It’s no secret that the crossover thrash revival has been alive and well in the metal community for some time. Whether it’s through the political savagery of Havok, Warbringer’s progressive darkness, the hardcore punk flirtations of Red Death, Iron Reagan’s raucous party ethos, the speedy Kreator-worship of Forseen, or the ‘Texan Takeover’ spearheaded by the unholy trio of Power Trip, Iron Age, and Skeleton—the last decade has been a total boon for twentieth-first century thrashers.
And yet, more than thirty years on from the defining era of the American Big Four—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax for those playing at home—the mark of great crossover thrash has always been the ability to walk a fine line between imitation and innovation. Lean too hard to the former and you risk becoming a nostalgia act that refuses to grow and evolve. Too far to the latter, and you end up diluting the authenticity of the genre with a kitchen-sink approach to new ideas.
Thankfully, Virginian riff merchants Enforced navigate this dichotomy with ease. On Kill Grid, their first full-length LP and Century Media debut, the Richmond quintet expand upon the sonic template of 2019’s At The Walls, further cementing their frontrunner status in the crossover thrash stakes.
Recorded throughout the early months of last year’s global pandemic—engineered by long-time friend Bob Quirk (Memory Loss, Misled Youth), alongside mixing and mastering from Philly maestro Arthur Rizk (Cavalera Conspiracy, Power Trip)—it’s hard to listen to Kill Grid without framing the release through a topical, ‘of the moment’ lens.
Pre-release singles like “Malignance” make this connection explicit, with vocalist Knox Colby’s gruff shout calling out social division and ideologies of hatred and violence against razor-sharp leads from axe-slinging duo Will Wagstaff and Zach Monahan. Opener “The Doctrine” pairs spiraling dive-bombs with finger-melting solos, while the outro to the frenetic blast of “Beneath Me” sounds like a sonic steamroller, recklessly crushing everything in its path.
With only nine tracks and a lean 40-minute runtime, Kill Grid is an exemplar of the ‘all killer, no filler’ approach to heavy music. There’s just enough dynamic range and song-writing variation on offer here for Enforced to keep things interesting and the listener fully engaged, without getting completely derailed.
“Hemorrhage,” “Blood Ribbon” and “UXO” feature the kind of relentless, chugging devastation found in the hallowed halls of the early Slayer and Exodus catalogue, strengthened by the tight rhythmic lock-step of bassist Ethan Gensurowsky and drummer Alex Bishop. Things also get dark and stormy on longer compositions like closer “Trespasser” and the album’s seven-minute-plus title track, the latter bookended by a swirling maelstrom of electronic feedback, distorted vocals, and assorted other Rizk-isms.
Album stand-out “Curtain Fire” is the closest Enforced have come to a mighty thrash anthem, complete with neck-injury riffs, pounding percussive breaks, and fist-pumping gang vocals. With any luck, it won’t be long until Enforced became a household name among thrash circles of any generation. And if they do, Kill Grid will be the monument that put them there.
Purchase and stream Kill Grid here.