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Warbringer and Enforcer Thrash the Fillmore in Philadelphia (Live Report)

If something seems like déjà vu, that’s not because two bands trade in well-trod tropes — at least that’s not the only reason. In early 2016, Enforcer and Warbringer ran a co-headlining North American tour with Cauldron in tow. Obviously, the experience was positive enough that, three years later, they’re willing to share stages and rages together again. They even shared a member, Chase Becker — Warbringer’s six-stringer handled bass duties for Enforcer.

Warbringer harkens back to the days when our West Coast was churning out quality thrash from both ends of California. You hear latter period Slayer, especially with the slower grinding solos at the end of “Demonic Ecstasy,” alongside a slew of frantic moments akin to Dark Angel’s aural assault. It’s a safe bet that they listened to underrated riff-masters Forbidden a time or three in their formative years as evidenced on “Hunter-Seeker” and the churning thrash workout “Living in a Whirlwind.” This band gets it.

The reverence carried over to the sparse but enthusiastic battle-vest-encrusted crowd that received a lot of encouragement to form circle pits from heshed-out vocalist John Kevill (rhymes with “devil,” fuck yeah) who kept ‘em counterclockwise like they’re supposed to go. “Firepower Kills” was the only new track they performed from their latest album, due out next year. If this ripper of a song is any indication, the forthcoming disc will be pure speed held together with a controlled abandon that would fit in with Exodus’s chunky post-Bonded by Blood material quite nicely.

Warbringer emphasized this was a co-headlining tour by playing a three-song encore: the Testament tech of “Silhouettes,” “Woe to the Vanquished,” and the tumultuous triple-time thrasher “Living Weapon” that closed the set.

If Warbringer is about good-natured head-smashing pit camaraderie, Enforcer feels more like a party. This contrast in styles is what made their previous tour such a success.

Olof Wikstrand isn’t wearing that raccoon eyeliner like he did three years ago, but that doesn’t stop Enforcer from reviving the days when the NWOBHM birthed the classic makeup-clad likes of Heavy Pettin’ and Tokyo Blade. Enforcer ignores the era’s bands that looked back (Witchfinder General) and forward (Iron Maiden); instead they take their cues from the bands that looked like rock stars — and sounded like them too – with bright choruses instead of grunts and Priestly solo breaks instead of mosh parts.

Enforcer is a lot heavier than most traditional metal, though, with neo-classical flourishes (“Destroyer”) and allusions to early Mercyful Fate. There’s a reason they got lumped in with the thrash metal revival at the start of the millennium, and that was evident on the Philly stage — the songs are played even faster live but they all have a noticeably shiny patina. The melodies are as anthemic as power metal and just as fist-pumping as well; when they led the crowd in a “woah-woah-woah” singalong during “Take Me Out of this Nightmare” it was way more Dokken than Diamond Head.

At the conclusion of the set, they didn’t do an encore. Instead they slunk off the stage while the Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” played over the PA. It might have been a little better had it been “Rocks Off,” but Enforcer’s point was still crystal clear even for the thrashers whose necks were already starting to get sore.

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