Review Summary: A good thing gets much, much better.
For any given band, at any given time, there are two major challenges. The debut album is one of them, of course; an old saying goes "the first impression is the more lasting one", and if your product is sub-par from the onset, there is little chance it will ever attract attention. However, one could argue that the sophomore album is even more of a trial by fire, as any flaws which may have been forgiven in the debut - because, hey, it was a debut - are sure to be treated much less leniently when incurred on a second time. Furthermore, second albums are the point where most bands try to diversify or mature their sound, often through not entirely successful experiments , which ultimately result in the supposedly improved product actually being inferior to the original one.
In short, then, sophomore albums have the potential to make or break a career. And in that context, it is good to see a band progress as solidly as Enforcer have on their second album, Diamonds
In fact, if the group's debut, Into The Night
, was already very good .- especially for a debuting band - Diamonds
is all that much better. What the group have concocted here is a near-perfect slab of traditional metal which is only a few minor flaws away from siding with the greats from the 70's and 80's, and which, if there is any justice, will become a modern-day metal classic.
The first thing that catches the listener's attention with Diamonds
is precisely how much the group has advanced, in every department. The most notable progression is heard on singer Olof Wikstrand, who has corrected all the shortcomings that made him the band's weakest link on the debut and comes through as a confident, personalized frontman, a mixture of James Rivera and Rob Halford. The remaining formation has suffered a bit of a shakeup, with previous bass player Joseph Tholl assuming guitar duties side by side with Adam Zaars, and new recruit Tobias Lindkvist taking over as the four-string specialist. His performance, while less exuberant than Tholl's on the first album, is nonetheless very confident, and marked by the occasional detail reminiscent of his predecessor. The other three musicians maintain their high levels from the debut, making for a very well-played album overall.
But technical proficiency is nothing without good songs, and fortunately, here, the group have also progressed in leaps and bounds. The main noteworthy trait of Diamonds
's songs is an increase in diversity, meaning this album is not plagued by the repetitiousness that ultimately dragged Into The Night
down a notch or two. Sure, the speed metal stompers are still here (Roll The Dice, High Roller, Live For The Night, Take Me To Hell
), as are the Maidenesque mid-tempos (Katana, Nightmares
), but elsewhere the group tackle straight-up hard'n'heavy (Midnight Vice, Running In Menace
) and even explore a slightly more progressive vein (on Katana
and Walk With Me
). And the best part is, they pull it all off nearly flawlessly (we'll get to the "nearly" in a minute).
In fact, where over half of Into The Night
was already solidly above average, about eighty percent of Diamonds
is absolutely brilliant. The immediate standouts are rockin' opener Midnight Vice
and two absolute whoppers called High Roller
and Live For The Night
. Together with Take Me To Hell
, this trio of tracks deserves to be in some future list of "best traditional metal tracks", side by side with the likes of Run To The Hills
. They are just THAT good.
Elsewhere, the quality is generally kept very high, but unfortunately the group cannot avoid a couple of stumbles. The nearly unlistenable cluster*** called Katana
is the prime example; it is so poor, that it does not belong in the same universe as Live For The Night
, let alone the same album. In fact, it's hard to understand why this was ever deemed worthy of being more than a B-side, let alone find its way to an album as good as this. Next to it, tracks like Nightmares
- perfectly acceptable, if bland, album fillers - sound positively inspired. It is clear that the group had the right idea for the track - a slightly proggy, Maidenesque epic - but sadly the execution is lacking, with some parts literally sounding like a hodgepodge of sound. Fortunately, nothing on the album ever approaches that level of suck again, and quality is brought back by the intro riff of Running In Menace
- but that is one major stumble on this album's road to glory.
Fortunately, however, the good far outweighs the bad in this case. While Diamonds
sadly does not hold a candle to City Lights
, and while Walk With Me
is as meandering as it is boring, they never detract too much from the album's insanely high overall quality, and instead provide decent backup to the aforementioned standouts. However, while Enforcer's progression is commendable, it does remain frustrating to see a group fall short so close to perfection. Which is not to say that you shouldn't go out and buy/download/steal Diamonds
THIS INSTANT. You should. And if you have any sense, you will. Absolutely stellar.
Live For The Night
Take Me To Hell