Just before Christmas last year, I was watching Volbeat play an arena gig. Their singer Michael Poulsen spotted someone with a black metal t-shirt he really wanted in the front couple of rows. A swap was organised. A roadie was dutifully dispatched to the dressing room and the Nottingham punter went home with an Enforced shirt.
As it was handed over, Poulsen had said: “they are an amazing crossover band from the US. I don’t know what he thinks of “War Remains”, but I can tell you what Enforced’s frontman, Knox Colby, reckons: “It’s almost ten minutes shorter than our last record and packs ten times more of a punch.”
Let me put it even more plainly: “War Remains” is as good as any thrash metal record of this millennium.
It basically picks up where 2021’s “Kill Grind” left off but makes everything better. Harder, harsher, angrier, more laser guided. That much is clear from the opening riff of “Aggressive Menace”. It grooves, like their fellow Richmond natives Lamb Of God, but this slashes. It’s got that classic, youthful exuberance that thrash should have.
This album belongs to Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan. Their guitars make this, so that as much as it bludgeons and Kolby screams and spits over the top on stuff like “The Quickening” with its impressive “your wounds are mine!” hook, it’s all about the rage the pair create.
“Hanged By My Hand” recalls Slayer when they still had the ability to scare you, and the lyrics are a cut above the likes of Municipal Waste, say. No frat parties here, instead on the brilliant “Avarice” the greed that pollutes modern society (“we see the world through dollar signs” yells Colby) is taken to task.
The title track, one of the longest at over four minutes, allows itself a slow down, and crushes more as a result. In beatdown terms, this is steady with a concrete block, while the others are blitzkriegs.
It’s violent and it’s nasty. “War is what makes us human” seems to be a mission statement, but “Mercy Killing Fields” comes from a more tender place, the death of the singer’s cousin in 2021, acted as a touchstone moment for this whole thing. The passion is real, for certain.
As if to emphasise the fact that there is distance between Enforced and their peers, the delivery on “Nation Of Fire” is particularly heavy, while the music is more mellifluous. And credit them for eschewing all the clichés, while making it as ready for the moshpit as it is.
There’s a confidence burning through this (you would normally say “coursing” but somehow it doesn’t seem strong enough), and “Starve” is part maelstrom, part nightmare. And this is a bleak world, make no mistake.
“No more bullshit!” Screams Colby as if lives depend on it, but they invoke something a little more epic, a little more metal, if you will, and a little bleaker for “Empire”.
It’s little over half an hour, and it’ll never be easy listening. But “War Remains” is truly sensational. Metallica’s new one is brilliant but there’s a debate about whether it’s a true thrash record. As a raw, all-out piece of aggression, and with something new to say, this might be the best album of it’s type since “Burn My Eyes”.