In 1990, amidst a transition period for mankind, with the existing Stalinist party ruined and the world of the ruthless market reigning triumphantly, the prophecies for the end of History became a joke and the same applies to those who saw the end Heavy Metal. Thinking about that, the Cassandra in the case of our favorite music might have been right in predicting a fall that the mass didn’t foresee.
You see, in 1990 great albums were released, coming from the entire ‘institution’ we like to call “Extreme Sound” and even during those days the term ‘Heavy Metal’ wasn’t engulfing everything we wanted it to convey.
Hairsprays hadn’t yet dried out and the young girls of the era were growing up with Skid Row and Bon Jovi posters in their rooms, hanging over their beds; the boys on the other hand who’d wear skinny jeans were filling their local record shops buying uncontrollably vinyls, while the underground scene was boiling with anger and its’ artists were overflowing with inspirational ideas.
It wasn’t just the mainstream records / bands that dominated the market; and that point of time, many of the bands of the lot that weren’t considered mainstream, managed through the course of time to make a notorious name for themselves (both artistically and commercially).
The competition (and even the rivalries) betwixt the bands was relentless and nothing seemed to stop that giant Heavy Metal roller-coaster, which in full speed brought amusement to the young lads and lassies of the West World. Death and Black Metal were bringing a new dark breeze and new crowds, Guns n’ Roses were preparing to release 4 million pieces for each of the Illusions albums (inconceivable amount, considering), Thrash Metal with Big 4 kept demolishing all the other big names on their way, the glorious bands of the 70s and the 80s were holding their ground (well, Judas Priest smashed their way to the top, for instance) and nothing could foresee the disaster that was about to hit the scene and would carry on crushing for quite a good amount of time later…
In that environment, the Danish band Artillery, who with their two previous albums (“Fear of Tomorrow” and “Terror Squad” had created a cult brand and a tight fan base, released their third album entitled “By Inheritance”; a record that established Artillery in the top places of my pantheon of big bands. The core of their fans seemed to hesitated initially to accept the melodic turn of the musical inspiration of the band, however the tables turned, since the quality of the album was (and still is) of a kind that doesn’t leave any space for the listener to float away; it just grabs and conquers him.
The trip to the Tashkent of the Soviet Union (back in 1989), offered us a very nice introduction («7:00 From Tashkent») with oriental aesthetics, dedicated to their faithful followers there. An intro that was unique and clicked perfectly with one of the best riffs in the history of Thrash, that of “Khomaniac” (the demo of which was the first recording in Sweet Silence Studio with Flemming Rasmussen) the most famous song the Danes have ever composed.
Its lyrics refer to Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini known in the West as Ayatollah Khomeini, the fanatic Islamist and human rights abuser in the country of Iran. Artillery possibly had huge cojones for siding against a Khomeini-sized tyrant and a maniac of Islam. It goes without saying that if any band does the same nowadays, it would be blamed for Islamophobia by some, who complain that all religions are the same shit, and humanity must not be silenced against all sorts of tyranny from wherever it comes from…
Back to the track now that impresses not only with its beginning but throughout its duration, in which the high technique of all members unfolds, with the amazing vocals and the guitar solo standing out. The title track is a Thrash anthem, with Speed mentality and classic Heavy Metal pinches. The vocals remind us of Ronnie James Dio (in his wildest), Udo or Bobby from Overkill. Or a mix of all those, for that matter. And that kicks ass. In “Beneath the Clay (R.I.P.)” we’re listening to probably the greatest drum sequence of the album, while the refrain of “Bombfood” raises our spirits; a totally kickass track, in the anti-war mentality. The cover of Nazareth’s “Razamanaz” was probably not needed.
“Back in the Trash”, which closes the album, is a sequel to “In the Trash” (from 1987’s “Terror Squad”) and despite its long duration it is imposing and aggressive simultaneously. Maybe now that I’m thinking about it again, I don’t have to stand on each song separately, so I will not mention the rest, though I especially like “Life in Bondage”; it is worth paying special attention to. The tracks have unparalleled consistency with the concept of a single project, based on Flemming Rasmussen’s brilliant production that leaves space for the instruments to breathe and the members of the band to (re) show their potential. Warm and analogue production makes each listening session more intimate and the sound more natural, especially on drums that plastic sound is thankfully avoided. The guitars of the Stützer brothers focus on the solos and not the rhythmic parts, which Peter Thorslund’s bass has taken on completely and successfully. The rhythm variations with melodious and melancholic passages give breaths to the listener who is bombarded by riffs, arpeggios and Flemming Rönsdorf’s vocals singing and not just shouting words. Rönsdorf’s voice despite its aggressiveness has a certain warm qualityand a lyricism that goes hand in hand with the themes of the lyrics (Rönsdorf himself is the lyricist). The lyrics are interesting and criticize greed, narcissism, politics and the mentality of the masses through various issues, and especially man’s thirst for control and power.
We are talking about a real diamond that unfortunately enjoys less appreciation than other overrated and frankly unworthy albums of the genre and also the bigger picture of the ‘hard’ sound in general for that matter.