Review Summary: Third time is (still) the charm.
Every year, with every new musical scene to erupt in the global consciousness, there are a gaggle of bands vying for attention and trying to be the newest, hippest kid on the block. Such acts will take apparently unrelated genres and mix them together, write profound lyrics about the innermost workings of the human psyche, push their cute female singer to the forefront of the photo and have her wear a low-cut top, and generally do whatever it takes to get noticed - if in the process they push their genre's boundaries a bit further, all the better.
However, for every progressive-avantgarde-emo-punk-crunk-electro-noise-rap-funk-core outfit out there, there is another group that is perfectly content sitting in a dank, dusky corner of the recording room in the basement, impervious to trends, shooting the crap with their fellow band geeks about how much better music was back in the 1970s. For the 2010s metal scene, that band is Enforcer. Gleefully ignoring the turn towards the sludgy and depressive that the genre has been taking in recent years, the Swedish four-piece continues to rock out with their cock out, party like it was 1979, and do so in such a way as to almost trump their forefathers.
In fact, the most surprising thing about the group's third effort, Death By Fire
, is just how good it is. With the bar set as high as it was by 2010's excellent Diamonds
, there was a fair amount of room for disappointment; however, what the Swedes deliver in this new outing easily matches, if not outmatches, anything their previous two albums may have had to offer, crafting what is possibly the strongest album in their short but stellar career.
Sonically, Death By Fire
is much more Into The Night
. In these eight songs plus intro, the group revert to the primitive, crude, classic metal of the debut, becoming, if possible, even more simplistic and direct in their songwriting. Those expecting the polished production and glam-rock hooks of their breakthrough will therefore have to rely on Take Me Out Of This Nightmare
and its nods to Running In Menace
to quench their thirst, while those who thought the group had sold out for Diamonds
will have their faith restored by this new opus.
In fact, this time around, Enforcer go even further back to retrieve their influences: where on the first two albums the group was paying homage to the hard'n'heavy scene of the early-to-mid 80s, here they chose to emulate the sounds of the original New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Everything about Death By Fire
, from the album cover to the production, the song titles (one of the tracks is called Satan
) and of course the music, smacks of 1978, and would not have felt out of place next to actual period classics by bands such as Angel Witch, Wytchfynde, Tygers Of Pan Tang or Iron Maiden.
But while the group wears their influences on their sleeve (Take Me Out
's intro harmony and Crystal Suite
's galloping bass intro are so Maiden, you would swear they were outtakes), they also know well enough to cull only the good parts of the movement, leaving the silliness of Pan Tang's lyrics or Angel Witch's limited vocals in the time warp where they belong, whilst retaining the best features of these and other bands. Opener (after the intro) Death Rides This Night
wastes no time in establishing this, serving as a perfect calling card for Enforcer's new-old sound. Jonas Wikstrand's drums thump mercilessly, backing up brother Olof's and Joseph Toll's dual guitars, whilst Tobias Lindqvist gallops along after them like the second coming of Steve Harris. The whole is topped off by Olof's gushy, enthusiastic, and impressively high-pitched vocals, resulting in a concoction that will leave no headbanger indifferent.
More impressive, however, is the fact that this is literally only the beginning. The usual dip in quality after the first couple of songs never happens, much to the contrary; the strongest material is to be found in the middle portion of the album. By far the best two tracks on Death By Fire
are Run For Your Life
, a superior re-thread of its predecessor, and Mesmerized By Fire
, which sounds like it should have been on an Attacker or Blitzkrieg album, right down to the clumsy title. Following close behind are Sacrificed
and [i]Satan[i], two more slabs of Into The Nght
-meets-the-70s, as well as the slightly more hard rock-influenced Take Me Out
, this album's only sonic link to its predecessor. This leaves Maiden-lite instrumental Crystal Suites
and Silent Hour/The Conjuration
as the only two slightly less interesting moments on the album, with the latter constituting its only instance of filler - the song does start off well, but overstays its welcome on the Metallica-esque second half, which would have been better off edited to form an entirely new track. If anything, this tune (along with Diamonds' Katana
) proves once and for all that Enforcer are not very good at writing more epic, layered tracks, and should stick to what they know best - fast, fun, simplistic rockers, which is anything anyone expects when they pop in this type of album.
Fortunately, that is exactly what the group deliver on the remainder of this record, ensuring this new record is, if not better than Diamonds
, at least every bit as good. It may be less memorable, immediate and polished than its predecessor, but it is also punchier, more focused, and much less afflicted by filler. Opinions and arguments notwithstanding, however, one thing is for certain: Death By Fire
is an impressive album, which makes the group three-for-three on releases and further cements their reputation as one of the most interesting metal bands in activity today. It may still only be March, but 2013 already has a strong candidate for metal album of the year.
Run For Your Life
Mesmerized By Fire