Album Review: Artillery - Legions

I chuckle as announcements roll out for albums, and every band that was formed sometime in the 80's described itself as 'legendary'. It's simply impossible for all of them to be such, but more than that, it amuses me how much revisionism has occurred of what the time was really like. Bands that have reformed and claim status as kings of metal were utterly forgotten during their initial runs, which makes it a little hard for me to believe anything they claim for a legacy. Being around for a long time isn't the same thing as having an impact, nor is it a badge of honor I'm supposed to respect.

Artillery is one of those bands that has been around forever, and yet, never achieved the level of success that would make them spring to the forefront of anyone's minds. And with this album equaling the output from their first run together, it somehow feels weird that the band has done as much as a reformed look back as they did as a forward moving entity.

The press release that comes along with the album recommends Artillery to fans of Iron Maiden and Edguy, and I can't see why they would say such a thing. While “Chill My Bones (Burn My Flesh)” does open the album in a way eerily similar to Edguy's “Mysteria”, Artillery has much more in common with the early days of thrash than they do either of those more melodic bands.

The guitar work throughout the album is barn-storming, full-speed ahead material, racing through riffs with the reckless abandon of an early Metallica. They aren't quite that sharp, but they're miles away from anything you would call power metal. Likewise, the vocals stick to high shrieks and simple one line choruses, and not the highly melodic stylings of the aforementioned.

The exception to this being the title track, which stops its thrashing on a dime for a chorus that feels dropped in from 1983, complete with gang shouted “woahs”. It sticks out like a sore thumb, both within the song and within the album. It's an anachronism that doesn't make much sense in the larger context, although it may just be the best moment on the entire album.

More than anything, the reaction I have to “Legions” is one of bewilderment. It's a decent new-age retro thrash album, but I can't really see it that way. My expectations were set for one thing, and I was delivered something totally different. I'm not sure who or how thought this would remind anyone of Iron Maiden, but it did color the way I look at the album. On that basis, I couldn't possible recommend the album.

But if I step back and look at the album for what it is, it's a slightly different story. While I still don't think the songwriting is sharp enough to truly make an impact (the songs are consistently too long), it works far better when judged against some of the other thrash I've been able to hear recently. Thrash fans should find enough to like on the album to walk away happy, but anyone else might be in for a bit of a letdown.

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