Enforced - Official Website - Interview
Review by Greg on April 19, 2023.
'It’s almost ten minutes shorter than our last record and packs ten times more of a punch.'
I wish I could just drop this phrase from frontman Knox Colby and leave it like that, as it tells almost everything you need to hear about Enforced's latest effort War Remains. Note the emphasis on that 'almost' though, 'cause it's not that the band suddenly got all that pissed off – their previous offering Kill Grid was a personal disappointment, especially when compared to all the expectations I built upon its apparently universal acclaim, but if there's one thing it didn't lack at all, it was pure rage. Granted, you can't just release a stripped-down, rude crossover thrash album while also sounding friendly and non-threatening, but they always appeared convincing enough in what they did nonetheless.
Fast forward to 2023, and the band returns, doubling down on that factor, but also, and mostly, bringing to the table their best and most inspired set of riffs to date. Their heavy Power Trip/Slayer influence is still there, with a slight reduction of the latter (thus, less dissonant, squealy solos, luckily), yet Enforced appear determined to tread more extreme grounds here, certainly helped by Colby's delivery, now more and more confidently ferocious in his Max Cavalera impression, with the occasional nod to the unforgotten Riley Gale (R.I.P.). Reprising the quote at the top, War Remains is short and concise, already solving one of Kill Grid's main drawbacks. Also, having abandoned the idea of beating Power Trip at their own game, there's a lot more experimentation with tempos, and most songs take their time to build up before going full throttle – almost as if they stretched the blueprint for the predecessor's final triplet to the whole LP, much like a modern equivalent of "Realm Of Chaos". Songs like the title-track and 'Starve' sound simply menacing right out of the gate, launching into rapid-fire attacks shortly thereafter, with the occasional breakdown tailor-made for the live setting as well ('Hanged By My Hand').
All this, of course, does not mean that War Remains doesn't hit you like a goddamn freight train at full speed, my naive friend. Should bangers like 'The Quickening' or 'Avarice' seem, for some reason, not outright fast enough for you, look no further than the very first track, for starters. 'Aggressive Menace' is a truly explosive opener, an even more immediate and condensed version of the already volatile 'The Doctrine', and I was sold almost instantly. Not to mention later highlight 'Ultra-Violence', which can possibly wipe out the (once good) Italian band of the same name in its mere 2 minutes. And to reiterate: this stuff isn't just intense, frontal assault all the way through. Even marginally weaker cuts like 'Empire' are still jam-packed with excellent, breakneck riffing that simply hurts. It's not a surprise that the only completely mid-tempo number ('Nation Of Fear') failed to win me over, but it's a short detour, if nothing else.
If you, like many, thought that Kill Grid was already AOTY material, this review is probably of no use for you, as you'll already be patiently waiting for your pre-ordered copy to show up in your mailbox. But if you were somewhat unimpressed with the band so far, War Remains might just finally change your mind. It goes without saying that we can finally listen to a worthy successor of "Manifest Decimation" and "Nightmare Logic". A fair step below, but there nonetheless.
Rating: 8.4 out of 10633
Review by Michael on April 9, 2023.
Slayer is dead, long live Slayer ehh Enforced! The quintet from Richmond bangs from the first second on their third album War Remains and has a lot of anger in the belly. Already the grim opener 'Aggressive Menace' swings the acoustic crowbar and lets the listener feel it violently. What the guys deliver here is incredibly intense and brutal thrash, which is made even more intense by Knox Colbys' rough and mega pissed vocals.
Stylistically, not much has changed compared to the two previous albums, which is good, because At The Walls and Kill Grid were both already strong. Maybe the songwriting has become a bit catchier and more varied, as for example the pre-released song 'Hanged By My Hand' proves. This song is a gripping thrash grenade that Slayer couldn't have written better. Their influence can be heard everywhere, be it in the hook lines or in the solos. However, Enforced also takes the foot off the gas pedal here and there, which does not detract from the brutality. Thus, a creeping song like 'War Remains' with its tough opening riffs but very much for a certain tension and gives the listener the expectation that something is about to happen (which it does). Between these two extremes, there are of course a few mid-tempo stompers, which are also really fun and also give the listener a good beating. 'Nation Of Fear' is a good example of this, the song impresses with its catchiness and still remains ultra brutal due to the shouted out vocals. Likewise the closer 'Empire', which reminds of the very old Slayer from the vocal lines and partly reminds of the guitars even quite after Death in "Leprosy" times. Brutal and uncompromising! I could rant for hours about the other songs, but I think everyone should make his own listening impression of the album and before I give away too much, I'll leave it here.
However, just to mention the production, it is well done as it was on the previous albums - everything here is where it belongs. No underproduced instruments or anything that is overdriven, this is a modern but timeless and punchy balanced affair. So, I can confidently say that Enforced once again put out a great album with many varied songs and a wide range of speed and with War Remains are a hot contender for the thrash throne of the year. The only point of criticism is the short playing time of just under 33 minutes, which goes by twice as fast as normal due to the quality of the album and you are forced to press the repeat button on the stereo. But who likes "Reign In Blood", will love War Remains, I'm sure. Now crowbar and schnapps out and the whole thing again!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10633