ENFORCER - Zenith
April 17, 2019, a month ago
Been a long wait, as the Swedish speedsters had just started to crack international stardom, with 2015's From Beyond (and virtually simultaneously issued live disc, as well as a long overdue North American trek). As if to make the hiatus more palatable, Enforcer have an identical, albeit Spanish language, version of Zenith hitting the shelves on the same day! Regardless of language barriers, not sure if this far-reaching platter is precisely what fans expected at this juncture. Know you're getting older, it's more difficult to constantly play on 10 and you don't want to do the same album every time, but Death By Fire and the aforementioned From Beyond successfully transitioned from the high energy, but somewhat glammy Diamonds. Perhaps one more speed metal classic was in order to establish global dominance before this stylistic roll of the dice.
Raw edges honed by big production and a governor restraining the accelerator, pre-release single “Die For The Devil” kicks off these ten inclusions with a heavy dose of ‘80s commercialism and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Think the initial (pre-MTV) Great White EP. More British hard rock than Sunset Strip, with blond guitarist Olaf Wikstrand's high pitched vocal register at the fore. After a mid-tempo start, meat & potatoes “Zenith Of The Black Sun” (Euro pronounced Zen -ith, first syllable like the Eastern philosophy, rhyming with Ken, as opposed to long E sound) revs up, come the final third.
Three songs in before anything approaching the usual frenetic pace surfaces, on “Searching For You”: verses storming, the chorus slower. “Regrets” ballad begins with lone piano accompaniment, a pronounced feel of Ghost. Can't help but feel the success of their satanic countrymen (in the timeframe since the last Enforcer outing) served an impetus, both in terms of music and titles like “Forever We Worship The Dark” and that early single. Rather than a compilation of strong songs, these ten tracks feel more like a concept album/soundtrack.
Like much of Zenith, the deliberate plod of “The End Of The Universe” seem geared to audience call and response lyrics. Melodically, borrows a bit from Metallica's “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. The fluffy lilt of guitar jangling “Sail On” follows, a complete throw-away, even with the guitar interplay that characterizes its second half. A recurrent keyboard accent punctuates the poppy “One Thousand Years Of Darkness”, while “Thunder And Hell” is the only inclusion I could see being part of any previous disc, even with the atypical classical guitar solo/coda. At 6:56, the meandering, mid-tempo “Ode To Death” finale encompasses all that has come before (at least in terms of this work, not their career), including string scratching, electrified acoustic intro and orchestral embellishments.
Love the band, but not this studio effort. Will be interested to see how well (if?) this material works in the live set, especially juxtaposed with early, speed metal gems. 54 dates, this fall, September & October!