Enforced – Denial and DelusionsThursday, 27th April 2023
Like a freight train that barrels with seemingly no pause in sight, crossover thrash when done well combines the punk/hardcore primal energy into this metal workload which cannot be denied. Enforced represents one of those newer acts steeped in a style where artists like Slayer, Demolition Hammer, and Sepultura appear as influences one second, then the Cro-Mags, Power Trip, or Kreator the next. Arriving at the third studio record for War Remains, this razor-sharp tone penetrates every song on the vocal/musical front. We reached out to singer Knox Colby to fill us in on the focused nature to the new record – thoughts on the different video shoots, touring responsibilities to learn on the fly, the use of Sirius XM to gain more appeal beyond the underground, challenges with finances, plus what’s in store for touring to support this album.
Dead Rhetoric: War Remains is the third and latest Enforced album. You mention in the background information that it’s very straight-forward production-wise, plus aggressive, no-frills thrash that packs a potent punch in just a little over 30 minutes. What do you believe you’ve learned from the first two albums that you applied for the better this go around?
Knox Colby: Don’t over think it – and don’t over do it. For the style we are trying to go for, it doesn’t necessarily need samples, ethereal effects, stuff like that. We kept it real old school, you don’t need anything but play hard, play fast. If the songs are good, it doesn’t need anything else. We just streamlined the whole thing.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think as a result the songwriting becomes a more critical component because you want things to be focused, cutting out all the unnecessary parts?
Colby: When I say no frills, there’s barely any fat on it. It’s super trimmed down, and we wanted to keep it that way. Kill Grid had some songs that were over four, five minutes – “Kill Grid” the song with all the samples and everything, is over seven-minutes. There’s no need for that, and we don’t play the long (songs) live because we are trying to cram as many songs as we can possibly set in sometimes a twenty-minute slot, sometimes thirty minutes, sometimes forty-five. You aren’t playing the long ones, because you’d only be able to play three or four songs (laughs). There is no point to keep drawing things out with these big songs. We are not going to play them – so let’s write songs that we are actually going to play.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you delve a bit deeper into the lyrical content for the record – the cyclical nature of life and death? Are there specific challenges that come up in expressing your thoughts in the right way, especially as the band has established themselves now with a couple of records under your belt?
Colby: I’ve got my rhythm down. Let’s just say hypothetically, if they were going to give me a dead note song that they feel is done, I’ll be cool. I will have a file of just random topics that I find interesting, I’ll pick one if it fits the song and I’ll do as much research as possible with lyrics based on everything I’ve read. And try to make that sound good. Or choose the right words. It’s like a research paper, every song is what I pull from it. Perfect example, we are working on the next album, and I’ve been watching so much of Hell’s Kitchen from Gordon Ramsay. I am fascinated by how delusional some of the chefs and some of the restaurants are, and how they are failing. The one guy was hoarding plates that he would buy off Ebay, and the restaurant was full of plates that he just would not let go of them. It was $3,000 a week. That’s one column, denial and delusions. That’s what I got from watching cooking shows. Inspiration can be found anywhere; you just have to look for it.
Dead Rhetoric: Right. And how about your own personal vocal approach – how have you evolved as far as your range, your tone, and what you convey?
Colby: For Kill Grid, I really tried to change my voice. I didn’t like the way my voice sounded on At the Walls. It was really high, scratchy, I didn’t like that. For Kill Grid, I really tried to push myself to go a lot lower, to be meaner. That just gave me horrible headaches. But after doing it that low for the record and performing it live, I can hit that range and I won’t get terrible migraines. Where I am comfortable is a little bit lower. Just practicing – when we recorded War Remains, we had just finished a tour with At the Gates, so I could do vocals all day. It was the perfect time to record the album, because everyone had been playing for ten to twelve days straight. Getting some shows under your belt before you record is probably your best bet.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released three videos (one visualizer, two conceptual) so far for the record. I really enjoyed the DIY performance footage captured in an older VHS-style bootleg quality with “Hanged by My Hand”, while “Starve” has more of a storyline. Tell us about these song choices, your thoughts on videos these days and their importance in building the brand of the band?
Colby: Oh wow. I agree, I like the DIY aesthetic, that video looks like an old bootleg that you would find in a thrift shop or VHS store. Something found. When it comes to the more produced stuff, I’m on the fence about them. They can either be really fun or really soul sucking at times. But I find it interesting, and at the end of the day fun, because the limit is in your own imagination. If you are having a hard time, it’s because you didn’t use your brain enough.
When it comes to importance, I can’t metrically tell you if they have any importance at all. I don’t know. It seems like something we are asked to do, and we do them. I know a couple of thousand people have watched them – but is it going to help the record? Would it have been easier to put out the singles without a visualizer? It’s a test of willpower, I guess.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you learn being on the road for over 100 shows the past year or so, especially touring with legends like Obituary, Municipal Waste, and Exhumed beyond the festival seasoning you gained here stateside and abroad?
Colby: What did I learn? The tour package needs to work as one cohesive team. If it’s four bands, it’s not four different camps – it’s one camp and we are all working together. That makes everything so much faster and makes everything work so much more cohesively. At the end of the day, you are building great friendships and great relationships. Hopefully life-long friendships, where you come to know, love, and respect one another from the get-go. There is really no space for ego, no one wants to have it or deal with it. After keeping one on the same page, on the same track, every day, it’s super important. Ultimately, that’s what I’ve learned.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe there’s a different level of appreciation for your brand of crossover thrash stateside versus in other international countries?
Colby: I’d like to think there’s a global reach. The appreciation is there everywhere, it’s just expressed in completely different ways. When we play France or Germany, people don’t really move around all that much, or stage dive. They just look at you, and afterwards they say, ‘that was fucking incredible!’. Well, it didn’t look like you were enjoying yourselves. They react differently. When it’s here, people go apeshit. They love it just the same, but the styles of reaction vary. I think the love is there, ultimately you just have to play a good show to wow the crowd.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also been gaining a lot of traction on satellite radio, regularly featured on Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal channel. How does it feel to be embraced by a bigger outlet such as this, while also doing your best to gain traction through the underground media and normal social media platforms?
Colby: I think it’s great. The fact that they’ve always reached out to us for things, it’s stellar. It’s something that I never even thought would happen. I didn’t really think of Sirius XM or satellite radio ever. I just assume everyone listens to whatever in their car. My old work truck came with Sirius, so I said, oh yeah – there’s a world of contractors out there. I get pictures from friends and random people hitting us up of a picture of their work van, playing Sirius. It’s just another outlet, but a huge outlet that I never thought we could tap into. It’s great, and when it comes to sticking with the underground and social media stuff, I don’t consider that a problem. We just continue doing what we’ve always been doing, we just have this extra support from Sirius, and that’s all I could ever ask for.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges or obstacles Enforced currently faces at this stage of your career?
Colby: Challenges. Generally, finances. People want us to play all over the world, and it’s like not in the budget. Have you flown to Australia with merch and gear before? It’s a lot of money that we just don’t have. While we are doing these tours as support acts, yes, we will get there one day. Everyone just has to be patient. Patience on the crowd part is one of our biggest obstacles, but that comes with gaining more traction and opportunities to go to these places.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the heavy music scene stateside versus the world? What makes you happy, and what changes (if any) would you like to see for the greater good of the movement?
Colby: Heavy music in general is doing fine. It’s gotten more mainstream acclaim within the past ten years than it has since the late 80’s, early 90’s. With social media and the internet exploding, it’s a little bit more viable, more out in the open than in previous generations. I was young at the time, but I can only imagine in the late 80’s, early 90’s the people decked out in denim, patches, long hair, reeking of booze was very shunned. Anyone who sees that guy walk around today, they wouldn’t think twice about it. It’s cool that it’s getting recognized as a typical form of music, or another genre. And that’s how it should have always been.
Changes… trying to think of anything I’ve seen that I don’t like. Gatekeeping. That is in any type of more aggressive genre. You want people to enjoy this… but not those people? That’s just stupid. Anyone is invited to be at an Enforced show – we are happy to have you. Have fun. Gatekeeping in general is wack, and makes you look pretty stupid. I think that’s a major problem for punk, metal, and hardcore in general.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about when fans abandon a band that they liked initially in the early days but then blows up to become bigger?
Colby: I’m trying to think of my own experience. I know that feeling of… a perfect band of that is a band like Turnstile. I’ve been a fan of theirs since day one, 2010-11. To see the heights they have risen to, which is insane- I am not mad that they are successful. It’s a silly thing to do. I think it just shows an aspiration that I want to do that – I want to work my ass off to reach that next rung of the ladder. If they can do it, anyone can do it.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the differences between the current crossover thrash bands and approach versus the original wave that developed during the 80’s/90’s?
Colby: I would blame the modern recording styles, but I think the current records can be way too polished, way too crispy and perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect. I think that’s the only thing I have a problem with. There are a ton of great bands – Warbringer and others. Sticking to that old style means sticking to some of those old production values. Keeping things dark, gritty, and raw. There are some mistakes on there – who cares, it doesn’t have to be 1000% perfect. Perfection is in the imperfections.
Dead Rhetoric: Right. Authenticity matters more – humans are naturally flawed.
Colby: I totally agree. We need that level of human ability. People are freaking out about AI now. That’s why it’s too perfect.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the band chemistry within Enforced? Are you able to balance the musical activities with the business side of things – while remaining sane?
Colby: While remaining sane? (laughs). We don’t have a manager, we manage ourselves. We don’t have a merch, distribution guy. I’m in my house, we do it all in my garage. It can get overwhelming at times, but there are harder things. We are the biggest bunch of goofballs, we love laughing, we love making jokes, busting balls all the time. Just keep it light. The days of us arguing are over. We just don’t. We are thicker than thieves; we are all in the same boat together. We have a great dynamic, we can get insanely busy, and sometimes we just hang out and chill. As of right now, it’s chaos. So, I’m in charge of doing all the interviews.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you think of a favorite failure that has happened to Enforced over your career- that maybe set you up for a better opportunity or future success, down the line?
Colby: Favorite failure? That’s the best question I’ve gotten in the past three months. Thank you for asking. I have to think. It would have to be – I don’t remember specifically; we were trying to do this bigger tour that would have been awesome. We were trying to work on getting this tour, and we ended up getting passed over. We thought, what did we do wrong – and it’s never about you. Of course, I can’t think but take it personally. And then we got the At the Gates offer, and oh – that’s way better. Little successful failures all the time. The fact that our van has never broken down and I’ve been able to rig the doors to open. Our shit has never been stolen before. I think we are just blessed, or we are just so stupid that we are lucky. There haven’t been a lot of failures to be honest. We may have a backorder on merch that can screw up the mail orders, it’ll happen, and it’ll work.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the schedule for touring and promotion relating to the band over the next twelve months?
Colby: We will go on tour with Venom Inc., Exhumed, and Acid Witch. After that we have a string of shows that haven’t been announced yet. We have August off – and everyone except Ethan and me works for a painting company. It’s the peak month for painting, so we had to be home. We will be out all September on a tour that hasn’t been announced yet. Maybe a week or two more shows in the fall. Hopefully next year we can get back to Europe – maybe do a headlining tour in the spring. Festivals. We are just trying to get through this year first. Last I checked, they have four songs ready for the next album, iPhone, demo recordings. What I picked out sounded pretty okay. We are going to focus on War Remains first.