ENFORCED
"Kill Grid"

(Century Media)

01. The Doctrine
02. UXO
03. Beneath Me
04. Malignance
05. Kill Grid
06. Curtain Fire
07. Hemorrhage
08. Blood Ribbon
09. Trespasser

RATING: 8/10

One of the few good things about 2020 was the sheer volume of top-notch thrash metal that came out, and 2021 is starting with a similar vibe. ENFORCED have been tipped as the genre's latest, brightest hopes for a while now, partly due to the utterly face-ripping brilliance of 2019's "At The Walls" debut, and this year's release is equally face-ripping but arguably heavier and sharper on all fronts. "Kill Grid" is one instant, irrefutable reason to be cheerful.

This Richmond, Virginia crew simply have that irresistible intensity that exemplifies the best thrash and speed metal: a powerful sense that their songs might actually find a way to punch you in the face if you don't headbang throughout. Their gnarly, churning sound is as dark and gritty as it gets, with an occasional hint of hardcore's brutish simplicity, but with a very obvious and essential connection to the hardest, nastiest bands from thrash's first wave.

It's easy to walk the aesthetic walk without necessarily writing great songs too, but ENFORCED have mastered the dynamics and groove-driven power of thrash while writing some truly stellar future anthems. "Beneath Me" is a murderous, CRO-MAGS-meets-SLAYER fist to the ribcage; "Malignance" is half vicious proto-death metal, half pit-friendly SUICIDAL-saluting speedcore; "Curtain Fire" starts like a sublime off-cut from "South of Heaven" before chugging with panzer-like persistence toward a devastating, devilish payoff; "Blood Ribbon" and "Hemorrhage" both use mid-tempo heft and clinical changes of pace to bring darker hues to ENFORCED's wild-eyed speed-freakery.

Old school in spirit but defiantly contemporary in terms of the sonic weight it wields, "Kill Grid" reaffirms the power of nailing the basics. The title track is a magnificent thing: seven minutes of epic, shapeshifting thrash, it starts like a slow-motion apocalypse and ends with the sound of flailing, distorted bass spiraling off into the glitching, bloodied ether. In truth, it's the one moment on "Kill Grid" that suggests that ENFORCED might have a progressive streak that they haven't fully revealed yet. But if they keep releasing slabs of all-out, SLAYER-ized mayhem of this quality, it's hard to imagine anyone being too bothered if they never do. Ultimately, thrash metal requires no reinvention; it just needs regular jolting doses of new blood, and ENFORCED are exactly that. This thing will take your face off.

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