a left-over track from an Edguy album, the title becomes ironic almost. When “Pain” (another appropriate title right here, dammit) sounds already dreadfully like Whitesnake, the Thrash Metal listener is beaten into submission by the album for good. What the hell did just happen??!?!
So, “The Face of Fear” is met with utter confusion, eventually. It is more like two different styled EP’s than a full album and these halves do not work together at all. The Thrash Metal body rejects the Heavy Rock implant and the patient cannot be salvaged. Even now, after several spins of the thing, the impression the album leaves is quite schizophrenic. Whereas “Sworn Utopia” is almost a top-5 tune of 2018, the other half of the record does not hold ones interest at all. Utter Hard Rock horror.
It is a unfortunate fact that “The Face of Fear” does not make any sense. It is either a sign of total lack of authority from producer Sören Andersen, or a failed attempt to introduce Artillery to a new kind of an audience, but the band (or the producer!) should have certainly made up their minds in regards to material differences and direction. “The Face of Fear” cannot be called a thorough experience by any means. Highly scientific terms such as “half-arsed” come to mind more likely. If the fire and brimstone had continued to rain upon us, the unworthy, like it did with the first four songs, this would have been a case of 4/5, or almost 5/5. This makes the direction of the latter part of the album even more difficult to bear. I mean, if the whole album was worthless it would have just slid down the slope of oblivion with a choir of “nah’s” and “meh’s” following it’s lubricated slide, but now as one part of the album is almost the best Artillery in has done in ages, and the other the worst, things become a bit difficult to handle. File under: Why, oh why!?!
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