Review by Greg on May 1, 2023.
Naysayers might beg to differ but, as of writing, thrash metal is far from being in a sorry state. Once the initial impulse for the new millennium renaissance started to be picked up by more and more ambitious bands, its creative flow has been a long way from running dry since years now, and based on what I've listened so far, 2023 will have its fair share of diamonds in the rough that'll guarantee a fruitful harvest as well. The greatest expectations are arguably reserved for the brand-new latest effort by Virginian thrashers Enforced, who had previously become the off-the-record synonym for 'revival thrash band that doesn't suck' in the heart of many people superficially interested in the phenomenon with their sophomore Kill Grid. But what did it offer in order to gain such a massive fanbase?
Truth be told, I wasn't impressed with Kill Grid when it came out. Listening to it again as I write this, and my opinion hasn't changed much. It sounds like a sort of Power Trip-lite that happened to release a coarse crossover thrash album just shortly after the tragic passing of Riley Gale rendered said band's future uncertain. Note that I'm not implying, by any means, that they're some kind of vultures who wanted to exploit a tragedy for their own advantage – and they were already around before it happened, to boot – it's just that I can't help but think that the involuntary timing had something to do with the overwhelmingly positive reception it met. Read just about every review written for it, for reference. Very few avoid conveying, implicitly or not, the message of 'too bad Power Trip are likely to end their career, but hey!, there's another band playing a similar style you can console with!'. Such premises, other than not reflecting the band's mission, also paint a wrong picture of the whole, and can take part of the blame for not winning me over, but similarities are there.
Based on its own actual content, indeed, Kill Grid certainly isn't devoid of merits, yet, even at its best moments, the most enjoyment I got was being reminded of how fuckin' much I like Power Trip. Enforced even brought in Arthur Rizk to manage the production aspect, albeit keeping the cavernous (or, as Tanuki brilliantly defined it, cathedralic) echo at lower levels, maybe a needed choice in order to avoid any plagiarism accusations. On the other hand, that was undoubtedly one of the band's two most recognizable weapons, while here something seems to be lacking. The other one, of course, is the vocal department. Gale was fundamentally irreplaceable, intrinsically and viscerally menacing, and truly elevated the band's ferociousness to another level. Knox Colby has a different timbre, more à la Max Cavalera, but he sometimes really seems to try his best to nail his unfortunate colleague's unmistakable style. Again, far from giving the same vibes. In any case – to reiterate – Enforced's intention isn't to be a wannabe-carbon copy of a more successful band. There is a more distinct Slayer influence in the riffing, and also in the frequent, often dissonant leadwork, but the latter is more of a problem, if anything.
However, I do see where the album's massive critical reception might have come from, as it undoubtedly starts off the right foot. Opener 'The Doctrine' is the most convincing track on display, going full-on 'Criminally Insane' in the ominous mid-tempo parts and 'Bleed for the Devil' in the middle, with solos flying from every corner. It ends on a high note as well: closer 'Trespasser' is another highlight, foreshadowing the pretty much 'Drown'-like structure of a slow crawl for 1:00-1:30 before crushing the throttle pedal for the remaining part, alongside with the two previous songs, a modus operandi that would be later exploited to the full extent on the next War Remains. Both are direct, straight-to-the-point bangers delivering the very essence of this hostile brand of thrash metal better than many other bands. Needless to say, they're pretty much my main reasons for the album's overall sufficient rating, along with the vitriolic 'Malignance' and minor hit 'Blood Ribbon'.
Considering all the fixed problems and improved details on War Remains (which arguably had a hand in accentuating my disappointment for this), Kill Grid's worst offender is no doubt the average song length. The slow-moving, but rather tedious title-track doesn't exactly beg for a seven-minutes playing time (six excluding the feedback noise ending), and most of all can't make much with that inconsequential lone minute of thrashing attached at its very end. 'Hammer of Doubt', this is certainly not, for sure. Tracks like 'UXO', 'Hemorrhage' and 'Curtain Fire' leave me lukewarm more than anything, going in one ear and out the other, but taking their sweet time in the process. Only the highlights were adequate (still kinda bulky, but it's a very minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things), and the lightning-fast 'Beneath Me' offers the only outlier in this regard. Hey, if the guys themselves worked to solve that issue, I guess it's safe to say I wasn't that out of touch.
While, in my opinion, the context of Kill Grid's release couldn't be more crucial to its status, on a strictly musical basis it just never did much for me, and still keeps not doing it. 2021 wasn't one of my absolute favourite years for thrash albums, yet I can still find something more valuable around (Cathartic Demise, Cryptosis, Mental Devastation, Black Mass all released more than worthwhile stuff). That said, I'm glad Enforced managed to change my mind with its successor. A newfound fan is always a win for a band, in my book.
Rating: 6.9 out of 10908
Review by Michael on April 8, 2021.
If you grew up in the western part of Borken-Brooklyn (Ger) like I did, you are used to getting into a fight just like that, for no particular reason, even if you just want to enjoy the birds singing on a park bench. The musical equivalent for such an everyday situation is the new album Kill Grid by Enforced. If the first album At The Walls was already a pretty rage-filled thrash album, the guys from Richmond have added another shovel of rage with their sophomore release.
The album starts with a Slayer-like riff that unfolds more and more and develops into a real thrashing in the course of the song (in the further course of the CD Slayer homages occur again and again in the songs). However, this does not mean that the band sees itself as a mere copy and paste Slayer band since they definitely manage to set their own trademarks. Thus, hardcore and crossover influences (especially in the vocals and guitars) are used again and again. All in all, the album presents us with modern, mega-aggressive thrash where you can let off some mighty steam. The songs are all arranged at a brisk pace throughout, so you don't have a chance to catch your breath for a moment. But with such an album you don't want that either and it would seem a bit out of place in my opinion.
The production is another plus point with Kill Grid. Everything really fits here like a proverbial fist to the eye with absolutely punchy and richly produced spound. Well, almost everything fits, the cymbal sometimes disturbs me a bit, but that is my absolutely subjective opinion. Another positive aspect is the cool Joe Petagno cover (responsible for Motörhead, Vader, Sodom, among others), which comes along very detailed. You can actually, if you pay attention to it, recognize many loving details here.
To come back to the music, I would like to highlight some tracks in particular. First, 'UXO' is a flawless thrash song that unleashes a true riff storm and more than once reminds you of old Slayer. Knox Colby's voice fits the aggressive mood that the song spreads perfectly. I especially find the slightly groovy passages in the chorus absolutely successful. 'Beneath Me' is a tight song that beats through 2 1/2 minutes and would also have fit on "Reign In Blood". The second half of the song is mega catchy and groovy and sounds very much like a modern thrash! 'Curtain Fire' and 'Hemorrhage' also bring back
nostalgic Slayer feelings but also remind me in parts of Warbringer and Co. and are definitely the best tracks on the album. 'Blood Ribbon' is a cool banger that starts with galloping drums and also unleashes a true riff storm. Cool and rousing!!!
Enforced have written one of the thrash highlights of the year with Kill Grid and I'm curious who can still surpass this high bar.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 killerriffs908