Enforced – Kill Grid Review

Oh man, have I been excited to get my hands on this one. In 2019, I happened upon the promo for At the Walls, the debut record from Richmond, Virginia crossover thrash act Enforced. The album was a combination of previously-released demo and EP tracks with some newer material, and while this may have resulted in some minor consistency issues, that thing riffed hard, riffed often, and barely missed my 2019 year-end list. The thought of a follow-up record written in one, cohesive go was tantalizing, and my excitement only grew when I heard that Enforced was picked up by Century Media last year. But at the same time, when a raw, passionate band moves to a bigger label, I always get a bit nervous. So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a bit of trepidation as I waited to hear which direction the band would go on their sophomore platter. Would the big label treatment result in a polished sheen, or would the band dare to dial the violence up a few notches?

According to Enforced, that’s not an either/or question, because sophomore album Kill Grid is simultaneously heavier and more polished than its predecessor. While comparisons to Power Trip and High Command are still valid, Enforced occasionally careens their hardcore thrash sound into the more extreme territory of the crossover spectrum, where outfits like Black Breath and Plague Years reside. Heavily influenced by the riffing and chaotic lead styles of Demolition Hammer, Slayer, and Sepultura, Enforced guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan spend the vast majority of Kill Grid blowing my fucking mind with their powerful performances. Single “Malignance” demonstrates just about every tactic that the band employs in a four-and-a-half-minute package. The speed, the groove, the squeals, it’s all there, and when coupled with the monstrous hardcore shouts of vocalist Knox Colby, the results are positively lethal.

And I can say the same about all of the tracks found on Kill Grid, an album that’s remarkably cohesive in its sound, yet skillfully uses variation to build 41-minute’s worth of nonstop momentum. “Curtain Fire” is the closest thing to the Power Trip crossover sound that kids these days will know and love, “Trespasser” uses an epic heavy metal opening riff à la High Command to wax poetically about the fate of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “The Doctrine” opens the record with pure chicken-catching, greased-lighting speed, and “Blood Ribbon” closes with one of the filthiest grooves I’ve ever heard. Kill Grid’s centerpiece, though, is the huge title track. It features opening and closing atmospheric passages, and these function as the only breathing room found on an album otherwise comprised of pure savagery. The closing section of pick scrape noises and feedback could admittedly stand some trimming, but the main portion of the track features a gnarly Sepultura rhythm that I can totally hear Max Cavalera grunting over in an alternate universe.

Kill Grid has built upon and improved the Enforced formula found on At the Walls in just about every way. The overloud master of the previous release has been replaced by a cleaner production that doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of — and actually enhances — the band’s aggressive sound. The guitars are as crunchy as your favorite cereal before the milk hits it, and the bass and drums work together to create a bottom end of immense girth. And then there’s Colby, whose obKnoxious utterances infuse the album with incredible, cathartic energy. To put it bluntly, of all the records I’ve heard in the past year, the visceral assault of Kill Grid is the one that makes me miss the live show environment the most. These songs were simply made for the pit.

Sophomore slump? More like sophomore slaughter. My expectations for a second Enforced album were sky-high, but Kill Grid exceeds them all. These Americans have joined their Chilean (Demoniac) and Swedish (Paranorm) thrash brethren in the apparent worldwide effort to rip 4.0ldeneye a brand new butthole in 2021. Do you feel a draft in here? Because I sure do.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: enforced.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/enforcedrva
Releases Worldwide: March 12th, 2021

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