So ARTILLERY is back for another round of metal thrashing madness with the same lineup that brought us 2013’s Legions, one of my top records of that year. These days you can never be sure if the members of a group will be in it for the long haul, so seeing all the same names in the press leading up to brand new disc Penalty By Perception (March 25, Metal Blade Records) sure made me happy. The cover art also gave me tingles. I’m gonna need that on a T-shirt, STAT! This album continues in much the same vein as its predecessor, all mega-riffs and soaring vocals. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Michael Bastholm Dahl is hands-down the best singer that ARTILLERY have ever had and with him behind the mic there’s simply no stopping them.
“Defiance of Conformity” gets us going with the double guitar attack of brothers Michael and Morten Stutzer, the breakneck drumming of Josua Madsen and rough-and-tumble bass work from Peter Thorslund revved high alongside Dahl’s amazing voice. A nice dual lead kicks off “Live By the Scythe” and we’re off to the races once again. There’s a real comfort level that you can feel as well as hear, like these guys actually enjoy playing together…what a concept in 2016, eh? The hook is also pretty damn infectious. For me the runaway favorite 30 seconds in was title track “Penalty By Perception”, though. And that was just during the intro; I knew something wonderful was about to happen, and I was right. With machine-gun riffs, killer solos, and Bahl’s insane vocal delivery this is a recipe for success and one that I keep coming back to.
“Mercy of Ignorance” benefits from a tempo shift between the verse and chorus that gives an already cool tune a kick in the ass, making it that much cooler. The boys swing for the fences on “Rites of War” and “Sin of Innocence”, the latter featuring some tribal drums at the beginning before going into full ass-kicking mode. From here we get the piano-driven slow song “When the Magic Is Gone” and it’s nothing short of gorgeous in its arrangement and melody. I’m not quite sure what a “Cosmic Brain” is but the song of that name is pretty cool. “Deity Machine” was another winner due to the tempo and groove, but also because this is without a doubt Bahl’s best vocal on the record.
To be honest I really wasn’t sure what to make of “Path of the Atheist” at first. Actually, full disclosure? I’m still not. It’s kind of clunky and just doesn’t click for me, but hey, it might wind up being someone else’s favorite so what do I know? It’s also the only stumbling block because closer “Welcome to the Mindfactory” has the band on the attack one final time to claim victory. Most ARTILLERY fans will definitely be pleased with Penalty By Perception, as they should be. As I said before, this lineup has shown us once again just what they are capable of and as long as they keep delivering meaty thrash metal like this, there’s simply no stopping them!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Penalty By Perception”, “Welcome to the Mindfactory”, “Deity Machine”, “Defiance of Conformity”, “When the Magic Is Gone”, “Mercy of Ignorance”