Enforcer – Death By Fire

Enforcer - Death By Fire

Sweden’s Enforcer return for a third album. Since their last album, 2010’s Diamonds, they’ve lost the talented guitarist Adam Zaars, who left to focus more on his death metal project Tribulation (I’ll get to The Formulas of Death, because holy shit that album). Despite the loss of such a talented individual, Death BY Fire manages to greatly improve upon Diamonds. To be honest, I was never really that big a fan of Diamonds. With the exception of the opener “Midnight Vice,” none of the songs on that album really managed to grab me. I could appreciate how ridiculously 80’s the band managed to sound on that album, but I found most of the songwriting uninteresting. The problems with that album are mostly fixed on Death By Fire.

The first thing I  noticed upon pressing play is that this album is much faster, much more energetic than their previous stuff. They mostly have dropped the midpaced rock/NWOBHM sound and, taking a page from the Skull Fist playbook, crafted a slightly glam infused speed metal album. Pretty much every song rockets out of the starting gate, never slowing down, but never sacrificing the catchiness that was their strongest asset on their earlier work. Every song has ridiculously catchy parts, though the chorus for “Take Me Out of This Nightmare” takes the cake in terms of getting stuck in your fucking head.

As mentioned, this album takes a lot of cues from 80’s speed metal, so we aren’t exactly looking at entirely original riffing here. However, every riff on this album is extremely solid, and sounds good both alone and in the context of the song. The melodic leads take their cues most obviously from Maiden, but there’s a hint of some heavier acts like Satan and Trojan. The bass is extremely audible, and like every Trad band since 1978, sounds like Steve Harris. I have no problems with this, and really like the bass playing on this album, probably one of my favorite aspects of this album. Olof Wilkstrand’s vocals are mostly unchanged, being that high-pitched classic 80’s singer, but the intensity of his voice has stepped up along with the speed of the songs.

Enforcer aren’t even coming close to trying to reinvent the wheel, just polishing their own chops. Seeing as how this is Enforcer’s best album, they’ve done that fairly well. Ultimately a very fun and solid album, if nothing else. If you’re looking for some good 80’s Trad-Revival, you could do much worse.

On a scale of Poison to W.A.S.P., I give Death By Fire a Dokken with George Lynch.

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Magic Circle – Magic Circle

Magic Circle - Magic Circle

I was introduced to this band by my (internet) friend and former fellow TNOTB writer Zane (Sophus), with him saying something to the effect of “boy, do these guys love Pagan Altar.” Now, comparing something to Pagan Altar is one of the fastest ways to get me to check out a band (because Pagan Altar rules you see). When I heard the title track, I was instantly struck by how much it reminded me of ‘Judgement of the Dead,’ so I knew I would have to check out the rest of this album.

Magic Circle hail from Massachusetts, and are apparently made up of a bunch of dudes from various hardcore punk bands, but despite the  dissimilar background, these guys have a supremely good ear for old school doom metal. As the first paragraph mentioned, these guys are heavily influenced by the almighty Pagan Altar, though the title track / Judgement of the Dead comparison is the only one that’s really obvious, if you listen closely and are familiar enough with Pagan Altar’s music you’ll definitely began to hear not only the similarity in riffing, but also a similar type of lead playing, being shreddy and virtuosic while staying rooted in its subservience to the riffs, much in the way Alan Jones plays.

Now don’t get me wrong, despite how much I’ve mentioned them, Magic Circle is not just a blatant Pagan Altar clone. The influence is obvious but they stand out enough on their own to be their own entity. One of the most obvious differences lies in the vocals. They’re nasally but ultimately full of energy and vigor, which shows up a lot throughout the album. Nasally yet throaty, I guess. They certainly sound like their own thing, and Brendan Radigan doesn’t sound like he’s trying to ape anyone in particular, though he does sound a bit like Ozzy, which is honestly just a thing that tends to happen in this genre. In addition to the energetic vocals, Magic Circle will often pick up the pace of the riffing at several places, providing a nice balance between the slow plodding doom, and the faster US trad metal sound.

All in all, this is a really nice album. While it doesn’t do anything particularity new, Magic Circle manages to create their own definite sound while paying homage to the masters of their genre.

On a scale of Trivium to Manilla Road, I give it a Covenant-era Morbid Angel.