Serving as a “consolation prize” for locals stranded in Brooklyn whilst everyone and their grandma attended this year’s Maryland Deathfest, the Dark Ascension Fest was held in the last week of May to provide Denmark’s Artillery with their 2nd ever U.S. show in their 30+ years existence. Despite the Maryland festivities raging in full force a couple miles south, a robust crowd still appeared at this humble locality — even for opening squadrons Sacrificial Blood, Day of the Beast, and Dimentianon/Sectioned — making it a party night after all.
NYDM legendaries Prime Evil were originally slated to be the tertiary headliners on the bill, but due to irreversible lineup fractures they had no choice but to cancel their appearance. Miraculously, the promoters managed to procure another old-school ensemble in the form of Anvil Bitch, who were quite amused to be playing in Brooklyn for the first time in 25 years (at the time, they played at the bygone mecca L’amours). Their only new material is found on the ’08 EP Sanctify, meaning that the bulk of the night’s agenda could be dedicated to Rise to Offend: an album doomed to be released in the same year as Reign in Blood, but which boasts its share of moments nonetheless. As a classic, meaty power trio led by a vocalist who embodies stridency, Anvil Bitch lent infectious hustle to simple songs crafted expressly for headbanging and general skirmishing.
Though vocalist King Fowley’s other band October 31 actually played an earlier afternoon set at Maryland Deathfest, the tireless Metal-lifer was still able to make it up north to play through a set with Deceased. Since Eric Mayes, the usual live drummer fell ill, the drummer du jour ended up being Dave Castillo, who appeared on the As The Weird Travel On LP– and who was still in fine form with his performance capabilities. Somehow the show fell a tad behind schedule so the band was relegated to a shortened setlist, notably omitting the usual Venom “Black Metal” cover; yet, they still touched upon every milestone (Luck of the Corpse, Fearless Undead Machines, and so on), and re-demonstrated just how well-crafted their latest album Surreal Overdose is.
For their second-ever (and thus far, final) appearance in the United States, Artillery had already worked out all the “stage jitters” during Maryland Deathfest and were in optimal form for a humbler, club setting. They began with some of their newest material which was only tepidly regarded by the audience, but at least it was possible to hear the fluidity of the four original instrumentalists (including almost-Bathory drummer Carsten Nielsen, for the last tour of his career) as well as the vocal capabilities of the newest frontman, Søren Adamsen.
Though Adamsen adeptly hit all the right notes and strived to keep enthusiasm high, the fact is that Artillery will never really be known for their later heavy metal endeavors: all their fame and influence lies with the ripping speed metal LPs Fear of Tomorrow and Terror Squad (some fans like to include By Inheritance, which is perplexing in light of how it’s lacking in authentic grit). Appropriately, songs from these releases — “Out of the Sky” and “The Challenge” being highlights — garnered fist-pumping, sing-a-long adoration from the audience.
Ultimately, Artillery put on a good show that was prevented from being a great show due to an insistence on setlist-inclusiveness. As such, it’s unfortunate that they will probably never tour stateside again, as a complete playthrough of their speed metal albums (which is even a trend for classic ’80s bands to do nowadays), would make for a truly unmissable spectacle. However the circumstances panned out, congrats to Wendigo Productions for bringing these Danish legends to Brooklyn in the first place.