Written by: Blackie Skulless
A four year gap between Enforcer releases, especially considering the controversy that followed their previous disc, really had me eager to hear what the Swedes would come up with for their sixth time around. Would it be a continuation of the cool and mature energy of the last one? Would the title Nostalgia indicate that it’s back to business as usual? The answer is a little confusing, since for the first time in the band’s history, the direction seems a little unclear. A lot is going on in this effort, so unpacking it bit by bit is the way to go.
For one, stripped away is the clearer Europower tint that covered much of the previous record, letting through some rougher touches that we felt in the earlier albums. The drums specifically stand out in this realm, coating the otherwise buttery guitar noodles with a tougher backbone. Another real consistency lies in the fact that all thirteen tracks avoid the intricate, epic builds or advanced layering that made its way onto several prior releases, making for a disc that’s meant to make a bunch of quick points before moving onto the next.
That, my friends, is my biggest complaint, because I think it’s to blame for the fact that there’s less direction here than anything before. “Unshackle Me” hooked me immediately with its gothic-meets-noir synths colliding with sturdy rhythms, built under a mature umbrella that generated this idea that a new direction was being molded out of the experiment that was Zenith. Unfortunately, it’s over before you even get a chance to appreciate it. I’m not saying that none of the songs are good, quite the contrary; but I see a large list of metal tunes that rely on having a catchy center for their memorability, not the consistent evolution we saw before. In other words, a fair amount of the songs stand tall on their own, but have little to do with each other and can’t hold the hot flame I’m used to from Olof and co.
Already, the title track seems to yield the most controversy, being a soft ballad stuck in the center of everything. This is a pretty valid take (despite reinforcing my point that doing something different will cause fans to scream), but I don’t think the rest of the tracks flow any better than this one. “Demon” feels like a once-and-done serviceable-enough tune that otherwise holds little weight; it’s a jarring turn from the slower burn of “Heartbeat” with an entirely different vibe. The latter is a far better song anyway, one that would have paired well with “Unshackle Me,” but instead was separated by another by-the-numbers “speed for the sake of speed” tune known as “Coming Alive.” Everything in the back half of Nostalgia follows suit in the same vein, flexing the exact same muscles. I can’t deny the catchiness of “Keep The Flame Alive“ or “At The End Of The Rainbow,” but being an easy sing-along of recyclable rhythms is about all they do for me. Others like “Metal Supremacia” are predictable speedballs reeking of very clear fan service, again, casting an entirely different vibe from the track right before it.
I guess at the end of the day, plenty of people get their wish. This is indeed fitting to its title, throwing back to the band’s older tricks with a few attempts at following the new path, though I personally think it only really borrowed the second-tier tactics from before with a far reach towards blending it into something “exciting” (a very subjective word). The eighth installment of the Star Wars franchise saw changes piss off a bunch of nerds to the point that the ninth installment was a direct fan service. This is a stretch of a comparison, since I do still enjoy much of this record (unlike The Rise Of Skywalker), but the point is, if you complain about a change enough, you'll get something less unique. There are plenty of good moments worth digging up on Enforcer’s sixth effort, but it’s the first real disruption of a very clear path that was “elementary but intriguing speedsters” to “advanced maturity in speed metal” to “shifting the focus towards emotion and epic construction.” If nothing else, it makes me eager to see where things will head next.
Enforcer - Nostalgia was released May 5th, 2023 via Nuclear Blast. Find it here!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.