At The Walls (WAR Records) is a low risk, no-frills release by Thrash newcomers Enforced. The album is rich with twists and turns but leaves many of its best ideas underdeveloped. The result is that Enforced is a bit like a Deli, and At The Walls a collection of ham sandwiches.
The ham and heart of every At The Walls sandwich is Enforced smooth, sonically easy riffs. Unobtrusive and persistent, each song sticks to similar riff constructions: a melodic hook, typically in power chords, mixed with varied rhythms before a ditty between repetitions. Some bites are rich and remarkable, especially the serpentine riffs of the album opener ‘Reckoning Force.’ But it all registers as the same cut of meat, and lunch after lunch—er, track after track, the mind wants for pastrami, brisket, carnitas, anything.
Enforced does adventure with quirky details, but makes haste shelving their best ideas. The surprise tempo change in ‘Brahman’ and the rhythmic vocal chorus-solo alternations in ‘The Heat’ snag attention, but they pass by without adequate exploration. I couldn’t help but wonder how ‘World Of Pain’ could have developed if the band ran with Knox Colby’s vocal rampage, but the frenzy comes and goes. At The Walls glances a unique voice, but never schemes the requisite machinations for a real identity.
Some of the tunes feature sections with relaxed tempos. The slower moments sound genuine and emotive, offering pleasing release from the active songwriting. The peace evokes an otherwise absent sense of arc.
Indeed, At The Walls’ wants for an album-level sense of departure, journey, and arrival. The album begins with a screaming whammy-bar exclamation, and eight of its nine tracks include soaring guitar cries and wails. Alex Bishop’s percussion always supports other musical ideas, never coming to the fore itself. At best, the unfailing consistencies will please Thrash fans, at worst it limits expressive opportunity.
The regular application of repetitive riff structures, reluctance to take risks exploring unusual rhythms and pitch-patterns, and Enforced’s unwavering habits of songwriting means At The Walls is a set of songs best on a party playlist where the music is ambiance.
The new LP pairs two new songs with seven re-releases from Enforced 2017 demo and Retaliation promo, beautifully remixed and remastered by Arthur Rizk. At a brief twenty-seven-minute play length, those familiar with Enforced will find new sounds in ‘Reckoning Force’ and ‘Skinned Alive.’ These new tracks show growth and promise, in spite of the album’s shortcomings. Take a bite if you’re hungry.
6 / 10
CAMERON K. ROBELLO