There are some bands who struggle to pick up where they left off after reuniting, they slowly fade away or produce disappointment after disappointment until it’s all over. Then you have Artillery who clearly decided to live up to their name and came out all guns blazing when they reunited for the second time in 2007. Penalty by Perception has an energy that many of their peers will envy and certainly doesn’t show any signs of a band phoning it in.
There’s something to be said for a thrash album that starts without any over the top fanfare. There’s no two minute dramatic flamenco guitar or swelling orchestration, just a brief flirtation with a Southern rock guitar sound and then all engines are go on In Defiance of Conformity. This song is destined to be a killer set opener. You have the short intro, the moment the band appear on stage, the moment the pits open up and the moment the singer appears. You have crowd participation shouts and most importantly, you don’t have any let up until the end. This is how to open an album well.
Live by the Scythe from the new album
This is Michael Bastholm Dahl’s second offering as frontman of Artillery, having performed on 2014s Legions. I won’t play the comparison game because, a) that game is always annoying as fuck, and b) this is a review of the current album. I would be very surprised if the old school contingent didn’t like his work, though as someone who only found Artillery post-2007 reunion I could be well off the mark. Dahl’s vocals fall perfectly in the middle ground of thrash and power metal. He can spit out gritty, sharp lines before hitting a soaring verse or chorus, almost in the Kai Hansen school of performance. See Mercy of Ignorance for a good example of that singing style.
The whole album has that half and half feel, you have the crushing riffs of the title track and Sin of Innocence while you have almost upbeat power metal guitar runs in songs such as Deity Machine.
It’s not all full pelt I should mention, Path of the Athiest has a slower marching beat (and has the briefest of the brief harmonised licks that would have earned a Bill & Ted air guitar solo) while When The Magic is Gone threatens the ever self-indulgent generic thrash ballad, but they save the day by skipping the Remember Tomorrow/Fade To Black clone approach so many take. For me it’s one of the strongest songs on the album, and it’s gentle enough at the close that the following track, Cosmic Brain, hits you like a ton of bricks, especially the testicle burster of a cry from Dahl.
Closing on Welcome to the Mindfactory, a song that makes me think of Annihilator and I have no idea why, you’re left to reflect on what turns out to be a really strong album. I know that last line sounds surprised, but a lot of older bands fail to capture the spirit of their early years, yet Artillery still have the driving power along with a subtle blend of genres that puts them into a place of their own.
Penalty by Perception is out March 25th via Metal Blade Records