Artillery – Pay the Penalty

Wednesday, 30th March 2016

Resurrection of careers due to an audience keen on catching up with metal history is more prevalent today than ever. One can look at the number of reunions and re-issues to see that a lot of the old guard is new again – spurring a second and third generation of fans to keep the genre alive and thriving despite a fraction of physical product sales. First meeting approval in the 1980’s through their thrash resume that contained more melodic, harmonic elements than most, Denmark’s Artillery lived up to their name sake. Seek out Terror Squad and By Inheritance for some killer songs and musicianship on par with anyone going today.

Penalty by Perception is the newest album – fresh off a decent amount of touring for the quintet, including two sojourns to North America as well as their first trip to China, there’s a sense of hunger still there while continually adding new melodic elements to keep Artillery followers anticipating more from the group. Speaking with guitarist Michael Stützer, his soft spoken demeanor may be opposite to his tight axe skills – but his love for the genre rings as true now as it did three decades ago when the band started.

In this talk we touch upon the discovery of their current vocalist Michael through a Mercyful Fate/King Diamond tribute band, the reaper mascot that adorns most of their discography, and a decent amount of classic thrash/ metal talk considering the man has a collection that resides in the five thousand-piece range.

Dead Rhetoric: Penalty by Perception is the eighth studio album for Artillery. How do you maintain a strong level of creativity this deep in your career without repeating yourselves?

Michael Stützer: I think it’s a very good question. If you really like to play this kind of music like we do, we try to put some small new elements in it while still trying to keep to the roots you know? Loving music so much I think that’s the biggest thing you can get, to write songs and try some new things.

Dead Rhetoric: This being the second studio record for both drummer Josua Madsen and vocalist Michael Bastholm Dahl, does it feel like the band members understand each other’s skill sets and responsibilities and work to accent the best parts for an overall stronger product?

Stützer: Yes, I think so. All five guys are dedicated to doing this kind of music. They try to do the best for Artillery, they do their best for our fans. Besides playing music together we are also really good friends. We have a lot of good things, we have fun when we are on tour and in the studio, rehearsals. It’s not like the early days where it was more like, the chemistry wasn’t as good in the band as it is now.

Dead Rhetoric: You discovered Michael through a Mercyful Fate/King Diamond tribute band he was in, correct?

Stützer: Yes, it started with us playing a gig in Denmark, you could call it a big shop for all the Danish metal heads. It’s been very famous in Denmark, there have been some television programs about the way they live, near the sea in very lonely places. They always get a lot of people coming to their shows, so the television station made a big news piece about it and invited us over there to play. Michael is in that cover band, we hung out, talked to him and saw him perform. We knew at that time that (vocalist) Søren (Nico Adamsen) was leaving the band because there were a lot of other projects he wanted to be involved in. I called Michael some days after and asked if he could help us with two gigs that Søren couldn’t sing. It worked out so well that Michael came into the band right away.

Dead Rhetoric: Did Michael also do all of the theatrical elements and make up for that tribute band?

Stützer: Yes, he was like a total King Diamond clone. That was fun. We started to talk to him and he had all the makeup on, when it took it off we could see what he really looked like.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you ever worry about fan acceptance when putting out a ballad like “When the Magic Is Gone” from the record? I for one applaud the decision as it’s still got some killer pacing, riffs, and dynamic stretches…

Stützer: Yeah, I think the reason to do a ballad is you have a full album of power and a lot of heavy stuff on it. I personally like to listen to an album that has one ballad song, a different element in between because I think is varies the product. Some people won’t like it, but we always want to do what we want to hear ourselves. For example, I like Master of Puppets where there is a ballad on there, it only makes the album stronger.

Dead Rhetoric: The recording process is so much different now than it was in the 1980’s and 90’s- do you enjoy the new recording technology or is a challenge to wrap yourselves around?

Stützer: In a lot of ways I like the old way of doing things, it was more honest. We had to work harder all the time. I have to live with the new technology, and it opens up new opportunities that you didn’t have in the old studios. I think we always try to make our records sounding a bit like the old days but having the right dynamics in it.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about your reception in North America after your two most recent excursions, one with Onslaught in the fall of 2014 and your brief headlining tour in the spring of 2015?

Stützer: I think we had a lot of really good gigs in the United States, and some not so good ones- especially when they took place on Mondays or Tuesdays. We met a lot of people, a lot of good response, sold a lot of merchandise. We will come back soon to the United States again because we have so many nice friends there. For me personally it was a big honor to play the United States because it was one of the biggest goals in Artillery from the start, to go to the United States. We have succeeded in doing this so far later.

Dead Rhetoric: You also gained the opportunity to tour China last year – what can you tell us about those experiences? Was the organization and language barrier a problem, and how do you feel metal growing into other markets like China?

Stützer: I was very surprised how well the people organized things in China. We were worried about them being on top of things like the equipment, besides one place everything was really in order. There was one place we played in a smaller part of China, it was a big enclave and the sound was really bad there. China is a big market, and people know about metal there. They knew all of our songs, and that was cool.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as the major differences in terms of fan and label support for Artillery now compared to the first go around of the 1980’s and early 1990’s?

Stützer: For the record companies, we have gotten a lot of great support now from Metal Blade. I really think that they like what we are doing and they do a lot of things to get the promotion out. Of course the budgets for records now are much, much smaller than in the 1980’s. If you compare with Neat Records in the 1980’s, they started good but they lost a lot of money on some of their later records. At that time we heard a lot about that- then we signed to Roadrunner and they lost interest in us very quickly because at the time we had a singer who didn’t want to tour. We are very, very proud to be on Metal Blade, they are treating their bands really well.

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