Enforcer - Diamonds
Earache Records
Heavy Metal
10 songs (39 minutes)
Release year: 2010
Earache Records
Reviewed by Jake

One of the exciting things about being a metal fan in the current era is that the genre has given up on linear development and embraced its history. After over twenty years of everything being about finding new ways to be faster, louder and more brutal, we hit the ceiling of brutality at some point in the 00s, and with the boundaries of our territory defined took to exploring instead of expanding it. Bands began returning to older forms and older ideas to preserve and perpetuate them, sometimes mixing them with the new and sometimes not, so that all of metal's chronology coexists and interacts in the metal of 2010. My point as regards Swedish band Enforcer's terrific 2010 classic metal album Diamonds is this: don't call it a throwback. Like thrash metal, like power metal, like earlier forms of black and death metal, classic heavy metal has been reintroduced, not revisited—tossed back into the metal mix, not just nostalgically retreaded. Diamonds is one of the best albums of the year, and it couldn't be if it was just a novelty item.

This is not to say that Diamonds is the most original thing out there. Listeners will recall the expected slate of bands, from Accept to Judas Priest to Angel Witch. Those bands won't just leap to mind individually or distinctly, though; you'll think of all of them, because they're used as influences in the creation of a unique sound, not blueprints. Sure, this band could have existed in 1983, but they would have been their own band. While the similarly genre-focused White Wizzard is good because they get you excited to listen to Iron Maiden, Enforcer is great because they recall Iron Maiden but make you want to listen to more Enforcer.

Mixing their classic metal with a healthy dose of post-New Wave speed metal, Enforcer lead things off with three tracks infused with more variety than an empty throwback could capably handle, immediately establishing that Diamonds is ahead of the 80s metal game. Midnight Vice goes from a dramatic wailing-leads-over-power-chords intro against rattling drum fills into a melodic swing groove that alternates with an anthemic chorus powered by the high-flying and emotive voice of Olof “Enforcer” Wikstrand, who will impress throughout the record. Second track Roll the Dice kicks up the speed, sending Adam Zaars' and Joseph Tholl's picking hands into a frenzy of sixteenth notes and gallops until we arrive at the 6-minute Katana, a dramatic and complicated track that shifts like an epic but never drops the heaviness or speed, featuring fantastic guitar work in the form of both long solos and Helloween harmony riffs as well as some killer grooves. From there, we move through seven more tracks that are distinct from one another without violating the album's full-tempo, no-balladry approach. The title track is a satisfying instrumental in the vein of very early Maiden, and the guys do a great job avoiding the instrumental trap of getting too show-offy to convey the musical effect while still, of course, showing off. It also includes the album's only slow section, which is dark and atmospheric enough that it won't feel out of place even to the head-banginest speed freak. Nightmares, another highlight, brings in just enough of a darker color to lead into the dramatic climax Walk With Me, but the album doesn't end with that climax, playing us out instead on the very fun Take Me to Hell--everything about which, from the title down to its piercing vocals and power-chord riffs, recalls underappreciated cheese favorites Grim Reaper, even as its high tempo and rhythmic edge scream Riot.

The whole disc has a terrific sound to it, which is owed largely to the way bassist Tobias Lindqvist is used. Like every modern bass player in this subgenre, he's not shy about throwing those Steve Harris pentatonic fills into every corner of the music, but unlike many of them he doesn't go for the Steve Harris clank, opting instead for a muddier sound that lends warmth to the guitars while keeping his fine work audible in its own right. The vocals are well-produced as well, with just enough clarity that the wall-of-sound harmonies have that Queensryche style resonance and sense of space, but not enough to feel processed. The early 80s albums Enforcer clearly love were often as good as Diamonds, but not one of them had such excellent sound quality.

That's a lot of comparisons to older bands, but only because fans of those bands can't afford to miss this album. Over the course of just two LPs, Enforcer has become very much its own beast. It's not a retro band but the embodiment of a true rejuvenation, and in that it represents one of the best reasons to be a metalhead.

Killing Songs :
Midnight Vice, Running in Menace, Nightmares, especially Katana, and honestly, the whole album.
Jake quoted 93 / 100
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