Enforcer – Nostalgia (Nuclear Blast)Friday, 5th May 2023
One of the steady new forces in the heavy metal scene since the mid-2000’s, Enforcer certainly stretched boundaries in terms of substance, influences, and songwriting through their last studio effort Zenith back in 2019. Striking an opinionated chord (to the good and bad), many wondered what we would get for a follow-up with Nostalgia. Especially given the longer break between records as like most musicians, the quartet sat on the sidelines tour-wise until May 2022 when venues opened again post pandemic restrictions. After consistent playbacks, this scribe believes that most ardent followers for this Swedish brigade will enjoy the continual creative overflow penetrating these thirteen tracks – diverse to showcase the full gamut of melodic, heavy, speed, and traditional influences at play.
The infusion of hypnotic guitar riffs that captures one’s attention instantly as well as the soaring vocal melodies/harmonies and screams at play from guitarist Olof Wikstrand take inspiration from 80’s Sunset Strip heroes to NWOBHM legends – combined into this infectious dalliance where you can’t help but headbang endlessly. Expect tightly focused arrangements where no segment drags beyond its needs – lead breaks that correlate to the energy or mood in front of them, plus the right killer bass part, drum fill, or simplified, rallying cry chorus to support the anthem template. “Unshackle Me” has the right calm verses to uplifting chorus work that put early Iron Maiden, Europe, and Helloween on the map – the keyboard sprinkling plus nifty cymbal/snare transitions from Jonas Wikstrand adding the proper dynamic icing on an already delightful main musical hook parade. Those who love the heads down speed riffs, shrieking vocals, and racing twin guitar harmony/trade off lead axe parts will savor “Metal Supremacia” or “Coming Alive” – proving Enforcer hasn’t lost that youthful spirit to continually deliver those blitzkrieg tracks that elevated their status as a premiere metal act. On the other side, the title track is a reflective song featuring tranquil acoustic guitar parts that possess a classical touch, allowing Olof to stretch a bit in his lower register, using more of a theatrical approach to project his voice in a thoughtful manner while the electrical instrumentation possesses a bluesy, Gary Moore meets Savatage angle.
Nostalgia is a record that easily could transport itself across live stages far and wide – engaging the hordes who live for new anthems that take the principles of early heavy/speed metal yet put their own 2023 spin on the proceedings. Favorites change daily – it’s hard to not scream and shout to “White Lights in the USA” or flick your lighter in salute to the ballad “Heartbeats”. In the end, Enforcer delivers from their heads and hearts what is true to the magnificent power of the genre – a platter that most will treasure as they have with all the previous records in the deep catalog.