Artillery - Penalty By Percetion - (9/10)
Published on March 31, 2016
Live By The sCythe!
Listening to Artillery’s new album, Penalty By Perception, one has to stop and wonder; has this band always been this good? Listening back to the seven albums that preceded it, one has to concede that; no, no they have not. While the Danish thrashers have been putting out perfectly serviceable material for the better part of the last three decades, Penalty By Perception sees them operating on a whole new level—leaner, more polished and, above all, more lethal.
Penalty By Perception is built upon the same blueprint Artillery have been following since they made their aptly-titled comeback with B.A.C.K. in 1999. However, by this point that blueprint has been transformed from a rough draft to a fully-fledged foundation. Track-after-track, Penalty By Perception manages to deliver some of the best and most exciting traditional thrash numbers ever committed to record—especially in recent memory. Yet, for all its qualitative consistency, and traditional adherence, Penalty By Perception is also a remarkably diverse record as well. Despite the proclamation(s) of its opening track—“In Defiance Of Conformity”—Artillery stay well within the traditional thrash template, however, within those boundaries they also manage to hit many—if not all—of the extremes for which such a foundation allows. From the hardened anthem “Live By The Scythe” to thrash “ballad” “When The Magic Is Gone,” to the spasmodically, (early) Annihilator-esque “Welcome To The Mind Factory;” Penalty By Perception simply delivers on all fronts.
While there’s little to fault about Penalty By Perception, vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl undoubtedly emerges as its—and Artillery’s— strongest asset. The Ripe pipesman made his debut with Artillery on their previous release Legions (2013), where his cleaner and more-traditional style brought a certain refreshing quality to the band’s material. However, with that release they also contributed somewhat significantly to an overall “weakening” of Artillery’s previously rabid sound. Penalty By Perception, on the other hand, sees Dahl step up to the plate at full force, so that his more-polished style actually elevates Artillery’s material beyond any expectedly-harsher, thrash affair. Dahl’s vocal style and distinct lyrical delivery ensure songs like “Live By The Scythe,” “Cosmic Brain” and “Deity Machine” will stick long in your head once you’re done listening—endowing Penalty By Perception with an instantaneous and lasting quality that’s quite simply been missing from most thrash metal since the heyday of the mid-eighties.
Dahl’s outstanding performance would be in vain though if it the rest of the band weren’t there to back him up, and there really isn’t a weak performance to be found on Penalty By Perception. Peter Thorslund’s bass plays a much more active and distinct role than most bassists are allowed in the thrash and metal genre overall, with many of the songs being lead by his alternating rhythmic, leads. Drummer, Josua Madsen lays down a layer covering fire that may as well be born of the cannon that adorns the record’s cover, and guitarists Michael and Morton Stützer’s riffing and lead work is sharp enough to cut yourself on.
1 Yes, yes, I know: Fear Of Tomorrow and By Inheritance are really good as well; but are they really that good? (apparently so)