Enforced – War Remains Review

It’s certainly not unusual for me to field accusations of improper scoring around these parts, but, while I usually stand by my assessment of a record long after the review has come and gone, I’m willing to admit that I do occasionally get things wrong. Case in point: Enforced’s 2021 album, Kill Grid. I was initially enamored by that record’s furious hardcore-tinged thrash, and, at the time, a 4.0/5.0 score was a no-brainer. But the intervening years and my countless returns to the album have revealed an inescapable truth: I should have scored it higher. Kill Grid is, without a doubt, one of the most intense thrash albums I’ve ever heard, but it achieves that feat while simultaneously providing a cargo ship’s worth of groove. I loved the band’s debut, At the Walls, but Kill Grid catapulted Enforced onto the short list of my favorite bands running. Needless to say, follow-up War Remains approaches the battlefield facing a nearly invincible host of expectations. Let’s see if it can hold its own.

If Kill Grid’s varied approach to thrash was Enforced’s South of Heaven, War Remains is their Reign in Blood. The album hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until your broken carcass lies trampled in its wake a brief 33 minutes later. Blitzkrieg is the chosen strategy for this campaign, with only two tracks barely eclipsing the 4-minute mark and several landing under three. After a couple of blistering numbers open the album, the first major dose of groove rears its head on the embedded single, “Hanged by My Hand,” and when it does, the crossover gods smile approvingly. An intro of all-out thrash paves the way for a tasty bouncing main riff as the song builds towards a bonkers solo section and a pit-crushing chug breakdown. If you ask me, the kids in that video need to step their game up a bit; the power of the groove compels you!

While the songs on War Remains are universally strong, the six-track stretch beginning with “Hanged by My Hand” and ending with “Ultra-Violence” is simply godlike. “Avarice” begins with some start-and-stop riffage before guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan unleash and flaunt their insane rhythm and lead skills over the rest of the track. “Nation of Fear” wins the award for “punkiest” track with its jouncing grooves, and “Mercy Killing Fields” gives us one of the few respites on the short album with an extended intro before it loses its goddamn mind all over our faces. But the album’s crown jewel is undoubtedly the title track. “War Remains” contains a little bit of everything a modern thrash battlefield needs, featuring some slow, grinding armored assaults and some razor sharp Hellfire missile strikes. The track gets me absolutely jacked up, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard all year.

War Remains isn’t quite as strong as Kill Grid, but that’s like saying a 25-megaton hydrogen bomb isn’t as powerful as the 50-megaton Tsar Bomba—it’s still going to get the fucking job done. I think the fact that the album’s centerpiece pair of “War Remains” and “Mercy Killing Fields” happens to be my favorite part of the album tells me that I prefer the “longer” track times that Enforced used on Kill Grid instead the aggressive minimalism employed over most of War Remains. These guys are so great at building tension and providing the subsequent satisfying release, that some of these tunes could have stood to be stretched out a bit for maximum effect. But this is such a minor gripe that I feel like kicking my own ass having typed it. This thing kills from front to back, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have a pulse. As great as the guitars are on here, I have to give an MVP shoutout to Knox Colby, who has probably cemented himself as my favorite active thrash vocalist. As usual, he spends most of his time spewing out thought-provoking lyrics covered in a thick coating of gravel and chewed up nails, and I love him for it.

I’ve had this record a long time, and if I had to guess, I’d say that I’ve logged nearly sixty listens. But with several multiple-week-long breaks to listen to other stuff in between, War Remains keeps dragging me back into the conflict whether I would risk it or not. It’s probably time to change Enforced’s name to Enfourced, because I simply can’t ever see them putting out anything less than greatness. With Enforced and High Command continually putting out top-shelf product, we’re truly living in a golden age of crossover thrash. Join me and bask in the unbridled violence.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: enforced.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/enforcedrva
Releases Worldwide: April 28th, 2023

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