ARTILLERY "Prepare to Fire"

By Dr, Abner Mality

The first half of the 1980's was such a magical time for heavy metal, one that will never be equaled. Everywhere you looked, pioneers were emerging to carry the music forward. In the country of Denmark, we had Mercyful Fate featuring King Diamond, a true legend for the worldwide scene. As far as melodic heavy metal went, Pretty Maids set the Danish standard. But there was a darker, rawer, faster force erupting from Denmark to carry metal there to a new extreme. This was Artillery.

I've been a fan since I first heard "Fear of Tomorrow" in 1985. Then came the masterpiece "Terror Squad", which featured two songs, the title track and "At War With Science", that I could listen to all day every day for eternity. In 1991, the band released the smoother and sleeker "By Inheritance", which was their most successful yet. And then they broke up.

Things have been pretty erratic for Artillery since then. They returned to music with the appropriately titled "B.A.C.K." in 1999 and then lost iconic frontman Flemming Ronsdorf. Some new albums featuring singer Soren Anderson emerged in the 21st century, but Soren left as well. Whereas most bands would throw their hands up in despair and call it a day, Artillery doubled down and not only got a new singer Michael Dahl, but signed a long overdue deal with giant label Metal Blade and put out a new album "Legions" that will get more exposure than any album before. This is an exciting time of rebirth for Artillery!

The guiding force of the band has always been the brothers Stutzer, Michael and Morten, who have been there since the early 80's. I was honored to grab an interview with Michael to discuss the long and storied history of the band...

 WORMWOOD CHRONICLES   Hello, Michael, and thanks for talking to us.  I have been a fan of Artillery since the earliest demos were reviewed in “Metal Forces” magazine in the early 80’s.  Did you ever imagine in those days that Artillery would still be a force in 2013?

MICHAEL STUTZER Hi and thanks for your support! Yes, Metal Forces was a great mag back then!   I always knew that Morten and I would be playing music until the day we were leaving this Earth, but I never thought that Artillery still would be going on strong and never imagined that we still would have this support. We are very grateful for that...doing what you love with this support of Artillery is really unique!
WC: You had a great breakthrough when your new album “Legions” was picked up by Metal Blade Records. How did this deal come about?

MS:  We had 3 or 4 labels who were interested to sign us, but we were never in doubt that we wanted to sign with Metal Blade and it has been a great step up for Artillery!  In February 2013 we recorded the 2 new songs "Dies Irae" and "Anno Requiem" for Metal Blade and they then signed us right after!
 WC:  With support from a big label like Metal Blade, can you think about doing things that were never possible before?

MS: Yeah ,definitely! Like touring USA / Canada for example and we can see the records coming out in all areas this time.  We already see that the Metal Blade deal has opened new doors for us!
WC:   I was a great fan of the raw and murky sound Artillery got on “Fear of Tomorrow” and “Terror Squad”.  Is that something that you’ve left behind completely or is it present in a different way on “Legions”?

 MS:  We never really tried to make Artillery sound less raw and murky, but the production, our musical ability and the way the recording equipment is today has definitely changed things a bit,  But I still think we are very honest to our roots on "Legions" and I really hope people can hear that.  

This is Artillery in 2014!
WC:  On a lot of the old albums like “Terror Squad” and “By Inheritance”, the band had songs about the misuse of science, the rise of a police state, the destruction of human feelings. You were very prophetic.  Do you feel that a lot of what you wrote about then has come to pass?

MS:  Yes the world has not really changed that much, we still have a lot of the same problems as you mention, and if you listen to some of the new songs on "Legions" like "Global Flatline" and "God Feather" you can see some of the subjects are not that much different than before!
WC:You’ve got some new members on “Legions”, singer Michael Dahl and drummer Josua Madsen. Tell us a little about these guys and what they bring to the band.

 MS:  Both guys are great musicians and are really dedicated to Artillery's style and to the fans. They have delivered an amazing  contribution to "Legions".  They are also very down to earth persons and good friends!
WC:  Michael Dahl is the most melodic singer Artillery has had by far. What would you say to those who prefer the rougher style that Flemming used for so many years?

MS: It's almost 20 years since Flemming was in the band and he doesn´t have any connection with Metal anymore.  So give Michael a chance because he is really a great singer and fits Artillery very well not only on the vocal side but also on the personal side.  He sings the old songs from both the  Søren and Flemming  eras really close to the originals.  So try to be open and give it a chance!

 WC: Artillery has always had great lyrics. I’m interested in what new songs like “God Feather” and “Ethos of Wrath” are about.

MS:  God Feather: Since Artillery never has been slow to tell people that they should find their own beliefs instead of seeking the restrictions of religion, this song is a message to all those people who threaten and point fingers at those who do not follow his or her religion. You do not better yourself by condemning others and you do not go to Heaven just because you personally think you should be there. 

Ethos of Wrath: The serial killer song. We follow this guy who suffers from blackouts and loneliness. Throughout the song, he has a sneaking suspicion that he is not alone in his mind.
 WC: Do you guys compose songs the same way now that you always have? Or have there been changes in how it’s done over the years?

MS:  No it's really the same procedure as always.  We now use more time in the rehearsal room trying the riffs out than before.  Normally Morten comes up with most of the songs and I come up with some, Michael B then puts the lyrics on and Josh and Peter put their touches on the arrangement at last!

                                                                                                    WC:  You and Morten have been working together on Artillery so long, I would imagine you are almost telepathic  in how you know each other. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being so closely linked with each other?

MS:  In fact in the early days we were not agreeing that much but today it really works good even if we are very different in many ways. But musically we are very similar and like the same music etc. So I think we work really well together these days!   Morten doesn´t want to party so much as we want sometimes but it's not really a problem!
 WC: How would you compare the current Danish metal scene to the time you came up, with bands like Mercyful Fate, Maltese Falcon and Anger?

 MS: There's a lot more bands today and the scene was a lot smaller before , but we still have a good scene with bands like Pretty Maids, Impalers, Hell's Domain, Essence and Denner's Trickbag among others!
WC: What was it really like in those early days? You had very little to guide you.
MS:We really did not think so much about what to do then, we just play and try to have fun. You have to learn a lot about how it all works and get into the routine! That takes time and we gave it time.
 WC: The band has had kind of an erratic career since the “comeback” in 1999. Do you foresee a smoother path from this point forward?

 MS: It looks like everything seems to go the right way now...signing with Metal Blade a lot of tours, good reviews of our new album "Legions" and a line-up that really loves doing this!   So we are really grateful about how things are right now!
  WC: Any chance you guys could ever tour the States, maybe in a package with someone else?

 MS:  Yeah, we are in the planning mode right now for a tour in October and we hope to do it with Onslaught and Hatriot, so let's see what happens! We definitely want to go back to USA/Canada to give the people who have supported the band through the years something back!
WC:  What have the high and low points of Artillery been so far?

 MS:    As far as highpoints there has been so many in  recent years like signing with Metal Blade, doing our first European and South American tours, playing Barge to Hell, Wacken and Roskilde festival,Maryland Deathfest and a lot of other great shows etc  Also getting this new and very dedicated line – up is a high light!

 Low points will definitely been the split of the band after releasing "By Inheritance" in 1991 and the departure of both Søren and Carsten last year!

WC:  If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

MS: Maybe Neil Armstrong,  Nelson Mandela and HC Andersen... that could be an interesting Dinner! Or if we are talking about new history, then maybe getting Putin, Xi Jinping  and Barack Obama to set down and make a better world!
 WC:     What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear it?
MS: The 3 last albums I´ve got were Black Sabbath "13", Megadeth "Super Collider" and Black Star Riders "All Hell broke Loose"!

WC:  What was the last gig you saw just because you wanted to check the band out?
MS: Black Star Riders!

 WC: In the history of Artillery, has there ever been a Spinal Tap moment where things went crazy that you can share with the fans?

MS:  There have been some funny things like our tour in Russia in 1989 where we were thrown out of Russia according to what they called "western decadence" and  put on a train driving first 3000 km in one direction and the 3000 km back again with a woman train steward who looks like the midget woman from the movie "Poltergeist"!

Also plaing a local gig in Denmark in 1989 in a place called Helsingør the stage suddenly broke and I was playing with my head just sticking up in the floor, so people could only see my head!
 WC: Any last words for the fans?

MS: Support Artillery and join the Legions. We will come your way in October! Cheers and thanks for your support!