I must admit that I personally am new to Sweden’s Enforcer…..and damn am I late to the party! Since my awakening in October 2015, I have amassed their entire discography (except the Live By Fire CD/DVD released in November 2015), seen them live twice in Tokyo, Japan and even placed their 2015 studio album, From Beyond, in the #2 spot of my top albums of 2015! On basically nothing more than a whim I had brazenly (stupidly many would say) and on short notice followed “my” Toronto band, Diemonds, to see them play The Japanese Assault Festival in Tokyo. The main headliner for the two-day event was Enforcer, so I purchased From Beyond a day or so before catching the lengthy flight for my first time on the Asian continent. I spun it once while packing, so basically wasn’t even paying really any attention during all my excitement. Essentially “going in cold” these guys were severely impressive and basically blew me away in the two shows I witnessed them perform in Japan. Now, they’ve included Toronto in a stop on their current North American tour and I’m dragging Decibel Geek photographer/staff writer Shawn “Animalize” Irwin with me to the gig on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.
Enforcer called Arvika, Sweden home in the early days, but relocated to Stockholm and originally began in 2004 as a one-man project for Olof Wikstrand. The band is now made up of Wikstrand‘s younger brother Jonas (Black Trip) on drums, Joseph Tholl (Black Trip) on guitar, Tobias Lindqvist on bass and Olof handling guitars and vocals. Enforcer has crafted four studio albums starting with Into the Night (2008), Diamonds (2010), Death By Fire (2013) and 2015’s From Beyond. Being referred to as Heavy Metal, Old School Metal and Speed Metal, they are considered a part of the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal (NWOTHM) an ongoing movement that in recent years has seen the return of traditional sounding metal bands. New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal is of course taken from The New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement from the late 70’s and Decibel Geek Podcast Episode #193 showcases several of these style bands.
On an extremely cold night (well, it is Canada, eh) during an unseasonably warm winter we arrived at The Hard Luck Bar on Dundas Street in Toronto. The impressive selection of merchandise from all bands completely filling one side wall quickly drew our attention and resulted in my acquisition of the aforementioned Live By Fire CD/DVD as well as some other trinkets (and later on in the evening a Cauldron CD would be added to the haul).
Exmortus were the leaders of tonight’s metal assault. Decibel Geek staff writer “Short-Fuse” Carter had advised/alerted me to check them out, but unfortunately, they weren’t really my style. One thing, however, was beyond evident and that was how tight they were as musicians and the overwhelming guitar talents housed in this outfit. To further evidence this, “Are there any classical fans here tonight” they asked of the crowd before ripping into a piece from Beethoven.
Cauldron took over the stage next and before we had reached the halfway mark of their first song, my ears had perked up and they had my attention. Shawn noted that they had a 70’s feel to them and definitely shaded the NWOBHM movement. Perhaps it was just the mix, but I felt that Cauldron could benefit from a little more thickness of guitar or even a second slinger could be added to the three-man ensemble. They played songs such as “End of Time”, “Nitebreaker”, “No Return/In Ruin” and “Burning Fortune” among others in the set that I didn’t catch the titles of, but they were all very good. I had heard the Cauldron name before, seen the logo about, but had never heard their music until now and I was loving it from start to finish. After their set, I carefully weighed/considered my beer to merchandise money ratio and settled on obtaining only one of the two Cauldron CD’s offered at their section of the merch table. The 2015 released In Ruin CD (which after examination of the liner notes informed me was mixed and mastered by Olof Wikstrand with artwork done by Squid Hrushka, whom I’d met in Tokyo) made its way home with me.
Warbringer, a co-headliner with Enforcer, each band taking turns closing out the shows on this tour, were personally my least favourite of the event. Their style is just one that I’ve never really taken to with the gruff/growly “Cookie Monster” type of vocals. The music was heavy, and the crowd at the reasonably populated Hard Luck Bar was not all in agreement with me as there was a lot of headbanging and some moshing in effect.
At the completion of Warbringer, the front of the stage area emptied out and Shawn and I slipped quickly into spots front and centre. The crowd tightened up again as patrons had refreshed themselves after visiting the washroom, replenishing their beverages and returned stage front in preparation for Enforcer. “Destroyer” led the assault, quickly followed by “Undying Evil” which I captured on video as seen below. As you may be able to tell from that video the natives were getting restless, as they say, and the crowd quickly got quite “pushy”. By the time Enforcer peeled into their third song, “Mesmerized by Fire”, Shawn had been forced to retreat to the back in protection of his camera gear after a couple of large forceful surges/shoves from the moshing mess just behind us. “Live for the Night” saw Olof and I shouting the chorus at each other as he bent quite close and “From Beyond” strained my vocal chords to the point of rawness. Enforcer are great live, something I was eluded to in Japan, but here, again at stage front, it was driven home. They have an unmatchable, captivating energy on stage to all of them, even the “stand-in” drummer. Some border/visa issues had unfortunately arisen for Jonas Wikstrand and so Chris Mustaine has been doing a fine job of covering at the start of this tour until things are worked out and Jonas can rejoin his mates. Ironic that I’ve seen Enforcer twice now and each time there has been a stand-in as Joseph Tholl had not been in Tokyo but the guitar there being handled by Jonathan from Lethal Steel. “Death Rides This Night”, “Scream of the Savage” and “Below the Slumber” were hard driving hammer shots to my vocal chords as I sang/shouted along in all my tone deaf glory to what I perceive the words to be. During the show, I had been noticing a young lady sort of seated on the stage one person over from my vantage point. As Tobias or Olof came to the stage lip, placing a foot up on a monitor she would rub their leg. Not uncommon and I’ve seen it before, but I was convinced I’d seen things when she licked, yes licked the leg of Tobias‘ black jeans! Nope, not seeing things, she’s now tasted Olof‘s leather pants as well! Upon reflection, maybe had Doro Pesch or Priya Panda or Liv Jagrell etc been on stage……..Nah, I don’t think so! “Run for Your Life” and “Mask of Red Death” closed out the show as the band left for a few seconds before returning to serve the encore. As Enforcer started into “Katana” I relinquished my spot stage front in favour of returning the few beers I had consumed to the urinal and topping up with a fresh one. Finding Shawn at a table, we enjoyed the last two songs of “Take Me Out of This Nightmare” and “Midnight Vice” before preparing to leave. A quick pause on our way to the door resulted in a photo of The Meister with Olof and Tobias. I pointed out my Japanese Assault Fest t-shirt and reminded Olof that we had enjoyed some beverages together with Diemonds at Godz Heavy Metal Bar in Tokyo, but I’m not sure he remembered. Oh well, probably best since I don’t remember much about the later parts of that evening myself, damn Saki 🙂
LIVE PHOTOS BY: Shawn “Animalize” Irwin