Sunday, March 8, 2015

Enforcer - From Beyond [2015]

To be frank, I wasn't too enamored by Enforcer's ''Death By Fire'' simply because it didn't click with me the same way ''Diamonds'' did, as if their slippery grasp on maintaining quality 80's speed/heavy traditionalism in the 21st century was finally going astray. In retrospect, it's amazing that the Swedes had the guts and aplomb to full of such a feat in the first start. Pulling off a sound hearkening 25-30 years back to the genre's more formative years with some actual sturdiness beyond the simple speed/thrash cliches in no easy task, folks (although the fact the guitarist/front man Olof was an ex-member of Tribulation definitely helps) and with ''From Beyond'', the Swedes' latest export through Nuclear Blast, I found a suitable amount of reconciliation of the deficiencies of the previous record, while still keeping things crystal-lucid with that irresistible old school flavor.

One might appreciate the over-the-top image that Enforcer is trying to fit into; with hairy flare and hair sprays galore, plenty of tight jeans and even a logo beckoning the 80's - depending on whether you're appreciative of the whole hair metal scene. Enforcer appeals to a little more than just Angel Witch and Judas Priest since there's a fuck ton of proto-thrash or speed/power like Jag Panzer and Liege Lord to go around, and of course a more than enough dosage of ''Kill 'em All''. Bands like Enforcer and their counterparts White Wizard seem perfectly tailored toward the roiling audiences with evident 'sophisticated metal' acalculia, but I'd like to think that Enforcer stretch those boundaries slightly furthered than the majority of generic speed/heavy/thrash junkies in a way that they actually feel like a genuine part of the 80's scene (except with less muscular guitar tones). To be sure, the Swedes cultivate a sound that's been processed by bands like RAM, Steelwing, Skullfist, Katana and the like for the last decade or so,and while this by no means serves as a major deviation from their source material, it does give the music a somewhat fresh edge.

The titular opener ''Destroyer'' is easily one of the best songs on the album, with a classy speed/thrash verse riff, a head-pounding chorus as well as a follow-up of excellent thrashy rhythms roving effortlessly, and the second track ''Undying Evil'' is arguably even better, unfolding instantaneously with a harmonious barrage of banshee vocal duties and overall texture that reminds me of songs like ''Midnight Vice'' on ''Diamonds''. There album is also bedecked with a superb slew of frenetic solos, and, if anything, the emulation of melody seems more prominent than anything else in the band's backlog. The title track narrows down the mood to a drowsier, somber, almost ballad-esque flavor, with its misty chorus and luring melody hooks that plod on a slower pace than usual: it's obvious that by now Enforcer is trying to cast a wider net on an overripe niche which they've been plodding for the last 6 years, if not downright experimenting with alienating atmospheres or effects like the most recent offerings by Swedish pros Trial and In Solitude. That said, there's no denying that much of this record is still crafted for a specific demographic - and they're certainly not shamed about it.

Olof's vocals are fiery and youthful as always, and on that I have zero complaints. Enforcer is far too mature and commercially successful at this point to be scrutinized as another vulture feasting on the same diseased carcass, even if most new bands wind up being given more or less similar labels, though didn't tickle my nostalgia as much as ''Diamonds''. One could argue they were trying to 'darken' their sound with slightly more ambitious ambiance (the title track plays some role in this) or the 6-minute finisher ''Mask of Red Death'' which doesn't just add some intuitively Gothic Poe charm into album (especially with its folksy melody licks) but resonates as the moodiest song in the whole platter; but no matter how serious Olof's crew is going to get they're going to be 80's-bound as long as they're still high on track titles like ''Destroyer'', ''Hell Will Follow'' or ''Hungry They Will Come'', and their transition in the same vein as those of Trial and In Solitude is still one which I'm titillating over, if we're ever to witness that transition. Overall, some exceptions, namely the 'Poe' track, but the trencher is generally loaded with dishes straight out of the 80's, big hair, leather, and campy themes for all the geezers out there. It's Enforcer: it's still pretty awesome; headbang away.

Undying Evil
Hell Will Follow

Rating: 75%

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