Review Summary: Pour some zenith on me
Lately I’ve noticed a trend of younger traditional metal bands picking up more glam tinges on their most recent efforts. Some bands like Cauldron and Striker gradually built upon influences that had always been there while others like Hitten pretty much changed their sound overnight. Any such bandwagon is likely an invention on my part, but Enforcer has definitely opted for the latter path. At the very least, their fifth full-length album is a major departure from their speed metal roots.
While Enforcer’s past albums were executed in a charging Iron Maiden mold, Zenith seems to be taking its cues from more pristine acts like Def Leppard or Lizzy Borden. This is most evident in the vocal performance; it still occupies a high-pitched range but the extensive layering and almost prissy phrasing triggers associations with Joe Elliot. Further polish is demonstrated in the guitars’ restrained chugs and vibrantly simple leads, the rhythm section’s consistently basic patterns, and the keyboards’ pleasant window dressing.
Any thoughts of dumbed down musicianship are immediately negated by the songwriting’s stylistic hodgepodge. “Die for the Devil” is the most overt about its glammed-up nature thanks to its Hysteria-style vocal layers and mid-tempo guitar gloss while other tracks like “Zenith of the Black Sun” boast a more symphonic character. “Regrets” proves to be the album’s most drastic outlier, moving into all-out power ballad territory with all sense of self-awareness left behind.
But even when you’re able to move past these hurdles, Zenith remains a rather awkward listen. The variety suggests adventurous intent, but there’s an air of desperation as the catchiness of songs like “Forever We Worship the Dark” borders on pandering while experiments like the prog attempt of “Sail On” come off as forced. Even songs where one can hear those speedy remnants like “Searching for You” and “Thunder and Hell” are more in line with Helloween’s most saccharine anthems than the scorchers of before.
I’m not one to harp on album titles too often, but Zenith was an awkward choice for Enforcer’s fifth full-length effort. Such a declaration makes it an easy target for disgruntled speed metal fans, but even more open-minded listeners will find this to be a rough execution. The musicianship suits the material and even the worst songs aren’t as bad as people will say, but the uncertainly felt throughout would’ve benefitted from a smoother transition. Hopefully the band will be able to regroup but albums like Diamonds and Death by Fire remain comparably safer recommendations.
“Zenith of the Black Sun”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com