Enforced’s High-Powered Crossover Thrash Overloads The “Kill Grid” (Review)
Crossover/thrash metal has never exactly been the genre most known for its media exposure, especially on major metal labels. However, with the political nature of the United States in 2021 being the way that it is—especially suited for the anger and vitriol of thrash and crossover—this might be the perfect storm for Enforced to bring more fans under their banner. Enforced themselves are a dual threat, with a sound much like Power Trip and High Command of recent, but also reminiscent of early Corrosion Of Conformity and Cryptic Slaughter to boot. It's a vile mixture that couples well with their Richmond, Virginia roots and their obvious neighbors like Municipal Waste, Lamb of God, and GWAR. Needless to say, the stakes are high for Kill Grid, the band’s second proper album and their debut on Century Media Records.
Only two years after their debut, At The Walls, Enforced seem ready to be a part of the collective metal consciousness. "The Doctrine" gets things started right with swirling riffs courtesy of Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan and barked vocals from Knox Colby, while bassist Ethan Gensurowsky's bass lines are fat and Alex Bishop's drums are fast and furious. Taking their formula a step further early on in the album, "UXO" features the band getting heavily melodic on their solos; it feels like the band wants to pay homage to more of the neoclassical guitar sounds of the Andy LaRocques of the world.
Joe Petagno’s artwork is a wonderful addition to the fracas, seeing as he is a scene veteran himself; he was also responsible for the great artwork from Plague Years' own crossover release from 2020, Circle of Darkness. Both examples vividly encapsulate the overwhelming feelings that one may experience from listening to this all-encompassing thrashing madness. Enforced clearly enjoy the black and white aesthetic that their album artwork adheres to; like the music, it doesn't just keep it simple, it keeps it dismal.
The album’s title track and centerpiece, "Kill Grid," is the longest track by nearly two minutes and allows itself to settle in slowly, like many similar title tracks from classic thrash albums like Ride The Lightning and Beneath the Remains, before launching headlong into more a more furious and frenetic pace. This track's overall atmosphere in particular feels much like Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic—it's worth noting that the great Arthur Rizk is also at the mixing board here, and he knows exactly what kind of sound crossover bands need to have. A sense of death emanates from everything: from the guitar tones to the drum beats. In a 'smoke-clearing-before-we find-the-bodies' kind of way, the song ends in what feels like a post-apocalyptic "Marche Funebre" before finally having the life choked out of it.
"Curtain Fire" features more of that floor-punching feeling that the early Leeway and Cro-Mags albums did, with limbs and riffs meant to be flying around the room with no regard for your general vicinity. In fact, Kill Grid gives very few, if any, breaks to the listener within these seething 42 minutes and if it wasn’t very evident that this was their aim, then you clearly weren't paying attention. Enforced has coined the term "Pure Crossover Death" to describe their sound: they know that destruction is more than merely an expectation; it is a requirement.
Knox Colby’s vocal approach feels like the likely successor to the late great Riley Gale of Power Trip in terms of a raw and venomous approach to the style. Alongside Kevin Fitzgerald (High Command) and Tim Englehardt (Plague Years) with Colby to round out this trio, crossover thrash is in great hands for the years to come, and expect Enforced to destroy stages with aplomb when our world eventually returns to a more recognizable form.
With Kill Grid, Enforced has firmly planted themselves in the conversation of the modern metal elite; this is a suffocating sophomore release full of vitriol, desperation, death, and throttling tunes. An album that’s this angry feels like it solidly belongs to this global-scale dystopia which we now inhabit. We are living in the Kill Grid; they just gave us the soundtrack.