ENFORCER – Zenith

ENFORCER – Zenith
Label(s):
Nuclear Blast
Released Year:
2019
Type:
Full-length
Tracklist:
1. Die for the Devil2. Zenith of the Black Sun3. Searching for You4. Regrets5. The End of a Universe6. Sail on7. One Thousand Years of Darkness8. Thunder and Hell9. Forever We Worship the Dark10. Ode to Death

ENFORCER burst out into the metal scene some ten years ago and due to their NWOBHM influenced speed metal they immediately became top priority for many fans interested in retro heavy metal. In the following years, album after album, the band’s sound shifted slowly towards a more melodic and anthemic NWOBHM sound, but never lost its metal flame. And now we have this new album…

There were some statements that the new album would be somehow experimental, and then we got to listen to the first “single” (I really can’t get used to songs released on youtube being called singles). It was opener “Die for The Devil”, a song that was quite a departure from the usual ENFORCER sound, as it went into hard n’ heavy territory with a commercial party rock feel and the bad thing is it’s not a really good song or maybe the band hasn’t mastered this new style yet. Anyway, the feelings were really mixed for the fans. When I was asked about reviewing the album I felt it would be really fun, so here we are.

Usually I sum things up in the end but this time I will begin with the conclusion. “Zenith” is a really good album, maybe even very good. Maybe even their best one ever. The bands songwriting skills have been focused to produce some of the more memorable songs they ever recorded. The core of the album is pure early 80’s heavy metal, as always. But the thing is that with this new album ENFORCER have performed their biggest shift of style ever. That means there’s not only heavy metal on offer on “Zenith”. Ok, we already know about the first hard ‘n’ heavy single. But there’s more to it. The band goes from heavy metal, through hard ‘n’ heavy and keyboard driven hard rock all the way into AOR balladry. Haha, yes, I said it and I mean it. AOR; On an ENFORCER album. For some this album may mean the end of their relationship with the band. I’m pretty sure they will be accused as sellouts by a small or maybe even big part of their fanbase. But if you get past the initial shock there so many great things going on in this album. So give it a try and focus on the songs, not the styles.

After the mediocre opener we have a definite highlight with “Zenith of The Black Sun”. A fantastic mid tempo track that sounds like early 80’s BLACK SABBATH/DIO mixed with melodic NWOBHM (I was just about to finish the review when I finally remembered, some of the riffs on this one are very similar to TYTAN’s song “The Watcher”). Next one is “Searching for You”, a fast paced heavy metal song with screaming guitar leads and some groovy hard rock riffs thrown in between that work really well with the song. And then we have “Regrets”. I really can’t imagine what the guys were thinking. It starts with a piano intro and the piano follows up throughout the song. It’s actually a cheesy-beyond-cheesy AOR ballad that gives you the feel it will hopefully escalate into something bigger but just fails to do so. Totally not needed! Thankfully the next one is a really great one, “The End of A Universe”, another mid tempo heavy metal song this time with an epic, pompous feel. “Sail On” again will test the nerves of the hardcore metal fans, the guitars are very playful and colorful and result in a melodic rock track that feels a little bit to “happy” for the band’s profile. Very nice guitar work though! “One Thousand Years of Darkness” is an up tempo hard rock/AOR number with a small dose of keys that are strangely very high in the mix, a very catchy song with the epicness of the likes of “Dangerzone” or “Mighty Wings” (yes, the “Top Gun” songs). Apart from the funny keys, the backing “ohoh” vocals also give the song a very commercial feel. The last three songs are all pure heavy metal, but they don’t lack surprises. Well, apart from “Thunder and Hell”. That’s the heaviest and purest metal song on the album and I think also the fastest; a metal feast with loud vocals and intense riffing reminding of the band’s debut. “Forever We Worship the Dark” starts with an epic intro and evolves to a very anthemic mid tempo song, maybe slightly more melodic than needed. I think there’s some cheesiness here too. Final track “Ode to death” is the lengthiest rack on the album, almost 7 minutes long. It starts of slow and creepy, and then turns into an epic MANOWAR-influenced song with galloping riffs. The lyrics are really odd and cosmological, a theme that appears on other songs as well (for example “End of The Universe”). Definitely a strange and interesting song.

The band promised the album would be experimental and it is, at least by their standards. That’s not bad. What’s bad is the fact that some of the experiments led to funny results. Let’s face it, ENFORCER are not expected to play AOR and they’re also not cut out for it. You need a better vocalist and a very polished sound to pull that off. A couple of hard rock tracks are ok, but they shouldn’t go beyond that. What they are best at is delivering classic heavy metal inspired by the giants of the early 80’s. When they play that thing, which had become their thing over the years, they are almost unbeatable. And thankfully, the majority of the album is just that; more melodic than before, but definitely great heavy metal. That’s all we should care about and not some experiments here and there. At least till the next album arrives…

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