Review Summary: Off the couch and into the mosh pit
Pushing people into the mosh pit since 2017, crossover thrash collective Enforced has been making a name for itself as one of the genre's leading powerhouses in recent years. Not necessarily by bringing anything new to the style, which peaked in the second half of the 1980s, but rather by revitalizing it through authenticity and songwriting prowess. Their blend of hardcore and Slayer-esque thrash, while not groundbreaking, captures the best of both worlds in a recipe that has all the right ingredients to please a hybrid audience that refuses to live on nostalgia alone. More sophisticated than its 2019’s predecessor, the quintet's sophomore release, Kill Grid
, exposed a more thoughtful and meticulous approach, attentive to the smallest detail and focused on improving the original formula without losing its core essence. War Remains
, on the other hand, has a more organic feel; a more carefree vibe, if you will, mirroring the band's more spontaneous side. While not without its obvious virtues, this spontaneous combustion is somewhat paradoxical in that it can be viewed in two opposite ways: one that welcomes the more organic nature of the music, and another that fears the collective has reached the end of the road creatively, entering the final stage of implosion. Either way, we should contextualize War Remains
within its stylistic niche, which is anything but pretentious.
By choosing a more straightforward path and making it nearly ten minutes shorter than Kill Grid
, despite having one more track, the Richmond, Virginia-based quintet deliberately aimed for a more concise and lethal outcome. A creative process at all similar to that taken by Slayer on their 1986 classic, Reign in Blood
, with the difference being that unlike the thrash legends, who managed to fashion something different, never witnessed before, Enforced didn't tamper with their crossover formula. By doing so, the lads are implying that they don't want to leave, at least for now, their comfort zone, thus reassuring those who don't want to see Colby & Co go off the beaten track to explore bolder territory. Why would they? There are already a plethora of bands doing it. ("Hey, leave my old-school crossover alone, please."). Overwhelming fast tempos intertwine with slow and mid-paced segments in a vibrant symbiosis that only this genre can deliver. Tracks like 'Aggressive Menace', 'Hanged by My Hand', 'Ultra Violence' or 'Mercy Killing Fields' overflow with energy and enthusiasm, with the latter featuring one of the most creative choruses the band has ever recorded. There is little or hardly any contrast throughout War Remains
beyond what spontaneously emerges from the hybrid style itself. The Slayer-ish riffing and dual harmonies are still very much present, once again exposing the band's biggest influence and most distinctive trait. The overpowering slow-paced section on 'Avarice' or the Seasons in the Abyss-esque parts in 'Mercy Killing Fields' and 'Empire' are among the moments that best illustrate the lads' devotion to the thrash gods. As a fanboy and lifelong disciple, I welcome these tributes with open arms, for they evoke echoes of a glorious and unrepeatable past. Nevertheless, it is at the crossroads between this more classic metal side and its more straightforward and irreverent hardcore counterpart that War Remains
lies. As it should be. And if I had to guess, it's something that will never change. In a time of uncertainty, in which everything changes, and nothing is what it seems to be, it's good to have some anchors, even if they come with some predictability. The band's stylistic consistency and lineup stability, which has remained unchanged since their debut, not only strengthen this sense of reliability but ensure a cohesive sound every step of the way.
Unsurprisingly, Enforced's third chapter throws us off the couch and into the front of the stage, whether we like it or not. It's a one-way ticket to the mosh pit that evokes simpler times when extreme music was experienced with body and soul rather than through the lens of a smartphone. And even if that means a few bruises, at least you know you're still alive.