I’m not going to let Artillery’s earlier material influence my opinion on this album because I don’t have any of their earlier albums and I’ve found everything else I’ve heard by them disgusting. Because I was completely unfamiliar with these Danish thrashers, I decided to pick the album with the highest average rating on Spirit of Metal. After well over a year of periodically (but thoroughly) listening to this record, I have yet to be disappointed. For those of you that have no idea who these guys are, they’ve released a few albums and a shitload of demos since 1985. I haven’t heard anyone mention them as an important contributor to the thrash metal genre, but they have been around since the mid-1980s (which definitely shines through their sound). For me, I seem to fall for the more modernized thrash metal records than the old school ones. But I have to admit, there are numerous classic records from the 80s that I just can’t stop listening to.
Here’s something that I’ve noticed about thrash metal; there aren’t very many mediocre records out there that I’ve heard. Most thrash albums are either amazing (i.e. Overkill’s two most recent albums) or unspeakably terrible (i.e. St. Anger). When Death Comes is one of those “mediocre” thrash metal records. Although it is mediocre (a term usually applied to generic records), it’s a very unique album that deserves to be talked about. If you’ve been listening to thrash metal and want something more on the melodic side (like Metallica), Artillery is a band that should be in your collection (well, this album at least). But remember, melodic doesn’t always mean slower. Artillery’s music still goes with the traditional “medium-fast to blazing fast” style that’s been done since the days of early Slayer and Metallica.
But, with that being a possible cause of excitement for some of you, don’t get your hopes TOO high, because this isn’t anywhere near a masterpiece. To be honest, the drummer isn’t really that good. He’s good by metal standards and gets the job done right, nothing more than that. But being an original member of the band (which formed in 1982), I would expect him to show a lot more experience and skill. And I’m not just talking about speed and complexity (which is what I like to hear in a thrash drummer), but also about creativity and musicality. His drumming fits the music great, but I would really expect something more impressive out of a drummer that’s been in an extreme metal band for so damn long. Then again, he may have the skill and talent to play amazing stuff, but felt that this particular record required a more generic and simplistic style of drumming.
The guitarists play a style that reminds me a little bit of the early days of metalcore (mid to late 1990s). It’s the guitarists that are mainly responsible for Artillery’s melodic sound, although the vocals definitely contribute. They play well in-synch, they express plenty of talent that shows that they’ve taken time to improve and use their experience to the best of their abilities over the past 20+ years that they’ve been playing guitar. The solos are really the zenith of the album. The solos can be described as traditional 80s-style shredding with more of a melodic touch.
The vocals aren’t impressive at all. They’re not disappointing, but I don’t think that the vocalist on this album fits the music very well. He would fit in perfectly with a power metal band, but even though his voice and singing help enhance the melodic sound of Artillery, there’s nothing about him that sticks out to me in any way. I don’t know whether to consider the vocalist a positive or negative element because I don’t HATE him and I definitely don’t LOVE him. He’s just another member of the band that happened to join a year before the album’s release, nothing more, nothing less. So overall, if I were to suggest any Artillery album to you, I would suggest When Death Comes. I’m not energized when listening to this album, nor am I disgusted and eager to turn it off. After listening to this record, I’m left generally empty and unsatisfied because of the album’s lack of ability to satisfy. In other words, this album is generally uneventful and unexciting. Being one of the more melodic thrash metal records in my collection, When Death Comes gets my score of 12/20. Think of it as…a fusion of 80s heavy metal and thrash metal.