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From Beyond

Nuclear Blast (2015)
Rating: 8.5/10

For those who have been living in a cave for the last decade or so, Swedish rockers Enforcer have been making waves since their birth in 2004 with their brand of fiery traditional metal.

Reviving the early-to-mid 80s scene – but in a far more productive way than most – this quartet demands more and more of your attention as the studio albums are rattled out. The combo, consisting of Olof Wikstrand (vocals, guitar), Joseph Tholl (guitar), Tobias Lindqvist (bass) and Jonas Wikstrand (drums), has just dropped its fourth opus, entitled From Beyond, which comes just two years after 2013’s decent Death By Fire, and as expected it’s another consistent record marrying galloping vintage metal with speed metal lashings.

From Beyond gives us ten tracks which began life in March 2014 after the band had come off their European tour, so there’s certainly a prolific nature about this bunch. Of course, this productive nature can sometimes backfire on bands as they eventually run out of material and I was concerned that this platter may have a rushed feel about it, but this is rarely the case.

‘Destroyer’ kickstarts the campaign; it’s a typical and possibly predictable ball of fizzing fire hinting at the sort of metallic clank Metallica churned out on their debut Kill ‘Em All (1983). It’s certainly nothing new, especially when the current scene is literally clogged with bands eager to resurrect that speedy gallop originally engineered by the likes of, say, Accept, Judas Priest and countless New Wave Of British Heavy Metal acts. At times there are shining lights within the current crop though, and Enforcer most certainly is one of them, mainly due to the flailing leads and Olof Wikstrand’s yelps which for me have an almost glam rock yelp coating.

This means that from the off we are treated to high octane numbers which never rest on their laurels, and while ‘Destroyer’ is a rather standard, balls to the wall affair, the combo ups the ante with the more melodic gristle of ‘Undying Evil’ which is instant from the start, boasting a killer hook and clearer more discernible vocal croon. The mid-tempo segments are inviting, harking back to the early 80s with an almost creaky, medieval stamp of approval. Meanwhile, the title track – as most title tracks should – has a sense of the epic. It begins with a sterling intro of metal majesty before taking on a steady gallop hinting at tepid power metal, but again accessible in its simple hook.

And this is pretty much the pattern throughout, Enforcer actually becoming masters of crafting strong, sturdy metal anthems that – instead of disappearing up their own arses as turgid revival numbers – are in fact glittering balls of light in a scene all too fogged by weak imitation.

The album gains strength as it marches on; ‘One With Fire’ is a short but simple speed metal burst showcasing the explosive percussive slams of Jonas Wikstrand, while Olof Wikstrand’s vocals give the track that extra high-pitched kick. With ‘Below The Slumber’, the band again resorts to the anthemic. It’s the longest cut on the opus and one that builds nicely as a sort of mystical Judas Priest-esque tapestry of majesty speaking of “trembling thunder”, “foggy haze” and “the astral world’s mechanics”, giving the track a true lacing of atmosphere and evocative stature, and it’s the sort of gargantuan melody a majority of modern bands could only dream of coming up with.

With ‘Hungry They Will Come’ we’re treated to a galloping instrumental, although it’s nothing to write home about to be honest. The same can also be said for the greasy mid-tempo rocker ‘The Banshee’ which – although starting in spectacular fashion with some fizzing leads – tends to meander as a rather bog-standard 80s metal rattler.

However, with ‘Farewell’, ‘Hell Will Follow’ and ‘Mask Of Red Death’ we still get a trio of scorchers to close the album. ‘Farewell’ beginning as a subtle trickle before slipping into an Iron Maiden-esque sprint, again boasting a killer vocal. Meanwhile, ‘Hell Will Follow’ is another short tune that exists as an all-out speed metal frenzy; Tobias Lindqvist’s rattles with fiery aplomb as the posse rushes headlong to a prog metal finale.

And with the album closing upon the strains of ‘Mask Of Red Death’ we are served up an atmospheric rocker that builds nicely with its brooding melody as Olof Wikstrand barks “The bells chant out at midnight to invite the guest of doom, Inaugurates the dark between the walls of the seventh room” with total conviction. For me, the band has pretty much saved the best until last, proving that not all dark, ominous metal has to be rattled out with apocalyptic speed. Here, the guitars are measured and stormy, and the drums provide that sturdy backbone to allow the track to build to a killer mid-section pace.

This is how contemporary metal should be played, because while acknowledging the genre’s past Enforcer instils a refreshing edge and vitality so badly lacking in the modern climate. I feel also that for inspiration the Swedes may well have plundered more obscure depths of the genre instead of revisiting the expected archives. It’s no surprise then that the promotional sheet for this album speaks of lesser known bands such as Kat (Poland) and Magnit (Russia).

In a sense From Beyond is a worthwhile history lesson to us all as we continue to seek out obscure gems from metal’s past, but what we must remember is that with bands such as Enforcer, the future looks bright too.

Neil Arnold

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