REVIEW: Enforced – ‘War Remains’

By Greg Maki

Is it too early—May 10 as I write this—to declare an album of the year? Surely, it is, but that’s how strong the reaction in me is to hearing “War Remains,” the third long-player from Richmond, Virginia’s Enforced.

LP is a bit of a misnomer here, as the record clocks in at a mere 32 minutes, but just as I am of the opinion that it’s harder to make a good 90-minute movie than one that runs 2½ to three hours (as so many seem to do these days), it must be a real challenge to make an impactful musical statement within such tight confines. That’s what Enforced does with “War Remains,” a modern thrash metal classic consisting of 10 songs—10 absolute bangers—without an ounce of fat on them. Leave ‘em wanting more, the old saying goes, and Enforced accomplishes exactly that while still delivering an immensely satisfying listen.

The band’s aesthetic screams old school, with a logo tailor-made for battle vests and grimy, black-and-white album covers that seem to have sprung directly from someone’s nightmares. But it’s not old school simply for nostalgia and an excuse to have a party. “War Remains” has weighty subjects on its mind and feels vital in 2023. The title track soberly declares, “War is what makes us human,” while “Mercy Killing Fields” addresses the 2021 death of frontman Knox Colby’s cousin and the seemingly impossible decision of whether or not to remove her from life support.

Musically, Enforced fits into the crossover thrash mold that Power Trip helped bring back to prominence during a too-brief run, with a heavier emphasis on the thrash part of the equation. Imagine Power Trip with a heaping dose of Slayer in its DNA and you’re on the right track. To me, though, it’s simplistic and unfair to define such a monster of a band and a towering achievement like “War Remains” solely in terms of other acts.

Never less than pulverizing, the record mixes breakneck riffs and rhythms with ultra-heavy grooves for a truly dynamic metallic attack. Produced by Richmond-based Ricky Olson and mixed by Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Kreator), the sound is gargantuan, as if the band set up in your living room to blast out these 10 tunes then, barely more than a half hour later, loaded out immediately, leaving you to deal with the wreckage—the sheer devastation—left in its wake. “War Remains” is an exhilarating and, in its roundabout way, life-affirming listen—a masterpiece of pure thrash metal aggression.

Rating: 10/10

Century Media Records – April 28, 2023

Buy/stream/save “War Remains.”

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