(Heavy Artillery)

01. Midnight Vice
02. Roll the Dice
03. Katana
04. Running in Menace
05. High Roller
06. Diamonds
07. Live for the Night
08. Nightmares
09. Walk With Me
10. Take Me to Hell

RATING: 8/10

No sophomore jinx here; "Diamonds" from Swedish champions of old school heavy metal ENFORCER is every bit as good as the "Into the Night" debut. In fact, the more I listen the more I think it might even be better. We'll see what the passage of time brings in terms of the album's long term worth.

Along with acts like WHITE WIZZARD, whose "Over the Top" full-length brought with it a renewed sense of NWOBHM energy, "Diamonds" plays like a real "album" in the sense that it brings one back to an era when the whole was bigger than the sum of the parts and the idea of purchasing individual songs and casting the remainder aside wasn't even a consideration. Previously the guy manning the four-string action (and there is a lot of it coming from Tobias Lindkvist on this album), Joseph Tholl has joined Adam Zaars on guitar to bolster the band's considerable six-string muscle. That means there are oodles of sizzling riffs to go with all the bass bubbling and an upper register vocal treatment from Olof Wikstrand that not only complements arrangements that brighten up the Di'Anno-era IRON MAIDEN muscularity with NWOBHM melodic sensibility, but makes them stand out even more. A song that exemplifies those component parts working in unison is "Katana", which features a stunning chorus melody rivaled only by "Walk with Me" and, at a close third, "Running in Menace". In addition to several up-tempo rockers, such as "Midnight Vice", "Roll the Dice", "Take me to Hell", and "Live for the Night", the instrumental title track is noteworthy for its succinct compositional appeal and the way that it just fits so snugly amidst the other cuts. The analog mix and lack of "triggers" and "phony modern studio techniques" touted by the band and label is indeed a selling point.

Whereas some albums of this ilk are at risk of bogging down in instrumental excess, time spent listening to "Diamonds" seems to fly by at a rate that belies its 39 minutes; that's the mark of good songwriting. Bottom line? ENFORCER play it like they mean it with chops, hooks, and an overall genuineness that tickles the nostalgia bone and touches the soul.


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