Joined: 30 Jan 2003
|Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:50 am Post subject: ARTILLERY - TERROR SQUAD
|ARTILLERY – TERROR SQUAD
(Neat Records, 1987)
Let's talk riffs, shall we ..?
Perhaps not the hotbed of thrash metal by any means, but Denmark gave us Artillery and one of the most vibrant, bombastic albums of the 1980’s. Terror Squad, released in April 1987 wasn’t doing anything new per se; for a European band they weren't rehashing Endless Pain riffs but following a similar path set down by Metallica and their Bay Area contemporaries, but it was their delivery which makes TS such a thrash metal classic.
First and foremost, it was the riffs. If ever an album should be renowned for its memorable yet heavy-as-fuck riffs, it is this one. They are *everywhere*. From the opening chords of The Challenge to last number Decapitation of Deviants, TS is a riff-mania onslaught from beginning to end. In fact, one could argue that Artillery was the European Exodus, despite TS being recorded a full 3-years before the riff-filled and influential Fabulous Disaster.
Secondly, there was the production. Apart from perhaps Destruction's Eternal Devastation Terror Squad sounded nothing like the euro thrash bands at the time – this was no Sodom nastiness or Celtic Frost avant-garde – this was full-on NWOBHM meets Ride the Lightning-era Metallica. Not a bad thing by any means, and others soon followed suit (see Sweden’s Agony and Switzerland’s Apocalypse) but for its time TS sounded brisk, fresh, and very, very heavy indeed.
And then there were the songs … not a poor track amongst them. With no melodic intro the aforementioned The Challenge crashes through, all rattles and rolls, those riffs apparent and in-your-face, setting the tone for a superb thrash metal album which is relentless in its delivery. The title track is a monster of a song, bursting with time-changes and riffs (I’m gonna be mentioning the ‘R’ word a lot) as is the epic At War with Science. At 7-minutes plus it’s the longest track on the album, and this magnificent riff-slaughter just destroys; the time change mid-point just has to be heard to be believed. Therapy snarls with vicious cynicism – Straight jacket on/sit still you little prick – and musically more than reminds this reviewer of something hardcore-ish than your average thrash anthem.
The band were air-tight, too. The backbone of drummer Carsten Nielsen and bassist Morten Stuzer were just astounding, as were guitarists Michael Stuzer (lead) and Jorgan Sandau (rhythm), even if the solos weren’t exactly Gary Holt-brilliance. Vocally, Artillery fell under the King Diamond umbrella; you either liked Flemming Ronsdorf’s voice, or you didn’t. He had a unique voice, no doubt, and this did put some people off who thought he wasn’t ‘growly’ enough or too high-pitched for some. I never had a problem, however, and thought then (as I do now) that Ronsdorf’s voice suits Terror Squad’s Draconian album perfectly.
Speaking of which, lyrically Artillery paints a bleak picture of society indeed, which the album cover, despite its amateurish finish threatens with authoritarian malice. From forced electro-therapy to the evils of religion to governmental-approved death squads to the 1980’s threat of nuclear & chemical warfare and other man-made catastrophes there was no Caught in a Mosh here.
Sadly, Artillery was signed to Neat Records, home of Venom, and not one of the more reliable labels of the time, it must be said. Having released their competent debut album, Fear of Tomorrow in 1985 they went on to record TS themselves with Lars Overgaard in El Sound studios, Copenhagen in September ’86. Despite Artillery being championed by Kerrang’s Don Kaye (he gave TS a glowing 5-K review and challenged Neat to push Artillery as best they could) the record label failed on every count. From the relatively cheap concept & packaging – the album cover, though instantly recognisable now by thrash aficionados was a crude, cartoon-ish effort perhaps drawn by the young son or daughter of a Neat employee (1) and the back cover looks like some throwback to 1970's Disco – to very little promotion or advertising in magazines and, worse of all, you apparently couldn’t get your hands on the damn record.
Said founder member Michael Stutzer in an April 2009 interview, “When we made Terror Squad, it was delayed more than a year before it came out. It was actually ready and people bootlegged copies everywhere and wrote us telling how great an album it was and wanting to know where to buy it. It was also reviewed everywhere, but you couldn’t buy it. That caused much frustration …”(2)
The only review I have to hand is from Don Kaye, who raves excitedly about the album to all who’ll listen – “… simply the best Thrash Metal album yet released in 1987, by possibly the best Thrash Metal band in the whole of Europe.” Bold words, you'll agree. Kaye goes on to mention those “monstrous riffs that Sandau and Stytzer (sic) come up with…”, stating that “they are just all over the bleedin’ album, hitting you from all directions …”
In the end, if we can judge a record by its riffs, then Artillery’s Terror Squad wins, hands down. Yes, unfortunately they were on a shitty label who did fuck-all for the band, and they never quite managed to follow TS with the same vitriol conviction (By Inheritance, the follow-up was released in 1990 and was lacking, to these ears anyway) but Terror Squad, by its own rifftastic merits still stands bold & proud as an essential thrash metal classic.
(1) " ... as far as I remember Neat had an artist lined up to do the cover then for whatever reason (I think it was financial) it fell through and one of the guitarists hurriedly rustled up the now iconic sketch which adorns the cover." - Xenomorph.
The Challenge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXmYX2KmKyU