Review Summary: Compelled to headbangheadbanging (noun)
the activity of shaking your head up and down with great force to the beat of rock music
Headbanging is to heavy metal what John Travolta's iconic pose is to disco. They're both inextricably linked. And Richmond's lads Enforced exploit this symbiosis like no other. Their retro hybrid crossover thrash approach, which combines the irreverence of hardcore with metal's musicality and songwriting formula, is designed to inflict maximum damage. We are compelled to headbang almost instinctively as if we were an active part of the machine or the inevitable result of its overwhelming effect. This reciprocity between music and listener is obviously transversal to all genres, however it takes on special significance in heavy metal given the strong bond between audiences and the band, especially at live shows. Anyone who has been in the front row or into a massive mosh pit understands this synergy perfectly.
While Enforced's debut album was basically a compilation of previous demo tapes, with a few extra tracks, Kill Grid
features nine entirely new songs. This gives it greater responsibility, as it mirrors the band's work in a limited amount of time, with the extra pressure of having to live up to everyone's expectations. Another relevant aspect is related to the fact that Kill Grid
was recorded before the pandemic started, which means the lyrics don't focus on this particular subject but rather on how human life has become increasingly expendable in recent decades.
I'll have to admit I welcomed Kill Grid
with high expectations, not only due to the promising debut but also because of the killer singles that preceded it, especially 'Malignance'. This track synthesizes everything I like about the genre, namely its overwhelming power and speed. This sort of energy can be found in songs such as 'No Compromise' by Xentrix or 'Hammerhead' by Flotsam and Jetsam, and it mirrors a particular strength that only this genre can unleash. Yet Kill Grid
is not just about speed. Slow and mid-paced tempos are also exploited effectively in songs like the title track or 'Trespasser', with the latter ending in a massive crescendo. Groove, reminiscent of the band's hardcore backgrounds, is everywhere, but this time around it's accompanied by a pronounced Slayer influence, sensed in songs like 'Blood Ribbon', 'Curtain Fire' and 'Beneath Me', with the former featuring a riff that reminds me of 'Skeletons of Society'. The band's crossover formula in addition to mixing hardcore and thrash also holds a death metal layer that adds power to the mix. The Cannibal Corpse-esque riff at the beginning of 'Hemorrhage' or the tremolo picking in 'The Doctrine' are both examples of this lethal blend. If I had to choose three bands embedded in Kill Grid's
DNA, I would pick Slayer, Sepultura and Cannibal Corpse. Although the band displays a wider range of influences, this trio somehow manages to condense the album's stylistic approach.
Musical performances are top-notch, denoting perfect symbiosis between musicians. Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan's powerful rhythm guitars lead the way, backed by a super solid rhythm section that provides the proper foundation through which all lads orbit. Knox Colby's street vocals are also a key part of the machine, adding an indispensable hardcore layer to the whole. This tight chemistry is only achieved through dedication, long rehearsals, and a common goal. And even though the album provides a somewhat monochromatic approach, the band managed to live up to the expectations in full.
With their sophomore release, Enforced not only succeeds in solidifying their identity but also establishes themselves as one of the undisputed front-runners of the crossover thrash metal scene. I know it's as cliché as it gets, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it. Those who, like me, think headbanging and mosh-pit dancing are among the greatest achievements of modern post-industrial society, will find Kill Grid
the ultimate DeLorean experience that will take them back to the glorious metal days. Just make sure you have your supply of plutonium ready and your vintage Slayer t-shirt on. Buckle up, crank up the volume, and enjoy the ride.