Released on May 5, 2023 (Nuclear Blast)
Wow. Yep, just wow. Being simple and to the point, the latest long play from this Scandi band Enforcer, entitled Nostalgia, is just awesome and could, should, would be described with three letters “w o w” — wow! Full disclosure, I wasn’t entirely familiar with Enforcer and honestly when this album came across my desk, I was thinking of Exciter initially, so I am a newb and that’s OK as my thoughts on bands are usually positive and done so with no preconceived notions and especially no elitist blinders to spoil the artists’ work.
Back to Enforcer and shame on all of us (or some anyway) for not being aware of them as Nostalgia is the band’s sixth long play (eight if count the live albums) over the past (almost) 20 years! I know right. It also seems the band has been in a slumber since 2019’s Zenith, but I’d say everyone gets a pass over the past three years with the world being as it was. As the band’s story goes, it seems vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Olof Wikstrand started the Enforcer project in 2005 as a one man, one off, and as a band released their debut, Into The Night three years later, then wash, rinse repeat over four studio and two live albums, snowballing and evolving to where we are today — the very tasty Nostalgia.
Now before we really tuck in to the record, “nostalgia” sure is a word that is almost a taboo these days as the hipsters and “Gen Z’ers” clamor for Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and any other “radio friendly” band of the ’80s t-shirts at your local big box stores so they can post Tik Tok videos proclaiming how cool they are with the “Gen X’ers” telling the tales of a superior time (it was, at least what I remember of it), but being accepting of the new wave of actual fans of the ilk.
As Nostalgia begins, we are treated to — gulp — an instrumental entitled “Armageddon”. Now initially, seeing it being an instrumental, I was immediately taken aback, but I was relieved that it rocked, included an almost ’50s monster movie keyboard riff and it segued rather nicely into the Def Leppard “Hit N Run” emulating “Unshackle Me” which stopped my internal dialogue and reset my perspective. Everything about “Unshackle Me” harkens back to Def Lep’s “Hit N Run” from the thumping rhythm to the chug chugging guitars, the breakdown, the chorus, the solo, even Olof’s vocalizing, it’s a real solid opener and not as “heavy metal” as I was being led to believe as I read up on Enforcer.
“Coming Alive” hits next and the intro certainly does just that with the song ending-esque “stop start” that falls into a razor sharp, fast tempoed, hard rock number replete with rapid fire riffing, and soaring vocals. To my ears, this is reminiscent of Lizzy Borden’s “Kiss of Death”. Another very nice hard rock song, well written, well played and the production is certainly period specific. “Heartbeats” begins very much like a ballad with a “ding ding ding” guitar intro with vocal overlay akin to Hear ‘N Aid’s “Stars” and so many other 80’s arena rock classics, that after a couple versus Olof soars in and we have our chorus, very catchy and memorable, with electronic drum splashes thrown in for good measure during said chorus. The song’s midpoint pre-solo breakdown and beyond is a nifty little early Def Leppard throwback reminiscent of “Lady Strange” and “Switch 625”. Again I love it, but I am missing the “metal” connection with Enforcer and getting again a more typical early ’80s hard rock band, not bad in the least and actually quite nice in my opinion, but?
“Demon” is next and it falls in line with the previous tracks, but Olof’s vocals are a bit more early Dangerous Toys’ Jason McMaster or Fastway‘s Dave King, over the ’80s (lots of reverb) produced hard rock guitar rhythm. This ones definitely uptempo and would have the arena rock crowds fists pumping in the air to the tidal wave of sound. “Kiss of Death” slams in sounding like Mötley Crüe’s “Too Young To Fall In Love” on speed, blended with Accept‘s “Fast As A Shark”. This one is teetering on “metal” but I’d say its classic hard rock, with a good smattering of that L.A. sleaze rock/metal bravado we all loved that was a staple of the scene with bands like Ratt, W.A.S.P., L.A. Guns, etc, etc, etc… “Kiss of Death” is another real solid rock song that hasn’t wavered from what started our journey and I am digging it. The album’s title track, “Nostalgia”, is up next and it begins as many arena rock ballads do, guitars all by themselves with the emotional and heartfelt vocals soaring overtop. After the first couple verses and a chorus, we bring in the rest of the band and in that arena rock setting, I can see the Bic’s spark up and the sea of waiving fire creates a picture perfect setting for the Scorpions‘ “Wind of Change” (sans the whistle) reminiscent ballad. Olof hits some real nice highs in “Nostalgia”, one’s that would remind many of Sebastian Bach’s wails in “I Remember You”.
As we stumble into the back nine (or side 2) of the long play, “No Tomorrow” hits hard with another hard rock guitar drum and bass, that progresses into the verse that reminds me a great deal of the aforementioned early Def Lep, but with a nice undercurrent of Canada’s criminally underrated Brighton Rock. “No Tomorrow” is a very solid hard rock number and should appeal to everyone with bonus points to the solo, the gang vocal chorus, and the outro vocalizing replete with a killer “UGH” at its climax. “At The End of The Rainbow” is a definite hard rocking song, akin to bands like Lizzy Borden and I even get some Helloween, uptempo, but incredibly catchy and definitely driven by a pounding rhythm, but set apart with a very sing songy chorus, chock full of hooks. The pre-solo solo is an odd signature tangent, but it’s brief, well played and slams into the solo proper that just shreds. The outro vocals are quite nice, soaring and reminds me of Ray West in his prime belting out “Broken CIty, Home”.
“Metal Supremacia” is another example of Enforcer‘s ability to play fast. Fast, but so saccharine sweet with a solid chorus, some very well played drumming and bass to mirror the starts and stops littered throughout the chorus and solo. Olof certainly shows his range herein at many points and especially the outro scream. Very nice. “White Lights In The USA” is my favorite at the moment. The song starts with a monster rhythm riff and pounding bass and drums that drop off to just Olof and the drummer, who is beating the living daylights out of the kit, cruising through the verse and then the rest of the gang slams back in and we don’t look back. The chorus is fabulous, and the later variant with the ‘Ooooohhhhs’ is a very nice touch and accents Olof’s wailing of “White Lights” while the rest of the band members echo with their own gang vocal version of “White Lights” which is all on point and near perfect. This is so reminiscent of another Swedish hard rock band that is unfortunately no more called Undone and “White Lights” could easily be a part two to their epic song “Blackout”, right down to Olof’s vocals being an eerie pair to that of Undone’s vocalist Jace Ivy. Man, I really, really, really like this song.
Rounding the bend to the album’s end, “Keep The Flame Alive” starts in kind of like a Bang Tango deep cut and then slams into a really nice hard rocker that revisits the alternate timing intro and then settles back into the hard driving arena rocking verse. I really dig the catchy as all daylights chorus and the song’s underpinnings of the Scorpions classic “Dynamite”. Putting a bow on Nostalgia is what is seeming to be a staple for Enforcer, or at least this album’s sound in “When The Thunder Roars (Cross Fire)” — a rip roaring hard rocker — that will have even the staunchest of listeners bobbing their head and tapping their feet. If you’re not air guitaring and singing along, then we’ve lost you.
So in closing, Nostalgia is a real solid hard rock album. It’s written, performed and produced brilliantly. Of the 13 tracks, there is not a skip worthy moment and the band never waivers from their approach to rock your socks off. As I mentioned early on, I am not familiar with the band and my opinion and comparisons are a culmination of this album. Of which I will say again, based on this album Nostalgia, Enforcer are mis-labeled. They aren’t a metal band in the traditional sense, sorry. They don’t sound like Overkill, or Slayer or “insert band here”. They are a hard rock band and if the bands I compared them to in this write up tickle you, then Enforcer will have you in stitches, pleading for them to stop all the while begging for more. I’m a fan and will very much be looking forward to where Enforcer goes next, and I too will dig into their back catalog in the interim.
02. Unshackle Me
03. Coming Alive
06. Kiss of Death
08. No Tomorrow
09. At The End of The Rainbow
10. Metal Supremacia
11. White Lights In The USA
12. Keep The Flame Alive
13. When the Thunder Roars (Cross Fire)
Olof Wikstrand – lead vocals, guitars
Jonas Wikstrand – drums
Jonathan Nordwall – guitars, backing vocals
Garth Condit – bass
Reviewed by Terry Martinson for Sleaze Roxx, May 2023
Enforcer‘s “Coming Alive” video:
Enforcer‘s “Metal Supremacia” video: