Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Enforcer - Diamonds

Regression is a word that's been tossed around a bit the past few years, with a seemingly ammonium perchlorate aided ignition of old school thrash, massive interest in Darkthrone's last few albums and now with a rise in traditional metal's appearance. But regression assumes that the whole of metal has come to a point in which the old way of thought had been entirely ousted in the minds of metal fans in favor of new trendy modern ideals in production and songwriting. I don't believe in regression. There's been a sway of old and new since the day Sabbath played that first infamous note - and the true thunder roared. What the hell does this have to do with Enforcer? Some may say that they are regressionist but I think of them as an entirely different class. It would be much easier to label their latest release, Diamonds, as youthful revisionism. The influences of early metal mainstays like Maiden, Priest and - daresay I - a little glam, have been combined with Enforcer's infectious excitability. It's like metal never encountered Possessed or Venom. As if the most extreme in metal was a hard hitting Dokken track.

With Diamonds, Enforcer seem to have clearly set out to make a more consistent and rounded album than debut Into The Night and with Diamonds Enforcer seems to have caught stride of their goal. Albums are made of songs, and Diamonds has a few. From opener "Midnight Vice" the sleazy vibe of a raucous night on the town with nothing to lose sets in, a feeling stolen from Anthem's self titled debut. Tracks like "Nightmares" or the awesome "Live For The Night" are almost straight off Dokken's Tooth And Nail, a combination of rougher songs like "Don't Close Your Eyes" and Iron Maiden's Killers. Though duds like "Roll The Dice" and "High Roller" break the momentum, the majority of songs keep the album's pace set at pedal to the metal.

Title track "Diamonds" is a three and a half minute instrumental highlighting the band's instrumental prowess and also a desire to progress in the face of their revisionist tendencies as the song ends in a strange, Floydian ambient rock jam like Meddle meets Sabbath's more experimental moments in a bed under a blanket with the cover to Return To Forever's Romantic Warrior printed in perfect detail. Grasp that one. Still, the abilities of this band as musicians are apparent throughout the disc. Tobias Lindkvist's takes an almost singular influence from Steve Harris - gallops, fills, even the tone I can hear him trying to achieve is all Harris circa 1980 just a little more gooey. Jonas Wikstrand is capable on the kit, utilizing everything possible to yield maximum metallic volume. Sadly, though his playing is tight and very traditional - basic and simple during verse and chorus but spreading out when the opportunity arises - it sounds lifeless often, and I can't determine whether it's him or the production. Guitarists Joseph Tholl and Adam Zaars are, as on Into The Night, phenomenal though I would've liked their guitars to be mixed louder.

Olof Wikstrand (I can't find any information on if he is related to drummer Jonas Wikstrand though by the looks of them, I am going to wager this is the case) is undeniably the force behind Enforcer, and I think you can hear in his voice that he really loves this music. His vocals are heartfelt first and foremost. Across the album he really prefers the higher ranges but never really wanders into a battle with those dreaded nasally high pitched wails. It may have something to do with age but he doesn't have that rasp to his voice, and its edge would definitely help add some intensity to the album. Regardless, there is some sort of strange grit there, a certain harshness which is unmistakeably metal in every way. I think he sounded more aggressive on Into The Night though. I also love how under produced his vocals are. There are no imposing effects added though Olof's voice is not totally parched either. At the most, there has been a lot of layering done. Most parts are dubbed it seems, to thicken up the vocals during choruses especially. The chorus in "Katana" has at least four vocals dubs itself.

Speaking of which "Katana" would be my favorite track if "Live For The Night" just wasn't such a hit and run, left then right, crush and kill classic metal track. The only thing that could make this song better is if Razor or Motorhead or even Midnight had recorded it instead. Without being too critical though, "Katana" is easily the most complex track on the recording and it hurts. Aside from a pig-sty sloppy digital edit at 4:14 - not the only one on the album either - coming out of the solo just making me shake my head at, the song is flawed. It is held back by a strangely un-metal mid section, jostled around like a rock climber, struggling to gain a foothold on what seemed to be such an easy face. The first two trade of solos sound tired; rehearsed twice too many times. Luckily, the second solo is doesn't quite disappoint. The thing is that, the longest track on the album, and the most involved has to be damn good. And this one just isn't up to par. Also, completely unrelated but "Walk With Me" really sounds like it should be a bonus track on the re-release of this album fifteen years down the road from now.

For revisionist heavy metal with some character, Diamonds is a strong candidate for anyone's collection looking for something new but not too far from what the genre has grown up with. This is truly a classic styled metal release, quirky, mired in controversial issues (I've been accosted by metal fans for wearing a black metal band's t-shirt while playing Keep It True... how do traditional metal fans in some countries feel about the guitarist for Tribulation playing in a traditional metal band?), a controversy waiting to appear. I would never put this next to some of the newer albums which I feel really convey that classic metal fist in the air, air guitar to the heavens posturing like Metal Inquisitor's Doomsday For The Heretic - an album I've overlooked and underrated for the past few years but which has enamored me now - or Shadowkeep's Corruption Within - a nod to Fates Warning's Spectre Within but placed in a modern context. Diamonds may have been up there were some of the filler removed, like the ungodly "Running In Menace" and the production was just a bit less 'dull.' What I really think Diamonds is though is a prelude a great third album.

No comments: