Michael Bastholm Dahl: Vocals
Michael Stützer: Guitar
Kræn Meier: Guitar
Peter Thorslund: Bass
Josua Madsen: Drums
In the mid-1980s Denmark's Artillery established themselves as being at the cutting edge of the thrash movement, and nearly forty years later they continue to destroy. Returning with their tenth - and aptly titled - full length X they prove once again that they have not missed a step, delivering a record that's ruthlessly heavy, catchy and pure molten metal. "We wanted to have the typical Artillery trademarks, like the riffs and hook lines in the usual combination together with aggression and melody. We always try to combine melodic thrash metal with elements from the heavy sounds of the 70s and the 80s, and this time with new elements in some of the songs," says guitarist Michael Stützer. "We don't have to push ourselves hard when we're writing a record because we love what we're doing."
Sadly, guitarist - and Stützer's brother - Morten Stützer passed in 2019, which understandably affected the band. Having played a big part in shaping Artillery's songs and appearing on every album up to 2018's riveting The Face Of Fear, his loss is a real blow. "It was tough, even if he did not play live with us since 2016 he was always supporting us. Morten was a unique musician and writer and a very humorous guy, and following his death was the first time ever I thought about stopping playing music. But, he always said that I had to go on with Artillery and continue playing if he was not there anymore. He will be missed so much." Admitting it was very strange entering into the writing process without him, the brothers typically playing off each other a lot, they still managed to pull things together, helped by the contributions of new guitarist Kræn Meier, who has been playing live with the band since 2017. "Kræn is a great guy and a great guitar player and has contributed some good songs and some good solos. He also was a big fan of Artillery before, so it's great to have him in the band." With a few songs already kicking around and most of the lyrics penned before the music was even ready, the band really began to focus on writing two months before entering the studio, and were writing right up until the last minute. Compared to The Face Of Fear it is an overall faster record, which should satiate their longtime faithful, but it is also a much more varied collection than a typical Artillery album. "I think songs like "In Your Mind" and "The Ghost Of Me" will get some of our fans to listen more closely than normal, because they have some new elements. On top of that, I think this is the best production we've ever had on any Artillery record, and overall it has some of our strongest songs since "By Inheritance" (1990)."
While the title is self-explanatory, lyrically they looked in various directions for inspiration. "I think that social injustice, corruption, personal struggles, and the absurdity of life very often comes to mind in the lyrics of Artillery. It is about facing what you fear, addressing the hurt and sometimes forbidden thoughts you might have." Stemming from this come songs like "Beggars In Black Suits", which questions where financial contributions to certain causes actually end up going. "All these media persons and politicians beg us to pay for this or that cause, without us having any security that our money goes into the right pockets. Often, we see this money end up in the wrong hands, and therefore the title, "Beggars In Black Suits"." In a far more traditionally metallic vein "Devil's Symphony" looks to the fascination with Satanism, The Devil, evil and "that almost exhilarating feeling of being against established convictions and beliefs. It is not a song about us being Satanic or anything like that, though - and it is also the name of one of the early bands that Morten and Michael had together" says vocalist Michael Bastholm. Then there is "In Your Mind", which at heart is about having an argument with somebody. "It's about the thoughts you have when you feel that the other person has an awfully specific assumption of you, which you know is wrong."
X was tracked in Medley Studio in Copenhagen, Denmark with producer Søren Andersen, who the band have worked with on every record since 2009's When Death Comes. "As always, we have a lot of fun when we are recording, but are still profoundly serious of course. Søren is a great guy to work with and loves good jokes, and when we are finishing the sessions we have time for a beer and good talk about the day's work," says Stützer. As well as his production work Andersen contributed some keyboards to "The Ghost Of Me", also adding some effects to a few other songs, and the band recruited their drivers/merch men to contribute some backing vocals on four tracks. With the record in the can the band are able to start to look toward what is next, hoping the Coronavirus pandemic passes soon so that they can get back on the road, but now is also a good time for reflecting on what they have achieved at this point in their lengthy career. "It feels great and awesome to have been going for nearly forty years. I'm so glad, and I am so lucky that I can do what I love the most, making albums and touring for our awesome fans. If anyone had told me forty years ago that I would have made ten albums and played in over sixty different countries I wouldn't have believed it."