ENFORCER – Into The Philly Night, Hungry They Will Come

October 4, 2019, 16 days ago

Mark Gromen

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Been three years since Enforcer were in town, at the time, as direct support for countrymen Dark Tranquillity. Since then, the band's profile has increased exponentially. Even here in North America, it's enough to now boldly undertake a 54 date headlining trek! Zenith (which took much of the intervening time, to record/produce/release) remains a rather polarizing album amongst older fans, many making comparisons to the career path of Def Leppard. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when you've been known for a sound closer to Exciter, or Kai Hansen fronted Helloween...? Since heading overseas and the earliest dates of this tour, the Swedes wisely decided to minimize the new material, replacing first single/in-concert lead-off "Die For The Devil" with proven winner "Destroyer" instead. Although a title like "Die For The Devil" might sound like one of the melodic speed metal gems which characterize their back catalog, as a pre-release video it signals a changing mindset within singer/guitarist/mastermind Olof Wikstrand. Despite the experimental "branching out", Enforcer thankfully still remember how to play those early records, unlike the multi-platinum Brits. 

The Foundry is a windowless, all brick, second floor venue that reportedly holds 450, although wouldn't want to be there if attendance approached 300. No such issues this Tuesday night, as employees confirmed there were just over 100 paid (plus comps). The touring line-up is radically different from the band witnessed in Europe, just 2 1/2 months ago. Had not heard any announcements, or read an explanation online, but this was essentially a one-man show, somewhat fitting, since Enforcer sprang to life as a solo project for Wikstrand. Not sure if there were hassles, or maybe taking two months off work just wasn't feasible, but bushy, porno mustache sporting guitarist Jonathan Nordwall is not part of the current tour, replaced by a Canadian six-stringer, while Warbringer's Chase Becker pulls double duty, plying bass, in place of Tobias Lindqvist. The tiny stage restricted the fiery, guitar wielding frontman. Despite the claustrophobic confines, the headband wearing Wikstrand (shirtless, beneath a leather vest) did his best to play off the substitutes and interact with the fans, pumping his fist and asking them to sing along.

Celebrating the halfway point of the lengthy tour, merch was reasonably priced, both bands offering an array of shirts for $20-25, including long sleeves. Predominately lit in pink, throughout the night, the band tore through four songs, non-stop (the aforementioned pair, as well as "Searching For You" and "Undying Evil") before the singer addressed the crowd. The titular chorus of "From Beyond" offers the first real sing-along of the night, Olof leaving the minimal riser, to be closer to the fans. The short, pre-recorded intro "Belles Of Hades" leads into "Death Rides This Night" (just as it appears on the album), as white spotlights sweep the stage and the crowd punches the air, overhead. The guitarist is rarely stationary, apart from his turn at the mic. His usual high pitched register is on display for the mid-tempo newbie/ de facto title track, "Zenith Of The Black Sun", complete with interjected voiceovers. During the twin leads section, the two axe men lean against each other, back-to-back. Blazing "Live For The Night" kicks off with a piercing shriek from Wikstrand. "See if we can raise the temperature. The next song takes you to Hell and back," was the Swede's intro to "Mesmerized By Fire", where the Canuck gets a solo spotlight, segueing into "Take Me Out Of This Nightmare", again begun with Wikstrand's stratospheric pitch. It's late, and most of the Warbringer fans have left the building, but Olof gets the remaining diehards to sing along and clap their hands overhead.

No need for the typical, "leave the stage" encore antics, plowing right into "Katana". This close up, fans can see all of Wikstrand's facial expressions. His eyes get wider as he opens his mouth, whether singing, headbanging or just mugging about. The faithful know "Midnight Vice" is the longtime closer and their calls for it are finally granted. Musical whirlwind and frenetic stage presence, what's not to like? If you haven't checked out Enforcer, do yourself a favor and correct that oversight, immediately!  

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