*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #32 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Enforced’s 2021 sophomore album left little impression on the Scream Blast Repeat team. We awarded it a six out of ten and noted that the Virginia quintet ‘take Seasons in the Abyss and Kreator’s Coma of Souls and make little attempt to deviate away from their idols.’ Oh, how wrong we were to write them off as a competent but reductive thrash metal outfit. Now we understand the hype and acclaim that follow this band around in puritan circles. War Remains is the equivalent of the footballer who comes back for pre-season training with added muscle, a stronger physique, and an abundance of energy to burn.
It seems like all five members of Enforced had a band meeting and agreed that each of them should go harder, heavier, and meaner on the next record. Yes, the hardcore elements remain, but Sepultura are out, and early Slayer are in. Opener, ‘Aggressive Menace’, is the perfect description for the two minutes and fifty seconds of blitzkrieg action they laser through your brain before you can gather oxygen. Whammy-bar whirls and double-timing beats fly around the speakers like lethal debris as vocalist, Knox Colby, waits for the band to harvest through four frantic riff patterns before taking the microphone. His voice is wild and untamed and coated in gruff hardcore dynamics that threaten to turn cannibalistic at any moment.
Follow-up, ‘The Quickening’, is thrash metal with a capital ‘T’. Here, the pivot towards Slayer’s Hell Awaits era serves them well as they batter your resistance instinct with savage blows. Think of the void left by Power Trip since the death of Riley Gale – Enforced can step into the vacant space and drag you to the other side like commando soldiers sent into a warzone to extricate the civilian population. The drama levels are just as impressive. Drummer, Alex Bishop, engages with the guitars in the intro to ‘Hanged by my Hand’ as if playing chess. The to-and-fro between he and the guitarists is fascinating to hear. Who’ll get the upper hand? It takes four vaporising riffs to settle the contest and allow Colby to roar his way into the mix over a regular beat. Your blood pressure will rocket in anticipation of the next song, ‘Avarice’. This track takes Dark Angel and High Command and tramples through the barbed-wire trenches like an invincible tank squadron.
The lyrical content of this album might be obvious, but it’s not predictable or riddled with clichés. “War is what makes us human/ Killer instincts to the top of the chains: war remains!” roars Colby at the midway point of the title track. You want to unleash the air guitar, but your hands itch for a bayonet. “Myriads of fighting, endless dying/ We call it progress/ Evolution through death.” Poignant indeed. Can you think of better lyrics to accompany a blast of crusty thrash metal?
We often complain about the length of metal albums, yet Enforced understand that thirty-three minutes is just right for ten songs of audio devastation. The second half of War Remains has no time to admire the master work of the first part. ‘Nation of Fear’ operates at a deadly mid-tempo pace with the bite of mid-range intervals and chunky palm-muted gallops. ‘Starve’ starts like Prong and descends into Obituary’s cavern of dark fifth-chord formations. You’ll lose track of how many times your mind wants you to shout “fuck, yeah!” with a gurning facial expression. The audio production is gangrenous and unflattering – as it should be for this type of music. If you like it rough, you’re in the right place.
Enforced showed a modicum of potential in 2021. They exceed expectations with album number three like a Soviet miner tripling his production targets in a single shift. It’s doubtful any other thrash band will surpass the standard set by War Remains in 2023.
Release Date: 28/04/2023
Record Label: Century Media
Standout tracks: Aggressive Menace, War Remains, Nation of Fear
Suggested Further Listening: High Command – Eclipse of the Dual Moons (2022), Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (2017), Inhuman Nature – Under the Boot EP (2022)