Enforced’s punchy thrash metal continues to deal menacing pain on mind-devouring ‘War Remains’

Photo by Jacky Flav

Gather around, everyone, and listen to the old man go on again about thrash metal and how it’s just not what it used to be in the glory days. Someone fetch my blanket. Look, thrash took a beating in the grunge years, and even its progenitors abandoned it while it was consumed by its new host. Death and black metal survived and thrived almost as opposition while thrash faded away.

So, you’ll understand why I grimace every time I get a record to review from a young thrash band trying to fan the flames again. Many have tried and failed, but it’s not a hopeless venture. Take, for example, Virginia crushers Enforced who have done the thrash/crossover thing with stunning power and precision, and that carries over to their massive new record “War Remains,” their third. If you were psyched by the direction taken by the band—vocalist Knox Kolby, guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan, bassist Ethan Gensurowsky, drummer Alex Bishop—on 2021’s “Kill Grid,” you’re going to be right at home. This has menace, tenacity, and most of all, heart, something so many of the other bands who tried and burned out didn’t have. You can feel it through every second, and these 10 tracks and nearly 34 minutes of chaos wash over you in no time, indelibly leaving their mark.

“Aggressive Menace” kicks things off with a blast, the thrashing intensity making an early statement, howls ripping through the night. The jarring power hits its apex, barreling toward your prone body as Kolby’s raspy growls bark orders. “The Quickening” has great energy and pummeling vocals, the leads burning brightly and taking bodies apart. Stomping fury matches the direct shouts, the guitars rampage and destroy, and clouds of smoke cause choking inhalation. “Hanged By My Hand” charges with drubbing speed, mangling with thrashy violence, the guitar work adding to the pressure. Everything hits a high point as all elements unite to overpower, Kolby’s throaty yells making this thing feel even meaner. “Avarice” destroys with Slayer-like leads, assaulting the gas pedal and showing no concern for safety. The vocals go for the throat as the guitars add more fuel, shredding and destroying with no mercy. The title track chugs along as relentless shouts and clubbing intensity unite, Kolby wailing, “War is what makes us human!” Guitars fire up from there, the tempo obliterates, and things fade into exhaust.

“Mercy Killing Fields” dawns ominously before taking on speed and eventually steamrolling. The howls massacre as the playing destroys the senses, clubbing with ferocity that adds insult to injury. “Nation of Fear” brings marring guitars and screamier shouts, the simple, yet effective chorus bruising, the drums adding to the carnage. Guitars swell dangerously as the pressure is added, and the final moments stab away. “Ultra-Violence” blasts through the gates and mercilessly strangles, speedy vocals spitting out madness, the guitars boiling dangerously. The thrashing drubs and powders bones, the guitars hit a new level of ferocity, and the whole thing races hard and destroys all barriers. “Starve” is more tempered as it starts, letting the heat rise before the stampeding gets under way in full. “Let me starve!” Kolby wails as double-kick drums rumble the earth, the guitars barrel over, and it feels like you’re trapped underneath a runaway train. Closer “Empire” is dark and strange, the vocals chewing for the jugular, decimation taking over. Just when it seems like the temperature has peaked, the bad hits another level, bringing unforgiving destruction that levels until it ends abruptly.

I’m always skeptical of bands trying to revive true thrash metal, but Enforced have proved time and again to be up for the challenge and have the chops to make this style feel that much more volatile. “War Remains” is a nasty, formidable record that brims with life while it deals the worst punishment the earth has to offer. As long as bands such as Enforced are active and trucking, thrash metal will remain alive, feeding on the flesh of its victims.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/enforcedrva

To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://centurymedia.store/store

Or here (Europe): https://www.cmdistro.de/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.centurymedia.com/

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