One of the break-out acts featured on Earache Records' 2009 retro-metal sampler, "Heavy Metal Killers", Sweden's ENFORCER has successfully scurried up the ladder of heavy metal labels since: from Heavy Artillery Records - home to their first LP, 2008's "Into the Night" ? to the selfsame Earache for 2010's sophomore "Diamonds", and now partnering with mighty Nuclear Blast for 2013's "Death by Fire".
All the while, and thanks to this upward trajectory, the band has obviously had little reason to tinker with their vintage Euro-metal sound: a blistering, yet insistently melodic blend of post-NWOBHM adrenalin teetering on, but not quite falling over the brink of thrash-fueled, cheese-laden power metal - otherwise known as good old fashioned speed metal, and precisely what's in store this third time around.
So the challenge, as always, lies in the band's ability to rework and recycle ingredients older, in some instances, than themselves, into memorable songs fans of their generation can enjoy - preferably without having to endure endless "Back in my day?" speeches from the bitter old man involving mysterious has-beens called AGENT STEEL or ACCEPT?who the hell names their band ACCEPT, anyway?
In any case, with as little songwriting wiggle room as ENFORCER give themselves (what they lack in original ideas often being compensated by their clinical precision, fast beyond the mortal powers of the older generation), one still feels that the tunes on "Death by Fire" by and large possess far more personality and staying power than those on the sophomore "Diamonds".
At least to begin with, though, it's sheer, wanton speed carrying the album's first few, razor-riffed bumblebees headlong into the listener's memory receptors (highlighted by opening tandem "Bells of Hades" and "Death Rides this Night"); and not until fifth song, "Take Me Out of this Nightmare", does a sing-a-long chorus steal the spotlight from this instrumental onslaught.
Come the album's second half, ENFORCER display a little more balance and imagination, by crafting a truly unprecedented, dynamically varied metallic epic in "Silent Hour/The Conjugation", where riff supplants riff in seemingly endless succession, conclusively proving they have something more to offer than boundless energy.
Yes, there are still instances in which ENFORCER shamelessly cribs from its influences: the instrumental "Crystal Suite", for one, plucks its busy bass line and interweaving guitar parts straight out of IRON MAIDEN's "Genghis Khan", then quotes METALLICA's "Creeping Death" bridge for good measure; final cut, "Satan", meanwhile, is 100% composed atop the "Phantom Lord" framework, we shit you not!
But even them the band is being openly worshipful and entertaining about it, so this should only upset listeners for whom this kind of familiarity breeds instant contempt?and those probably stayed away from this album from the get-go, let's be honest.
So there you have it: ENFORCER remain content to carry on working within their familiar wheelhouse, but appear to be improving their songwriting craft with each LP, thereby justifying their professional ascension. Heck, at this rate, they may one day be as good as ACCEPT.