The classic 80s metal sound will never go away, because bands like Enforcer still live, breathe and eat that stuff. Their entire career has been spent chasing the closest approximation to early 80s speed metal as humanly possible and when they nail it, it stays pretty damn nailed. Though I really enjoyed early albums like Diamonds for their cheesy retro fun factor, for some reason, 2013s Death by Fire just didn’t push my amusement buttons and it felt underdone and incomplete. At the time I wasn’t sure if that was due to my retro fatigue or just a lackluster collection of tunes. Now that I’ve had time with From Beyond I can confidently proclaim I still love this old timey style when it’s done right, and Enforcer is back on their game and have taken pains to “exaggerate their sound” for maximum cheese and fun sauce. Who am I to quibble with such a winning recipe?
Sounding more and more like fellow countrymen Wolf, the retro lads let rip with rabid abandon on opener “Destroyer” which borrows more than a little riff work from Metallica‘s “Hit the Lights” and old Razor, and does them both proud with exuberant, manic guitar-work and wild noodling ripped straight from the Golden Age of Metal Noodling. The fast, frenetic riffing is paired as always with the high-pitched, ball straining vocals of Olof “the Enforcer” Wikstrand, and the combination reeks of excess and cheddar, but it’s undeniably fun in a hot tub time machine way.
And that’s pretty much how the rest of From Beyond goes. Every song is a thinly veiled excuse for manic noodling and foot-on-amp guitar heroics, but they manage to do all their monkey business in the context of good, catchy songs, with the guitar histrionics only adding to the unhinged silliness. “Undying Evil” and “One With Fire” take the basic template of early Iron Maiden and mix it with Agent Steel and a splash of Dokken (yes, Dokken!) and the results are amusing and rather addicting. The title track is more restrained and moody with understated, emotive soloing but it still works well, and “Below the Slumber” gets vaguely close to a power ballad before succumbing to more noodle mania and testicle abusing vocals. “The Banshee” is surprisingly similar to early Obsession material and Wikstrand even sounds like Mike Vescera here, which is something I’ve never picked up on before.
There are no bad songs, but the instrumental “Hungry They Will Come” isn’t as engaging as the rest, though it hits a nostalgic cord with its use of early Maiden, Obsession and Agent Steel riffing. At a tight and economical 42 minutes, From Beyond is just about the perfect length and sails away before you get tired of all the retromantic fret board pummeling and air raid screaming. While the sound isn’t terribly dynamic, it’s less tinny and trebly than their last album and that helps a lot.
Many bands like this are carried by the vocals, but Enforcer is increasingly a slave to the guitar power of Wikstrand and Joseph Tholl. They really stepped up their game with their riffs this time and though many sound familiar, they’re all pure metal and some are simply awesome, like the ones throughout “Hell Will Follow.” Now, many bands get excessive with their soloing, but these two always sound like they’re having way more fun with themselves. Their whammy bar abusing, string snapping solo trade offs are a shot of adrenaline to the heart of olden metal and I find it hard to stop smiling whenever they let themselves go hog-wild. As for Wikstrand’s vocals, though he’s still an old school shrieker, he gives his best performance to date and tries a few new things here and there. If you hate that high-pitched, shrieky singing style from the past he won’t do much for you, but I like his commitment to hernia care.
Enforcer isn’t about seriousness or somber introspection. They exist to rock you hard, and that’s what they do on From Beyond. You all take your spheres and DR ratings so damn seriously. Why don’t you just shut up and rock for once! Geez.