Artillery – Fear the RageSunday, 11th November 2018
Many bands have gained a stronger foothold in the thrash scene due to their consistent catalog. Past and present, Artillery are always in the mix for their melodic and finesse aspects to a powerful juggernaut of riffs and songs they’ve developed since the 1980’s and beyond. The Face of Fear is the band’s ninth studio album, intertwining newer songs while reaching back into the archives for some older ideas now fully developed with the versatility of vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl. The band proves they can attack and crush with the best of them – but when taking in tracks like “Crossroads to Conspiracy” and “Thirst for the Worst”, there’s this extra focus on catchy melodic passages or key guitar hooks that followers can easily bang heads while hoisting fists high.
Reaching out through Skype, guitarist Michael Stützer appeared eager to inform us about the making of the new record, their relationship with long-time producer Soren Andersen, the newer goals the band has set to play in even more countries than ever before, as well as letting us know more behind the upcoming band documentary.
Dead Rhetoric: In learning about the making of this album The Face of Fear, the band reached into some of the musical archives of your older output to develop certain songs this go around. What criteria did you have when combing through those old riffs and parts – and did you end up molding and reshaping things to make it fit with the newer material that sits side by side for this outing?
Michael Stützer: This time we had three or four songs that were very old, and some of the material was developed around 2000. We shaped a little bit of this material up, except the last song that is from 1982- we didn’t change anything on that one at all. We wanted to see how this would sound with our current singer on this. Now we had the chance to do this. The songs “Pain”, “New Rage”, and “Preaching to the Converted” were songs from 2000 and even back to the early 80’s. We wanted to reshape some of that material up to the standards of the current material that we were coming up with.
Dead Rhetoric: What made you decide this time to revisit some of this older material – did you think the time was right with Michael on vocals to work on this material?
Stützer: Two things. On this album, we thought about doing these songs a little bit shorter, and with more a back to the roots sound. There are still some songs with the typical Artillery riffing. We tried to have Michael be a little bit more rough in the way of his singing, because he can do a lot of things. It would be fun to see if he could give this material a little bit more attack. He is very good, and his singing on this album is my favorite that he’s done. I’m very glad about the result.
Dead Rhetoric: This is the band’s fifth time working with producer Soren Andersen at Medley Studios. Can you discuss his importance in helping Artillery attain the proper tones and sonic punch you want for these records – and how his process maybe has developed through the years?
Stützer: On the first album he did with us When Death Comes in 2009, he never had done anything in this style of music. He had basically (been involved) in more pop metal things, but he never did anything in thrash metal. On that first album he was searching for how we should sound, and what we wanted. On this album we almost think the same – he knew how to make the guitars sound, the drums, etc. Besides that, he’s also a very good person to work with. He’s a very good musician, he has played in the past with Glenn Hughes, the ex-bassist of Deep Purple, and a lot of other big stars in Denmark as he’s a very good guitar player. He’s very good to discuss things like the specific guitar sound he wants here, giving us good input. He listens to our desires, and we are like twins now in the way we think about the new album. This is the best production he has done for any Artillery album, we are very glad about working with Soren Andersen.
Dead Rhetoric: Michael Bastholm Dahl handles the lyrics for the band – has it always been important for the band to spend an equal amount of care and effort into delivering interesting and relevant topics for the listeners to match the effort put into the music portion for the group?
Stützer: Yes. Artillery has always had an interest in delivering potent topics from the lyrical side. We want to talk about pollution, the changes within the world, we always try to have an interesting thing in the lyrics. Of course the music is very important, but if you can give the lyrics some importance it’s very cool. Michael is continuing on that way – he’s normally doing most of the stuff. I did the lyrics for the song “Pain” – it’s about a drug addict or alcoholic. It was very personal because I knew a guy who was a friend, he ended up in a situation where he couldn’t come back. He knew he was going to die, and he died. That’s what that song is about.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video you made for the title track – which seems to be a half conceptual, half performance clip? Did you work with the director to come up with specific scenes and visuals you wanted to incorporate?
Stützer: We went with the same guy who did the video for our last album “When the Magic Is Gone”- Terkel Christensen. He’s a good friend of ours, I’ve known him since way back in the 1980’s. He has an interesting way to make videos – he got the lyrics and came up with some cool ideas. He continued many of the themes that we have had since the first album Fear of Tomorrow. Now it is “The Face of Fear” – there are still troubles there. He took the idea and from that made the video – and I also think it’s one of the best videos we’ve ever done.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of the world that we live in currently? What do you believe needs to occur to make things better for the general population across the globe?
Stützer: So many things. It’s an unsafe place to live in these days, there is pollution and all the governments between Russia, the United States, and China, all are trying to show the way. Things are very strange, and I hope things will change. It’s hard to see though, Russia is putting their muscle in there, the United States and China as well. Maybe ten years back it was easier for all of these governments to work together, now they all have to show something. It’s sad for the world I think.
Dead Rhetoric: The last time we talked, you mentioned behind the scenes working going on for a documentary on the band. Can you give us an update on how things are shaping up, and when we can expect a release for this? Are you also looking at trying to include interviews with some of the ex-members of the band?
Stützer: We are working on that, it’s a long process because we have a lot of people involved in this. There has been many musicians involved in the interviews, members of Destruction, Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate – a lot of people have sent material and we are trying to get more and more people in it. We will do interviews with former members- not more than a year ago Artillery won four awards from the Danish metal scene and our old singer Flemming (Rönsdorf) and some of the other members were on stage to do a song. It’s not like we don’t talk to each other anymore, they just didn’t want to keep playing metal anymore.
We will get songs from the old days too, and as far as the documentary being finished, it’s tough to say as there is still a lot of work ahead. We always have things that come in during the last minute, but if I would guess I would say it will be out at some point next year.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your definition of success for Artillery? And do you believe it’s changed from the days that the band started to now, considering the many stops and starts you’ve had along the way?
Stützer: My main goal is if you can live off the music, it would be totally amazing. That’s hard these days – the goal is now to go out and play as much as we can, into places we have never been to before. For example, Australia is a place we have never played, India is a new market. Of course still play the biggest markets in say South America and the United States, those are always good – but it’s exciting to try new areas. We want to be out on tour – my really big wish would be someday to be supporting Metallica, Judas Priest, something like that. That would be really good- and that’s our main goal to look at things that way.
Dead Rhetoric: Being involved with the thrash scene from the very beginning, where do you see the major differences between the younger bands playing thrash and the old guard?
Stützer: In the old days, we listened to bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep- things like that. Most of the new bands are listening to bands like Metallica, Slayer, Kreator, Destruction, and so on. That’s the main difference- the older bands had a bit more melody in there, and I think the newer bands are thinking more about aggression and tempo.
Dead Rhetoric: When you look at the career of Artillery, are there any specific mistakes or decisions that were made that you would have done differently in retrospect for the benefit of the band?
Stützer: There have always been some things along the way. The biggest mistake was when we disbanded in 1991. At that time, if we had been older and wiser we would have talked about things more instead of splitting up. It’s easy to go back and say you should have done that. I always love to play, and we love to play any stage anywhere. We have never been busier playing music than we are now.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there aspects to being in a band that appear harder as you get older to handle – or do you believe at this point you are able to handle the trials, tribulations, and changes naturally?
Stützer: We do things naturally. The most important thing to playing metal at our age is if you like the music. You have to like touring and you have to like recording. Without that, it’s very difficult to go any further because it feels like work versus fun. With the band that we have now, we are very good friends, we can go out and drink a beer, go out to eat, and go to a football match. That’s very important for me, being a musician for many years, to have good friendships.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Artillery during the next twelve months to support the new record?
Stützer: There are a lot of things in the making. We are going to tour South America in the last of March. In April we hope to put some dates together for the United States. We have some European dates coming up, hopefully with Exumer. We are also looking to set up some festivals too for the summer and fall of 2019. We are hoping to play the United States again, we would like to go to the big country and play there again. We had a very good response the last time that we played there.