In 2017, a little Texas band named Power Trip released their sophomore album Nightmare Logic and subsequently blew the metal world’s collective mind. Their brand of crossover thrash made them darlings of the underground and mainstream metal media alike, and that record was a part of several year end lists here at AMG. Even crotchety Dr. A. N. Grier said that he loved it despite treating it with his signature underrating therapy in his review.1 All of this attention has pushed Power Trip to the forefront of the modern American thrash scene, with a certain British rock and metal magazine that starts with “K” recently placing them number one on a list of the best US metal bands of the 2010’s. All of this to say: thrash can still rule over thirty years after its heyday. Todays offering At the Walls finds relative newcomers Virginia’s Enforced laying siege to the throne with their debut set of crossover tunes, but do they even riff?
Yeah, it’s pretty much all they do. The promo boldly states that “Enforced picks up where Sepultura and Cro-Mags left off,” and I was pleasantly surprised to find that At the Walls actually delivers on that claim. What we have here is a set of nine throat punches comprised of thrash riffs, grooving breakdowns, whammy squeals, shredded solos, and impassioned hardcore shouts, and when the 26 minute beatdown ends, it dares you to press play and do it all over again. From hair-on-fire thrasher “At the Walls of Antioch,” to the slow churning and ominous Slayer-esque “Retalitation,” to the quintessentially crossover track “Born Lost” and its near-constant groove, to embedded track “Skinned Alive” and its guest vocals courtesy of Integrity‘s Dwid Hellion,2 things never get stale, and each song is memorable.
Don’t let the media fool you with that video of the US Coast Guard supposedly boarding a drug submarine. That was actually footage of Enforced guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan commandeering a craft loaded with half a billion dollars worth of riffs. These guys have packed this small platter with a lethal amount of the contraband, and they know how to transition extremely well — just when you’re getting comfortable with a certain groove, they throw another one at you that’s just as great. There are enough over-the-top whammy bar harmonics to make Dimebag blush in the metal heaven VIP room, but just listen to the intro solo on “At the Walls of Antioch” to see that they can do way more than just squeal. Vocalist Knox Colby also deserves a mention as his shouts are the perfect medium for all of this rage. On “Brahman,” he violently declares “I am the maelstrom, I am the coming storm!” and I couldn’t agree more.
I like the production for the most part, but there is a noticeable difference in volume on the three track sequence of “Born Lost,” “The Heat,” and “Retaliation.” When measuring the dynamic range for At the Walls, I noticed that those three tracks had lower ratings than the rest of the record. Come to find out, Enforced released an EP in 2017 comprised of that trio, so the mastering is different. It’s not a problem, because the intro groove to “Born Lost” is so tasty that I probably would have cranked the volume anyway, but I thought it worth the mention since my undisciplined Holdenear noticed it. Each track on At the Walls has something to love, but when it comes to standouts, “Born Lost,” “The Heat,” “At the Walls of Antioch,” and “Brahman” ladle gravy all over my moshed potatoes (I’m walking to HR as I type this).
While the highlights of At the Walls may not reach the heights found on the front half of Power Trip‘s Nightmare Logic, I’ll dare to say that Enforced have created the more consistently solid platter. With songs that are constantly changing speeds and emotional intensities, At the Walls never dips in quality or even hints at bogging down. This record has fueled me through some miserable days after sleepless nights recently, and if they don’t change their ways, Enforced may eventually find themselves on a list of the best US metal bands of the current era.
- It’s known as the “Grier Technique,” and insurance doesn’t cover it. ↩
- I was unaware — poser that I am — of Integrity‘s place in metal history. Many regard them as one of the first bands to mix hardcore with metal. ↩
- Most of the album clocks in at 8 or 9, while the three tracks listed in paragraph four average 6. ↩