For all of the wildfire Richmond, Virginia crossover-thrash metal quintet Enforced are hoarking up on their debut full-length, the very real punch to the temple they’re pushing is all the more impressive for how seamlessly it unifies their formative years starting in 2016. ‘At The Walls’ collects and fully remasters the bands 2017 demos (‘Demo 2017’ & ‘Retaliation’) emphasizing their already crisp and powerful sound and sewing them together into a full-length that begins with two newer tracks from 2018 to round out its sub-half hour spin. Although these guys all put in time in the Virginia hardcore punk scene (Mad Existence, Brainwhack, Nosebleed) you’re not gonna hear those references anytime soon thanks to a healthy obsession with Slayer and a full mix/master from Arthur Rizk who has more or less given Enforced a big and impossibly heavy treatment (a la his work with Power Trip) and juiced ‘At The Walls’ to an impressive standard.
At this point it becomes important to promise you the reader one thing: I’m only going to type the words “Power Trip” like two more times and we’ll move on because it is the damned easiest comparison to make because of the production sound and the very clearly Cro-Mags, Sepultura and Slayer influences throughout ‘At The Walls’. If you went as apeshit for those last two Power Trip albums like I did you’re no doubt going to rub up hard on everything Enforced do. Think along the lines of ‘Nightmare Logic’, Plague Years, Vio-lence, and when they’re ramping up the speed (rarely, though) you might hear a hint of Foreseen here and there. Beyond those obvious sonic cues within the album the real truth is that this thing is rotten with killer Slayer vibes, which reach high hell on “Retaliation”, a song that’ll have you feeling deathly close to the opening moments of “Seasons in the Abyss” once you’ve sat with the record a bit. Otherwise the entirety of ‘At The Walls’ oozes with Cro-Mags metallic hardcore energy and Power Trip‘s pulverizing crossover thrash clarity. The sound simple and though it isn’t an original conception Enforced are pure conviction and always stacked with riffs.
How do you feel about 90’s hardcore punk? I know a lot of folks don’t jump right to the wellspring of chuggy east coast straight edge (that’d quickly go metallic) first but, if you by chance gelled with the harder Brooklyn-assed NYHC that ramped up after Sick of It All raised the bar with ‘Scratch the Surface’ (alternately the more ripping side of pre-vocalist swap Indecision, or earlier All Out War) you’re getting warmer in terms of how hard Enforced bring that classic metallic hardcore feeling to their otherwise ultra-thrash metal oriented sound. It is a big sound that I found easy to return to over and over as I’d thirstily soak into that bold ’89 Cro-Mags covering ‘South of Heaven’ times ten mood. As with all of the best crossover thrash revivalists of the last two decades the fire that burns throughout the Enforced experience is actionable hardcore in spirit and viable thrash metal in motion; They’ve nailed that balance but it’ll be up to you if you think ‘At The Walls’ sounds too familiar as it unfolds. My own take, having been a crossover fan long before diving deeper into pure metal, is almost always “the more the merrier” unless they’re just not capable of hitting your own stride, this band is and they do.
The dive bombs that kick into “Reckoning Force”, the accelerating tempo at the start of “Skinned Alive”, the Slayer-isms abound on “Retaliation, the gang shouts on “At The Walls Of Antioch”… There are big adrenaline-soaked fisticuffs being had all over ‘At The Walls’ to the point that I’d just keep listening to Enforced all damn day until I had to force myself to flip over to something else. That sound is comfortable, confrontational, and always hyper-focused on its roar but where I’d initially hit my own wall came from the vocalist’s enunciation not really hitting a desirable clarity. I didn’t connect with ‘At The Walls’ lyrically at first because my own interpretation of what I was hearing assumed these were just muscular and violent posturing until I read them. In fact they deal some substantive poetical harshness towards complacency and inert personalities in the face of corruption, violence, and greed. The message is right for today’s world though I did feel like the big riffs of the album really drowned out the message. Yep, “the riffs were too big and loud” is the gripe I’m coming with so that should hint at what an easy and effective listen Enforced‘s debut is. I’d highly recommend it and will delight in the thought that these were mostly just formative songwriting and you can already see them perfecting their craft on the two new songs that open the album. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with “Skinned Alive” because it is a goddamn show-stopper and barn burning thrasher, then I’d say go straight to the Vio-lence style fix of “Civilized Mind”.
Reel the bastards in. 3.75/5.0
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