ENFORCER – Nostalgia
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://www.enforcerofficial.com/
There’s a mildly funny personal story connected to this 6th album by the Swedish speed and traditional heavy rock and metal quartet Enforcer. I had heard of them before with the Death By Fire²⁰¹³ album review by a former ET reviewer Matt Coe but had never actually took the time to listen to that album so there was no interest from me to get the subject of this review when it came out. What I had been after, interestingly from the same Nuclear Blast Records, was the new Enforced album War Remains so I requested that. Due to extreme similarity of the bands’ names I received Nostalgia, instead. Undaunted, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did because the music the band’s founder Olof Anders Gustav Wikstrand (vocals, guitars) and his brother Jonas Per Anders Wikstrand i (drums) present along with Jonathan Alexander “Jonte” Nordwall (2019-guitars) and Garth Condit (2022-bass) is some of the catchiest heavy metal since Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time, and, to boot, every track is really different, with the main focus in that sweet 80s spot where traditional metal, speed metal and thrash melded into one with occasional progressive leanings. Believe me when I say that these tunes turn heads quickly and leave them very slowly and unwillingly.
As I said earlier, I had never heard Enforcer before this one so Into The Night²⁰⁰⁸, Diamonds²⁰¹⁰, the aforementioned Death By Fire, From Beyond²⁰¹⁵ and Zenith²⁰¹⁹ came and went without me knowing such a talented band evaded this Iron Maiden fanatic for so long. I have, therefore, no modicum of comparison to Nostalgia. However, I read somewhere how Zenith in particular was a disappointment for many fans and how Nostalgia was meant to bring their mojo back. Cleverly titled, the album concept is the inherent impermanence in all of creation: all things, good and bad pass away and nothing remains in the end. Thus the Grim Reaper with the hour glass cover, thus the title track dealing with that feeling of loss of days which will never come back right about the time I’m going through something similar myself. In my mind I hear Megadeth’s two part “Time” chiming away, a song Dave Mustaine wrote when he was 11 years younger than I am now on the highly controversial Risk album which for many, myself included, sounded like the end of Megadeth as they knew it. Wait a minute, why am I mentioning Megadeth in an Enforcer album review?
While there are countless bands who were influenced and occassionally managed to sound somewhat like Megadeth, few can actually bring back that ancient devil may care attitude as Enforcer. Listening to the superb 80s thrash metal anthem “Coming Alive”, the solid “Kiss Of Death” or the poppy melodic “Keep The Flame Alive” I am instantly transported back to the Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? days (of course, not actual time of their release but the time of my first encounter with them some 31 years ago). The precision, the riffs, the spectacular “story solos” the seemingly effortless hooks and technical prowess – it’s all there in spades as if playing with your ability to comprehend the fact that someone could be this apparently recklessly talented. I mean, take “Demon”, straight from Iron Maiden or Killers, so catchy and ear wormy it ought to be illegal, or the Mercyful Fately ballad “Heartbeats” where Olaf’s normally wild and ridiculously high vocals are toned down evocative of “She Cameleon” Fish Marillion, the album’s first softer touch, or the ingenious title track that brings that classic The Scorpions feeling complete with Klaus Meine’s impersonation by Olaf as he flawlessly croons “Nos-tal-giaaa”. Basically, the first half of the album is so fantastic were this continued on the second half you would be looking at a 5.5/6 score.
Sadly, the second half is where Enforcer seemed to have run out of ideas. The material is largely still far from filler and the Judas Priesty “At The End Of The Rainbow” is very good but the remaining tracks cumulatively don’t merit more than a 4.5/6 score, with the more hard rocking Acceptic “White Lights In The USA” approaching mediocrity were it not for the jawdropping solo recalling Eddie Van Halen in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. The Spanish lyrics in the pseudothrashy “Metal Supremacía” sound kitchy but, then again, I have always found singing about the greatness of heavy metal cringeworthy to begin with. There’s some attempt at bringing back the magic with the closer “When the Thunder Roars (Cross Fire)” which starts a bit like Killswitch Engage’s “As Daylight Dies” then its fast heavy metal seemingly reprising “Unshackle Me”, with some excellent melodies and a chorus where the guitar sounds awfully difficult to copy, some interesting transitions, all of which does manage to inspire a reflection that this is some creative stuff that, at first, had sounded antiquated but on the third spin I felt several notes would definitely get stuck in my head, but then a bombastic, stage-like crescendo of an ending lets us know that the 41:39 minute 13 track affair is definitely over and it is up to you to press “play” again or else Enforcer shall cease to exist in your life like everything else that eventually turns to dust from which it has come.