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There’s a lot of validated hype surrounding the so called New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal as countless metal heads of a new generation and older rockers alike yearn for the highly melodic and compelling sound of classic metal bands from the 70s and 80s. I can only imagine what great times those were! Fast forward to the present day and one can revel in contemporary bands such as Ambush, Cauldron, Monument, Striker and Widow, who are currently doing a stellar job of bringing back that era’s wonderful nostalgic feeling. At the top of that list is a Swedish band originally from Arvika and now based in Stockholm by the name of Enforcer which, curiously enough, is more often than not classified as “speed metal”. Well, if such is the case, they are by far the most melodic and talented speed metal I’ve ever heard! Their 2008 debut, Into the Night, was already quite enthralling with tracks such as "Black Angel", “Mistress from Hell” and “Speed Queen”, then in 2010 came along their incredible sophomore effort, Diamonds. This release truly lives up to its title and is without a shred of doubt a substantially essential “desert island” release and without question one of my favorite records of all time.
Sounding like a sleek modern take on Riot’s Fire Down Under, Tokyo Blade’s Night of the Blade or even Witch Cross’ Fit for Fight, this release is so freaking awesome I really don’t know where to start with the praise. One thing is for sure, I cannot find any fault whatsoever with it. From an utterly fantastic overall musicianship to a clear, out-of-this-World production, Diamonds is such a gem it possesses an ethereal quality to it. I’ll start with their singer, Olof Wikstrand. His slight Scandinavian accent gives a real cool and ingratiating edge to his voice. Mixed in with his swift high-pitched vocals, the album moves along at a cozy pace as the resulting effect launches each and every song right through the roof and leaves you clamoring for more. He has such a unique voice that so completely fits in with the music, it just makes you want to keep listening. Add to that the effervescent guitar riffs, exquisite solos, phantasmagorical bass lines, frenetic yet tight drumming, and you might start to catch my drift.
Now before I get ahead of myself and lost in ramblings, I just want to say that by “phantasmagorical”, I mean that the bass playing on Diamonds is definitely some of the best and most intense I’ve ever heard. I’m not talking in a Primus sort of way either. Imagine Steve Harris’ legendary creativity combined with Kip Lemming’s prodding oomph and a bit of Burke Shelley’s magic thrown in to spice things up... Holy crap! If anyone can listen to Tobias Lindkvist’s bass playing here and claim they’re not impressed, I’ll frigging eat my HAT! Right from the excellent opening track “Midnight Vice” to the balls-to-the-wall closer, “Take Me to Hell”, he displays serious engagement towards his instrument, giving every song its own special undertow. His bass lines are extremely colorful and warrant any aspiring or accomplished bass player’s full attention. As well, they’re not buried at all beneath Adam Zaars and Joseph Tolls’ skillful guitar playing, but prominently stand out and consistently take on a life on their own. The bridge sections on “Katana” and the opening bass line to “Walk with Me” are prime examples of this. Tracks such as “Roll the Dice”, “High Roller” and "Live for the Night" simultaneously showcase Lindkvist’s commanding versatility and speed. Although he consistently adds neat little fills to his bass lines, he doesn’t showboat or stray from away from the songs’ core structures. Add to this Diamond’s rock solid production and what you’ve got here is an unforced, naturally smooth and very pleasing listening experience. All the band’s components, from Wikstrand’s spell-binding vocals to his brother’s zealous drumming, are in perfect sync with each other, and this is also why I qualify this release as having an ethereal quality to it.
Most of the songs are in the three to four minute range, but the amount of catchy, hard driving riffs and wickedly fluid guitar solos to be heard is truly mind boggling. Zaars and Tholl complement each other perfectly and come up with some real zingers such as the main riffs to "Roll The Dice" and “High Roller” as well as the bridge sections to “Katana” and “Nightmares”. I love the entire album from start to finish but some sections are absolutely mesmerizing. Being the longest track at six minutes, “Walk with Me” features an awesome solo before breaking down into a beautifully mellow bridge section followed by yet another flurry of mini-leads. Along with “Katana” and the plethora of uninhibited yet more focused lead breaks, it shows just how much the band has matured since releasing Into the Night. While I still like it a great deal, I admit their debut could be interpreted as speed metal. However, as I implied earlier, it would be too limiting and unjust to simply lump Diamonds in with all the actual speed/thrash albums out there. No disrespect or anything, but this release is just too innovative and melodic, going above and beyond what one would expect from that particular genre.
As for the title track itself, it’s perfectly placed halfway through the album as the token instrumental and while I often find such vocal lacking songs a bit bland or subdued, this is definitely not the case here. The riffs and solos are just as compelling. The following track, “Live for the Night” revs you right up with its two and a half minutes of lightning fast riffs, jangling bass lines and Wikstand’s furiously pounding beats. “Running in Menace” features my favorite chorus on the album and has a sweet early 80s vibe to it, in a Tygers of Pan Tang sort of way. On “Nightmares”, the riff and harmonics at 02:08 blow my mind every time. The fact that part doesn’t last very long but sounds so amazing when it does come up makes it me look forward to it that much more. “Take Me to Hell” is as strong an album closer as it gets with its sky-reaching bass line and wild, 70s style pentatonic solos. Every song on Diamonds is jaw-dropping great and highlight Enforcer at the top of their game. I really can’t pinpoint any preferred tracks but I’d pick “Midnight Vice”, “Roll the Dice” and especially “High Roller” as the ones that come to mind instantly when I think of this masterpiece.
It’s worth noting that Joseph Tholl and Jonas Wikstrand are the acting vocalist and drummer for Black Trip, another outstanding, recently formed band from Sweden which shares similar occult related themes but has more of a 70’s hard rock vibe. If you dig Enforcer (and I’m willing to bet you will), I highly recommend checking them out also. Tholl is a surprisingly competent vocalist as well as a highly skilled and soulful guitar player.
I’ll be forever grateful to Enforcer for not only fully rekindling my passion for this kind of music but also for being my first introduction to the amazing Scandinavian traditional metal scene. I don’t know what they’re putting in the water but man, there’s some incredible talent brewing over there. I’ll sign off by sharing the following nugget, courtesy of the band members. While being interviewed by Sweden Rock Magazine, they firmly stated: “Heavy Metal is not old school; it’s timeless.” This is certainly the case with Diamonds. Like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. While their other releases are also highly proficient, there’s something uniquely memorable about this one. If you’re new to the band and into this particular genre, I recommend starting with this release. Don’t be thrown off by its speed metal categorization. This is “timeless” traditional heavy metal at its finest!
"See you in Tokyo out in the city - you will never walk away from me
See you in Tokyo if you dare you will fight til the end when I'm gone, do believe
I'm running in menace!"
A follow up from Enforcer was something I highly anticipated after the typical but very entertaining debut "Into The Night". Their grasp on what made classic 80's metal tick was greatly appreciated, especially without an eye-rolling sense of self-awareness that a number of other NWOTHM bands seemed to hold on to; I'm fucking talking to YOU White Whizzard! So how does "Diamonds" stack up to "Into The Night"? Well, I'll say this: I don't enjoy it overall quite as much as the debut, but I'm more than ready to admit the the technical and lyrical content on here is a mighty improvement over that of the debut, hence the slightly higher rating. Grab a pick ax; let's dig for "Diamonds"...
The style of the music on "Diamonds" does differ from the more aggressive, rawer debut. While the heavy/speed metal vibe is still on full display, the thrashiness from the debut is noticeably replaced by an interestingly more hard rock-oriented tone. This doesn't hurt the songs, not at all; it just gives the band something different to work with so they're not making the same damn music over and over. This can especially be heard in the slower tempo of many of the tracks, as well as larger-scale hooks and some big arena choruses.
One of the most notable aspects of "Diamonds" is how much the bandmates improved in between records. Olaf Wikstrand has a more solid grasp on his vocal work, not just mercilessly shrieking away but adding layers and melody to his voice as well as changing up his strong range to wherever it may fit, though he rarely does go below mid-range. Joseph Tholl drops bass duties from on "Into The Night" and instead joins the guitar club with the returning Adam Zaars, who has grown in his skills considerably. Here he sounds more sure of himself and his solos are far more complex and more technical; even his riffing is a bit sharper. Together the two make a solid duo and give the album a richer guitar tone. A tone that unfortunately drowns out the bass, which, performed by newcomer Tobias Lindkvist, isn't nearly as prevalent as is was on the debut. Still, it helps round out the sounds and depth I guess, and he does have a few short moments to shine. Jonas Wikstrand returns to drum the night away, and what a job he does. He still clearly likes to just pound away relentlessly, though this time he shows off his tighter fill skills and his own brand of strengthened tech drumming.
As previously stated, the songs on "Diamonds" have a noticeable hard rock vibe to them, thought they are still very much old school-styled heavy/speed metal. There's only two songs I don't dig on here: we have "High Roller", which isn't stupid or anything but the song as a whole is pretty forgettable, not to mention the would-be chorus is executed half-assedly. The other is the snappy but ultimately useless instrumental title track; good bass, good riffs, not much else to brag about. Everything else slays though. The opener, "Midnight Vice", has kind of a weak, though catchy, chorus but sees the full Maiden-meets-Dokken sounds on display, playing away and ripping through those melodic riffs and tight solos. The fastest song on here, "Live For the Night", has easily the catchiest chorus on here as well as some of the best riffs, while "Nightmares" and "Roll The Dice" roll right along with their Riot/Priest mannerisms including massive, entertaining choruses, slicing solos and immense hooks. "Katana" may be the album masterpiece if not totally thanks to the immense extended solo that would make Tipton and Downing a couple of proud blokes.
Overall, "Diamonds" is a step up many departments. The songwriting is stronger, the music work tighter and more complex, though overall it doesn't push my buttons quite as often as the charmingly raw hyperspeed of the debut. Even still, this diamond is one worth digging for, and fans of classic metal will surely not be displeased. Enforcer rides again!
The very first track that I heard from the Swedish horde, Enforcer, was the instrumental title track of this album, Diamonds. The speed, energy and melody of the song instantly captured my attention, and reminded me of old school heavy metal in the form of works such as Iron Maiden's earlier material. After the successful debut full length album, Into the Night, it would have been hard for Enforcer to come up with even better music, yet with Diamonds, the band has managed to prove cynics wrong, with the album containing some of the strongest songs that the band has written so far.
The opening riffs of Midnight Vice instantly brings listeners back to the 80s, with the large, melodic hooks in the guitars, but without further ado the band goes into full speed with their melodic style of heavy/speed metal. Vocalist Olof could take awhile for first time listeners not accustomed to high-pitched vocals to get used to, but throughout the album he pushes the limits of his vocals, and just when one thinks that it's not possible for his vocals to get higher, he proves listeners wrong, and this can be heard on moments like the chorus of Nightmares. His performance on Diamonds further shows his versatility, having also played in Tribulation, a band with a totally different style of music. Each of the band members on the album also are given time to display their abilities, and in particular, bassist Tobias stands out from the rest of the band, with the high presence of the bass, and playing style almost reminiscent of Maiden's Steve Harris, with the galloping riffs that he tends to utilise at times. The guitars of Adam and Joseph are also another highlight, with the perfect balance between speed and melody.. The instrumental track Diamonds is perhaps the best track that displays the band's abilities, with lead spots given to each instrumentalist in the band, and it is here that the listener is given the opportunity to appreciate each of the instruments on the album.
The tracks on Diamonds are extremely melodic, and are written in such an infectious way that they can instantly grab the listener's attention, and without much effort get the listener headbanging along with the music. The band's numerous influences are also easily heard in the record, and especially on songs like the instrumental title track, Diamonds, the Maiden reference is clearly heard (what better way to attract a Maiden fan like me?), almost reminding listeners of Maiden's Transylvania, only infused with more speed and some punkish/thrashy elements, though the song and soften downs halfway, giving a short break to the listeners. The often harmonised twin-lead guitar solos that are present on the album, like on Running in Menace, further brings about the comparison to these heavy metal legends. Slower songs on the album like Katana have introductions that have a certain instrumental guitar feel, sounding like it could come off a Kiko Loureiro album, along with nice singalong choruses.
Few "new" bands have managed to remind me of my first few encounters with heavy metal, capturing the amazement that I felt when first listening to 70s hard rock and then 80s heavy metal a few years back, but with Diamonds, Enforcer has managed to do what many bands have failed to do for me and stir up a nostalgic emotion within, making it an extremely special album personally.
Riding the wave of traditional heavy metal, Enforcer is one the many bands trying to reignite the spark Iron Maiden and other stalwarts of the eighties brought to the heavy metal scene nearly thirty years ago. The important aspect about Enforcer is that while they yearn for the studs and leather of yesteryear; their heavy metal spirit and originality pushes them towards the front of the pack in the new splash of bands.
The Swedes chuck out speed metal mastery with lighting charges of furious metal and blazing guitars. The guitars have a thick, heavy tone that is easy to digest, while solid drumming and sweet bass lines intersect. The meat of the album is with the guitars and vocals because they shine and give the impression that this was released in 1985.
“Diamonds” goes for the throat immediately with “Midnight Vice”, a fast number with the great hook and is a perfect example of how to start an album. Olaf Wikstrand utilizes the highest plains with his vocal attack and is prominent throughout the album. His energy flows very nicely with the accelerated charges of his band mates.
This album is at its best with the longer songs found on here. The variation of leads and blasting delivery of “Katana” along with a great chorus makes this one a standout. “Walk With Me” is another fine song with a nice intro bass line courtesy of Tobias Lindkvist and the vocal melody is engaging. The overall broodiness of the song separates it from the other songs.
The title track is also an instrumental and is flowing with the Maiden influence. The similarities to “Transylvania” are conspicuous; however the Swedes take it down a notch near the end by slowing it down and relax the mood. It sounds kind of weird, but it flows well and shows they are not afraid of changing things up a bit.
The rest of the album is pure and simple fun. It does not reach a point of being watered down as each song has its own distinct way of engaging the listener whether it’s a chorus, guitar riff, or blazing solo. The up-tempo beats make for grade A head-banging. “High Roller” and “Running in Menace” have all the qualities one would want for straight-up heavy metal and the twin guitar attack of Adam Zaars and Joseph Thall is impressive.
“Diamonds” is a great sophomore album from Enforcer. The take no prisoner’s attitude and high energy metallic assault makes this one of the best from the new era of heavy metal. The opening song is an indicator what one are going to hear and “Katana” and “Walk With Me” round out an impressive metal storm. Enforcer is creating their path with traditional metal; and if this album is any indication, they will make a huge impression.
Alright, so... this is a review for Enforcer's latest album, Diamonds. After listening to this album myself, the first thing that comes to mind is "holy fuck." Give it a listen and you'll see what I mean. It sounds like it was recorded in like 1983. Add equal parts Killers and Unleashed in the East, maybe some generous dashes of good ol' NWOBHM, and you've got yourself Diamonds, 10 wholesome tracks of heavy metal. Part of this complete breakfast.
So, onto the actual "review" part of this review.
Alright, I'm going to be totally honest with you. I'm sitting here trying to think of something else to say about these songs other than "THEY ALL KICK ASS," and quite frankly, I'm failing at it. Really, it's just totally unnecessary to tediously dissect all these songs to paint you a detailed picture of what you're getting yourself into by picking up this album. There are no weak tracks here, really. The songs are all very catchy and still maintain a lot of that "speed metal" thing the band had going on with their first effort, Into the Night, only with some touches of hard rock here and there.
So, in conclusion, '80's heavy metal enthusiasts will be touching themselves listening to this album. People who totally dismiss "traditional" heavy metal should either listen to this album and reevaluate their lives or hang themselves. This band kicks ass. Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what the hell they're talking about. Don't listen to them. They're bat-shit insane. Buy this album. It's very good.
I first heard of Enforcer when they released their first album which was an amazing release that gave me goosebumps every time I listened to it. The album was great and for quite some time it was the main CD I listened to. I thought that the dudes could not top it anymore and would release something sub par and very mediocre. Upon discovering that they were making a new album I wanted to hear it and I hoped my thoughts were completely wrong. It turned out that with songs such as "Midnight Vice", "High Roller", "Roll the Dice", "Take Me To Hell" and "Nightmares" the album is an even bigger improvement over the debut.
The above songs I've mentioned are very impressive. What one song lacks, the others make up for it in superb ways. If I wouldn't known any better I would actually think that these songs were recorded back in the 80's which is what's so special about this release. The entire vibe of the album is very retro and it actually makes you feel like you are in your room 30 years earlier, sharing a cigarette with your buddies, and head banging like crazy. The bass is very audible, the guitars are in standard tuning, and the vocalist actually sings, what more can you ask for?
Being a vocalist myself I am not too fond of instrumentals and I can never fully understand why a band would leave out a song with out lyrics. Maybe it's writers block, maybe it's laziness, but that doesn't matter. Now just like with the previous release, the band has given us an instrumental which is actually pretty good. It starts out fast and the riffs are fun, ultimately ending with a very slow/soft passage that fades out. Now I just can't take the fact that this song would have been ten times better if there were vocals included. Although the song is good, I won't find myself listening to it a lot since it's an instrumental, and with out vocals it's boring after awhile. "Running In Menace" is a good song that takes a slower approach but still is kick ass. It has a very catchy chorus and lets you slow down and appreciate the music.
Having went over most of the things on the album, I am left with two of the strongest tracks on the album which also happen to be my two personal favorites from the album. "Katana" and "Walk With Me" are two 6 minute long epics that blow my frikking mind. One is about swords and the mighty samurai, while the other is about something really redundant and too philosophical to understand. How more metal can this be? This is where the album really shines. Who doesn't love 6 minute long songs about the most bad ass things ever?
Having rambled on for a good few paragraphs, I must say that this album is a very solid release that every metal head should hear. Regardless of your style, whether it be death, thrash, or even black, you need to hear this, you will like it. This is where the trad metal revival is at, this is where it all re-begins.
In a year that has been pretty disappointing to me overall, one album that has stuck out for me has been Enforcer’s Diamonds. Diamonds is the second effort from Sweden’s Enforcer, and frankly, this is how nu-trad should be played. I’ve been rather unimpressed with bands like White Wizzard. For some reason, I often find the “retro aesthetic” to feel forced more than anything else, but with Diamonds, everything feels genuine.
For starters, this is basically a mix of Iron Maiden and Angel Witch combined with a feel-good, party-hard attitude. The vocals here feel like what the one’s on Angel Witch’s self-titled album should’ve been (and that’s my only gripe with that album whatsoever), with a good ratio of ballsiness to slightly effeminate melody. Not “bad” effeminate, mind you, but that kind of high-pitched, 80s effeminate feeling. Like Vince Neil if he could actually sing and played in a decent band.
Anyway, the vocals take center stage in the first track, ‘Midnight Vice,’ with what has to be one of the catchiest choruses of 2010. That catchy chorus, combined with the general bad-assery of the verse riff and vocal delivery just makes this song click really well. The solo is one of those NWOBHM “shredder” type things, and it works well in the context of the song. One of my favorite parts of the song, however, is the little break before the end where the vocalist (Olof Wikstrand) gets an opportunity to really show off his pipes. This track does an excellent job of starting off the album, and is generally a good example of Enforcer’s more vocal-centric styled songs.
Next up is another favorite of mine, ‘Roll The Dice.’ This song is more focused on a very subtle, yet catchy as hell guitar riff that occurs throughout the verses. Even with another catchy chorus, this as the feelings of being a guitar-oriented song, and the break at the 1:40 mark proves it. Here, we’re presented with a hella catchy riff that leads into a solo, then returns and leads into a faster solo. This isn’t complex by any means, but it’s nicely composed and gives some variety to a genre that almost always sticks to the verse-chorus structure.
Some of the songs here are more adventurous, with ‘Katana’ and ‘Walk With Me’ both being around the six minute mark and having larger instrumental sections. The melodic guitar riffs and leads are really emphasized in this section, and it’s here where Enforcer’s roots are felt most. I could easily see Iron Maiden or Angel Witch writing stuff like this in their early days. Then there’s the instrumental title track which is quite entertaining. There’s no wankery to be found–just a ballsy collection of riffs and solos that works very well together, mixed with some good bass leads towards the end, all with a slow outro.
There are a few tracks that feel filler-ish to me (‘Running In Menace,’ ‘High Roller’), but even then, those are fine slabs of heavy metal that just don’t happen to stand out amongst the rest of the great tracks on this album. Overall, this is one of my favorite releases of 2010, and definitely my favorite release of this trad-revival. IF you want a ballsy, fun, retro-sounding heavy metal album that’s completely true to it’s roots, then Enforcer’s Diamonds is what you’re looking for.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/
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 and 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.
With their second album, the Swedes of Enforcer come back with pretty much the same formula they had developed on their tasty debut, 2008’s Into the Night. We're still in known territory with their speedy, melodic NWOBHM-oriented heavy metal that sounds an awful lot like early Iron Maiden minus the punky influences. The main difference here is that they slowed things up a bit, adding a little hard rocking fun for good measure (quite possibly originating from early-Def Leppard and Tygers of Pan Tang) which suits their catchy compositions nicely.
The few misfires of singer Olof Wikstrand have also been corrected when compared to Into the Night and he’s much more in control of his high-pitched spectrum on Diamonds than he was on Enforcer’s debut offering, to the point that he often sounds a bit like The Darkness’ singer, the awful Justin Hawkins, only a lot less annoying and way “gutsier”. Diamonds also has quite a lot of backing vocals “à la” Def Leppard which contribute to enlighten the overall performance of the vocalist.
The production of Diamonds is the other good news when comparing it with its predecessor. Where Into the Night was bordering on amateurism, Diamonds is a feast for the ears with its precise and dynamic sound, not modern in any way, this production, firmly rooted in the era Enforcer reveres is exactly what the band needed.
Another good thing about Diamonds is its moderate length, it seems that the band has focused on its strongest material and, thus, delivered a no-filler 40 minutes album which brings it even closer to the good-ole-times Heavy Metal albums formula it seems to rely on.
I realize I haven’t spoken of any song in particular. The reason is simple actually, Diamonds is an effort that you listen from start to finish with a big smile on your face, an horned fist risen in the hair and hair all over the place with demented headbanging. Really, If you are a fan of old-school Heavy Metal, this is a mindblowing trip down Nostalgia Lane. Anyway, if I had to mention 3 songs from Enforcer's mighty collection it'd probably be Roll the Dice and its delightful “disco-rhythmed” solo break, Katana and its 6 minutes of pure epic melodic Heavy Metal or the eponymous instrumental with its exquisite dueling guitars and even a little surprise towards the end of it. But, really, all the songs featured here are great so it’s hard to see those three as highlights as I truely consider the album as a whole and have no real favorite among those 10 kick-ass tunes.
To sum things up, Diamonds is undoubtedly a must hear for anyone favoring old-school heavy metal especially in times where double bass too often takes the control. Sure, it’s nothing new or groundbreaking, it’s just fun albums that makes you headbang like crazy and, trust me, there’s nothing wrong with it and when it’s so amazingly done, it leaves with a sore neck, a silly smile on your face and... Hungry for more!
The styling of traditional speed and classic metal is all the 'latest' rage these days, with larger genre labels like Earache snapping up a number of artists to carry out the execution of the revival. Will it somehow succeed? I very much doubt it. But considering the enormous backlog of bands in this genre who were around in the 80s, releasing great material and never receiving much international attention, at the very least we can hope these younger bands spur on some sort of mass nostalgia. Several have tried thus far, and in many cases, like Earache's other 80s cult White Wizzard, the result is not all that impressive. Sweden's Enforcer, however, may just have the chops and attitude to really pull it off.
Yes, the band carries with them the image of an 80s act. Stylish stage clothing, 80s like album covers, and suitable logo for the time period they are emulating. But what's more important, I never once feel, when listening to their sophomore outing Diamonds, as if they're anything less than a genuine article. I don't imagine Enforcer sitting around their jam space, brainstorming a bandwagon they can hitchhike to achieve some sort of success. They don't come across as a group of teenage internet 'scholars', revisionist punks who got into metal music in through Rock Band on the XBOX and feel like they need to rationalize themselves with worthless lyrics about 'metal' or the history of metal. No, Enforcer feels like the real deal, as if they grew up with classic metal music like Angel Witch, Riot, Lizzy Borden and wish to share their love for these times by adding to the legacy rather than mocking it.
Their first album Into the Night was a success, but I feel as if Diamonds is one step better. This is a legitimate work of 80s speed metal, rooted in the British tradition, with a slight hint of reckless USPM and a production job which does not date it much beyond the period it emulates. The lyrical subjects range from samurai to smutty, steamy city life, and as irreverent and irrelevant as that might seem, I greatly prefer this to songs about 'thrash' and 'beer', 'moshing' or 'heavy metal _ _ _ _ _ _' which insult the intelligence (unless you're a Japanese Engrish band like Metalucifer which takes it all to such a level of absurdity that you cannot help to become glued to it). Enforcer are not unique, and they know they're not, but they're hardly Captain Obvious either, and for this I am thankful.
I am also thankful for both the nostalgia and I blazing, melodic bliss of tracks like "Katana", "Roll the Dice", "Live for the Night", "Take Me to Hell" and "Diamonds", all of which seethe with qualities I had thought long dead for over two decades. The rough, almost broken vinyl like feel of the mix, and the quivering, but savory throat of Olof "Enforcer" Wikstrand create a hurricane of excellence. But the band can also smooth out the ruffles with a mellow, psychedelic rock moment like you find at the close of title track "Diamonds". Another highlight of this record is the steady "Running with Menace", which feels like pre-80s Riot with even better vocals...but I'll come clean: there is not a single song on Diamonds that I did not enjoy, and if any album is to be considered a flagship for this return to the fundamental speed and boundless excess and energy of metal music, I do believe we're listening to it.
Do you miss the crisp promise of your 80s metal vinyl collection? Do you wonder why so many bands can no longer manifest such spikes & leather today, turning instead towards the safety net of down-tuned brutal extremity? Do you miss the age of the Trans Am? The coin op arcade? Women in makeup and big hair? Do you sing elegies to the days of your hesher adolescence? Enforcer has answered your call, with a good old burst of energetic fun that will not talk down or insult you, but instead celebrate alongside your finer memories, and help you hang onto them a little longer. Diamonds were a girl's best friend. Now they're a banger's best friend, and to the rest of the retro knuckleheads out there: you have your work cut out for you.