Enforcer – Beyond Steel

Wednesday, 1st April 2015

Quietly carving out an inspiring brand of speedy traditional metal, Sweden’s Enforcer are one of the new generation leaders in their particular niche. Followers flock to their high octane riffs, Olof’s piercing range, and melodies/harmonies/choruses that easily cause spontaneous singing or air instrumentation maneuvers.

Their only US touring experience occurred in support of their debut album Into the Night in 2009, as co-headliners with Canada’s Cauldron – so we’ve had to be satisfied with their studio product in the ensuing years while other territories watch the band melt faces and turn heads on stage. Their fourth studio album From Beyond could be a game changer. Already gaining a number of album of the month acknowledgements from seasoned journalists all across Europe, their approach to heavy metal pays respect while firing up the troops to rally around their cause.

Hitting up the Skype connection straight from Sweden, vocalist/guitarist Olof Wikstrand is very happy to hear that there seems to be a lot of interest in Enforcer these days – from teenagers on up to the old guard. This talk covers everything from Iron Maiden to Venom, creating killer albums and their live show philosophy.

Dead Rhetoric: “Below the Slumber” and “Mask of Red Death” explore different sides of Enforcer’s style from the new album. Do you feel like From Beyond has an expansive vibe in comparison to your first three studio records?

Olof Wikstrand: I think all the albums have an expansive vibe. With every album we have wanted to evolve as a band. Every album that you do sort of captures the atmosphere that you are in with the exact moment that you complete things. There is some sort of variation thing going on here with From Beyond.

Dead Rhetoric: From Beyond is the first Enforcer album to reach past the 40 minute mark – in part due to your philosophy of keeping your records at a perfect length for vinyl consumption. Do you end up writing just enough material for each album – or write more than needed and then select the strongest tracks to make the cut?

Wikstrand: We always… for example on Death By Fire we had additional songs that we sort of thought when everything was done, alright- they weren’t as good as some of the others but it’s useless to have more songs on there just to make things longer. The entire idea with making albums, we have a strong idea of what kind of flow we would like to have within the record and then we write the songs to fit the original idea. It’s never been like any ideas to have a short album because of this. The most important thing is to have an album that is interesting to listen to all the time. From the beginning to the last note, in the end it’s an album and it’s meant to be listened to from the first note to the last note of the record. You want to lead the listener with a feeling of wanting more and not wanting less, to put it on again and that’s how I feel about album composing.

Dead Rhetoric: This reminds me of the times when I grew up listening to metal records, an album length was rarely over 45 minutes.

Wikstrand: I think it’s really important – and I always have the same idea when it comes to live shows. The listener should be craving for more, that’s the state you want to leave the listener in.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve gone from a smaller label like Heavy Artillery to Nuclear Blast in a relatively quick period as a band. Do you feel the connection to the staff at these labels has accelerated the promotion and popularity for the group?

Wikstrand: Actually…in Europe, Diamonds was released on Earache. I have no idea what it’s been like in the United States because we haven’t been there in six years. I can’t really answer that as far as the USA. I must say Nuclear Blast are really good people to work with – especially on the European side. They are always enthusiastic about our ideas. I can feel a little bit however the bigger label you are on the less personal level the communication goes. The labels we have had before they sort have been working for us as management as well. That’s sort of why we have hired an external manager (since) last year. The business things have worked out really well, I must say.

Dead Rhetoric: Can you give the readers a brief look into your childhood growing up- did you have a happy home life, what do you remember most regarding your early music memories and what albums/artists influenced you to want to become a metal musician?

Wikstrand: We all grew up very silently and very normal. Jonas and I are brothers, and we got into music from our parents, that’s where it started. I got interested in heavy metal music from 1991-92, we were really young. That’s sort of been with us all our lives, the music and heavy metal. First album I got was Metallica – Metallica, then the second one I bought instantly was Ride the Lightning. I then would discover the entire Metallica discography, then I went on with Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Kiss, and stuff like this in the 1990’s.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your early band experience which led to you starting Enforcer as a one man band outfit? At what point did you decide you wanted to expand things into a full–fledged lineup- and did you know the players you wanted to assemble right away or did this take some time?

Wikstrand: In the beginning I was playing in different thrash and death metal bands by the time in 2004-2005. In previous bands we had been playing Venom covers, when we would play live, Exciter covers, I was really fascinated about the incredible amount of energy those songs had when we played them. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something similar. At that time I didn’t really have much but a couple of songs and riffs, without a real intention of making a complete band out of it. I got the rough idea about the band name, logos, I recorded some songs on my own and put them online. In a very short time the interest for this new project was so much more than any of the other bands I’ve played in. I was offered to do live shows, record deals- then it was like I asked Jonas to fill in on drums. Actually he didn’t want to so I had to promise him I would buy him alcohol because he was underage at the time. That was his demand of joining the band – and then I got Adam (Zaars) from Tribulation, we shared a lot of musical ideas by that time. When we played together for the first album that’s when we say the band was for real, because before that it was like no intention of being in any band, only a concept with the songs.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve put out three previous albums to date, Into the Night, Diamonds, and Death by Fire. If you could rate each of these albums based on a point scale from 1-10, 10 being the best, how would you rate each effort? What are some of the highlights in your opinion and what is one aspect that you possibly wish you could work upon/ improve if you had the time to in retrospect?

Wikstrand: That’s a really, really hard question. It depends on how you see things now… if I made an average of what I thought then compared to what I think now. Every album sort of reflects the ideas at that very time. If that’s the case then all the albums we have done are 10 out of 10- at least for me. Otherwise it would be useless to do this. Why would we release something that wasn’t the best? Too many average bands out there and I am not a fan of average music. I can’t say I want to change anything, I’m proud of what we’ve done. We play a lot of our back catalog live, I would say that most of the earliest stuff that we did is just as impressive as when we wrote it.

Dead Rhetoric: One thing I’ve always admired about Enforcer is your willingness to throw killer instrumental cuts like “Diamonds” or “Crystal Suite” into the middle of an album- and make these songs as dynamic as the vocal driven material. How do you know as a songwriter when something is meant to stay as an instrumental- and how much refinement takes place from a song’s creation to what we the listeners hear as a final product? Do you end up reshaping material and cutting out the excess filler or riffs that don’t work?

Wikstrand: Well that is two questions in one, so let me answer the first one first. I don’t know – the ideas originally to have an instrumental track was both to have a certain flow on the record and an instrumental is a chance to make something really special and stand out on the record. To do something different, and also we wanted to have something to play live so that I could rest my voice a little bit. I wasn’t the best singer early on, especially not in the early days because I would sing 3 songs and then my voice was gone. That’s a tradition that we really like and we’ve kept on every album, and it’s special on vinyl to open the b-side with an instrumental track. How do we know it’s an instrumental track? You just feel it, you have a couple of riffs and decide if it’s going to turn into an instrumental, and then you build it a certain way or how you want it to be.

The second question about how different things are from the original idea to the final product. Of course there is a huge difference because we spend a lot of time in the studio. We spend a huge amount of time on the tiniest of details – it’s a huge difference on every song. On some songs we want to be very strict to the original idea, I can’t really give any general answer to that.

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