I think it’s fair to say that there is nothing unexciting about the prospect of seeing Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust perform under the roof of a sweaty club on a Friday night. Through their consistently solid releases and even better live reputation, these highly regarded acts in equal parts reignited interest in the possibilities of what modern thrash metal could truly offer. With Municipal Waste’s image and sound playing heavily into nostalgia for 80’s crossover acts such as D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies, Ryan Waste and the boys reminded us, for better or for worse, just how blistering the genre could be during an era where metalcore dominated the loud rock mainstream when they dropped The Art of Partying back in 2007. Continue reading
Dark Tranquillity kicked off their Atoma North American headlining tour on Friday night here in New York City to the delight of the sold out crowd at The Gramercy Theatre. Continue reading
On a warm sunny day, with just enough breeze to make it a perfect festival day, we headed to Fortarock, a festival in Nijmegen that has gathered critical acclaim for good vibes and excellent acts. This years billing wasn’t as sweet as some they had before, which led to the organization lowering the entrance price, a credit to them. That didn’t mean it wasn’t worth the trip to the Netherland’s most eastern metal town.
At midday the festival terrain is slowly getting busy as Leprous and Carach Angren take the two side stages. It was a coin toss which of the two to go see, as they started at the exact same time and both bands, while excellent in their own setting, aren’t really middle of the day outside in the bright sunshine bands. We opted to go see Leprous, who indeed suffer from less than optimal sound, and bright sunlight. Somehow for me they also suffered of a distinct lack of Ihsahn this day and just weren’t as excellent as I remembered them from Roadburn.
Opening on the main stage are Swedish heavy metal band Enforcer. These guys know how to start a party and the fact they’re the first band to play this stage doesn’t phase them at all. The showmanship is incredible, even if the sound is a bit bass and kick drum heavy even at the sound booth. They seem to know you rarely have optimal sound at an outdoor-fest and step it up a few in show, finally waking the milling crowd up.
Next we opt to go see Sylosis, a British modern trash outfit that turned out to be the surprise of the day. I’d not heard of them before or heard their music and the booklet description wasn’t something that tickled me, but opted to go see them over Converge. I’m glad I did, as they were excellent, with a progressive sense of timing and minor core influences, yet a straightforward honest brutality to it all that kept it well grounded.
Next on the mainstage are Godsmack, mostly known for their one hit ‘I Stand Alone’ used for the Scorpion king movie, their sound is pretty much a repeat of that one song, rehashed and reworked endlessly to the point of brittle weakness. A rather bored stage presence in the full sun doesn’t help the band and distinct feeling of has-been creeps up on me, even though musically they’re pretty solid.
Over on stage three, which seems to be my favorite this day, thrashers Flotsam And Jetsam are starting. The band so far have the best sound balance of the day and pull a pretty big crowd, as singer Eric AK’s almost flawless vocals fly over the solid and clear trash music. The show is slick and smooth, but not without heart. Like a well oiled machine the band effortlessly win over the crowd, aided by some clever banter between songs.
After some initial confusion on the program, it appears a few weeks ago Papa Roach and Parkway Drive switched spots, but the booklets had already been printed. So instead we have Paparoach on the main stage. While they are clearly festival veterans and know exactly what they’re doing, this isn’t the best I’ve seen them. The show is captivating and every person in the crowd sings the hits along full swing. Sadly, their energetic and excellent front man Jacoby Shaddix couldn’t carry a stage this large today.
Enforcer’s shtick was old before they had even recorded their first demo. But four albums into their career and they can pen a good ode to classic 80s metal. The Swedish four piece – Olof Wikstrand (Guitars & Vocals), Joseph Tholl (Guitars), Tobias Lindqvist (Bass), Jonas Wikstrand (Drums) – probably know it’s not 1982 anymore (we hope…), but they don’t care.
It’s good, mindless fun, and that’s ok.
From the opening notes of ‘Destroyer’ you know what you’re going to get over the next 40-odd minutes; no pretence, no bullshit, just big riffs, melodic hooks, shout-along choruses and the urge to wear nothing but denim and leather. This is pure high octane 80’s metal from 2015.
You like galloping riffs? We got it. High-pitch wailing? You know it. Air-guitar inducing solos? Of course. Enforcer have done their research; Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, Saxon, plus numerous lesser known ‘cult’ acts; all your favourite NWOBHM influences are present and accounted for. It’s a meticulous copy of all the best bits of heavy metal’s classic years combined with a good ear for hooks. You could make a game out of identifying which riffs they’ve stolen from which band/album.
From Beyond (Nuclear Blast) has a default tempo of fast. The likes of ‘One with Fire,’ ‘Hell Will Follow’ and the opener all scream speed metal. ‘The Banshee’s simple but addictive chorus and twin lead guitars has future crowd pleaser written all over it, while ‘Below The Slumber’ and album closer ‘Mask of Red Death’ are both six-minute mini-epics; starting slow and quiet before bringing a plenitude of riffs and noise.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with From Beyond; if you liked any of their previous efforts (or indeed any other super retro act) they’ll be plenty to enjoy here, and if you have a craving for authentic sounding metal from three decades ago you’ll be more than pleased. But anyone chasing anything more than nostalgia will find nothing particularly to enthuse about.
Swedish metallers Enforcer is streaming “Below the Slumber,” off of their fourth album From Beyond, out April 7, 2015 via Nuclear Blast below. The video for “Destroyer” was shot in Arvika/Sweden and edited by Gustav Öhman Spjuth.
From Beyond Track Listing:
2. Undying Evil
3. From Beyond
4. One With Fire
5. Below The Slumber
6. Hungry They Will Come
7. The Banshee
9. Hell Will Follow
10. Mask Of Red Death
Coming from the melodic end of thrash, and with eight high-topped feet planted in speed metal, Helsinki’s Ranger impress with their (rising) force, and don’t mistake the proliferation of melody for any indication that there is to be any let up in intensity or intent. With nods to pre-pirate Running Wild, and ploughing a similar furrow to Enforcer, albeit with a less rocky overtone and more of a heads-down-see-you-at-the-end vibe, Where Evil Dwells (Spinefarm) may be the band’s debut full-length, but this is an album forged in furnaces that have been burning for 35 years.
Using Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends (Combat) as a template (7 songs, sub 40 minutes, track 6 being a lengthy 8 minute plus thrashepic, track one being a lesson in extended thrash and the second longest track) is not the worst prototype any band could use, and musically the band pull from the melting pot some nice Di’anno era Maiden twin leads, especially in ‘Defcon1’, amongst the thrashing Sodom-y. Elsewhere there are enough variance of thrash and speed metal and melodic refrains to maintain the interest; ‘Phantom Soldier’ along with a nice Eastern-tinged solo and good movement between solid chugging, and riffing and all out thrashing, borrows very heavily from Kill ‘em All (Megaforce) and in particular ‘Seek & Destroy’ (as well as lifting more than a lyric from ‘Disposable Heroes’), while closer ‘Storm of Power’ is a relentless 3 minute thrash battery to bring things home. Dimi Pontiac provides yelps and squawks as if possessed at random intervals by John Connolly – a “thing” that bands do that personally grates a touch, but are a staple trope of the speed metal oeuvre – but otherwise delivers with confidence, reminiscent of So Far, So Good… So What (Capitol) era Dave Mustaine, sneer and all.
All in, though, a very solid first outing for Ranger that will do more than satisfy those whose tastes are this way inclined. It is nothing new, but here’s where I have to leave my retro-hang ups at the door and buckle my bullet belt on instead, cos it doesn’t just do what it says on the tin. Ranger, with their melodic breaks and mid-tempo deviations, do go some way to standing out and honing their own identity.
And who can argue with a hand-drawn logo and an album cover with big fucking skulls on it!