ENFORCED – War Remains (Album Review)

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No nonsense thrash that shows no mercy.

The unrelenting beast that is thrash could be likened to the Greek myth of the hydra, for if one head is felled, one or two more will grow in its place. It was widely stipulated during the latter half of the 2010s that explosive up and comers Power Trip were the premier purveyors of a revitalized take on the style’s revival with a heavy dose of crossover influences, and despite the tragic passing of their iconic front man Riley Gale in 2020, there were already plenty of American acts already surging forth to take up arms alongside them. One of the more auspicious acts to crop up on the east coast would be Richmond, Virginia’s own Enforced, a power-infused quintet with a hunger comparable to 10 packs of ravenous wolves, who have been making some rather sizable waves in the American underground since their 2019 debut with War Records dubbed “At The Walls,” which earned them a slot in the Century Media roster soon after and culminated in a highly lauded and sonically vicious sophomore outing in 2021’s “Kill Grid.”

Continuing an impressive hat-trick of concise, raw and vicious thrashing mayhem into the current year is this fold’s third and current studio installment “War Remains”, a truly fitting title as every second of its 33 minute duration paints a vivid visual of war torn wastelands with the promise of even more carnage at every turn. The specific stylistic expression that unfolds bears an uncanny resemblance to the death metal-adjacent intensity that typified the mid to late 80s output of Slayer and Sepultura, with intermitted dissonant melodic passages often paraphrasing the signature sound of the former’s handiwork on both “Reign In Blood” and “South Of Heaven” respectively. The aggression level is kept comfortably in the red throughout the entire album, though it proves a highly balanced affair that knows when to pull back into a slower tempo and when to fire the proverbial afterburners at full blast. At the center of it all is the harsh raving shouts of helmsman Knox Colby, whom largely embodies all of the power and fury of a young Max Cavalera, occasionally veering into territory not all that dissimilar to Chuck Schuldiner circa 1988, though one would be remiss to gloss over the barrage of masterful riff work and wild solo interchanges by guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan.

As their previous studio LPs, there is no beating around the bush to be found here, be it in the form of token balladry or thematic instrumental intros or interludes. Going straight for the proverbial jugular at its very onset, this album scores a technical knockout with the opening crusher “Aggressive Menace”, which largely sticks to a roaring pace like a lost track off of Sepultura’s “Beneath The Remains”, though with some Bay Area-inspired gallops thrown in for good measure and an impressive varied overall structure for an entry clocking in at under 3 minutes. A similar story is told at a more moderate pace with the massive wrecking ball set to music “The Quickening”, which maintains the aforementioned heaviness of late 80s Sepultura, but splits its duration equally between a mid-paced monster and a pedal to the metal nod to the frenzied thrashing of mid-80s Slayer, while the riveting intrigue of “Hanged By My Hand” dives further into 1986 extreme thrash territory and is among the more impressive showings of machine gun precision and militaristic force by drummer Alex Bishop to date.

“War Remains” Album Artwork

Even before the first half of this harrowing opus has elapsed, it becomes painfully obvious to any newcomer that Enforced brand of crossover thrash has more of a structural relationship to thrash’s punk rock roots rather than a stylistic one, as everything on here rings way too complex and vicious for anything Discharge or Black Flag would have put together. The dissonant fury chock full of chaotic, Kerry King-inspired shredding “Avarice” and the riff happy title anthem “War Remains” are so uncompromisingly thrash to the extreme that even the boys in Dark Angel might be possessed to recommend that they dial it back a tad, to speak nothing for the demonic roars out of Colby all but exclaiming “Scream Bloody Gore” at every other verse. Interestingly enough, the second half of the album is where the songwriting gets a bit more intricate, with the haunting intro of “Mercy Killing Fields” taking a few melodic cues from “South Of Heaven” before stepping on the gas pedal, while the riff work on “Nation Of Fear” often reminisces on the archaic trappings of “Show No Mercy” when the thrash sub-genre was still heavily tied to its NWOBHM roots. Yet it all comes to a head with the closing hurrah “Empire”, which stands as the most brilliant display of infectious riff work out of this band to date and ventures dangerously close to paying direct homage to “Seasons in The Abyss”.

Enforced is not a band of gimmicks or pretense, there is no grand mystery to what they’re about, and the level of greatness that they end up achieving here can be boiled down to a masterful execution of songwriting prowess within an existing template. This isn’t an exercise in redefining thrash metal so much as it is a grand expression of it that can easily be likened to the greatness the art form achieved in the past, but not mistaken for it. Between the jagged-edge of their guitar tone and the full-bodied punch of the rhythm section, this is an album that is unmistakably 2023, though it primarily recalls the exploits that were common from 1985-1990. Anyone with any level of familiarity with their previous two albums will naturally take to this like a maddened berserker to a battlefield, and those who have come to love the signature brand of crossover that has been revived by the likes of Power Trip, Foreseen and High Command will not want to pass this up.

Order “War Remains” AT THIS LOCATION.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: April 28th, 2023
Genre: Thrash / Crossover Metal

“War Remains” track-listing:

  1. Aggressive Menace
  2. The Quickening
  3. Hanged by My Hand
  4. Avarice
  5. War Remains
  6. Mercy Killing Fields
  7. Nation of Fear
  8. Ultra-Violence
  9. Starve
  10. Empire

Enforced line-up:

  • Knox Colby / Vocals
  • Will Wagstaff / Guitars
  • Zach Monahan / Guitars
  • Ethan Gensurowsky / Bass
  • Alex Bishop / Drums
8.9 Excellent

Continuing in their tradition of distilling thrash metal down to its most concise and explosive grade, Virginia-born crossover trustees and purveyors of auditory unrest Enforced pull zero punches on their third studio excursion, upping the aggression ante something fierce while recalling the death metal adjacent of Sepultura and Slayer

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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