Another North American headlining tour has been a long time coming for Enforcer, as the last time they made their way through the continent was back in the fall of 2009 in support of their debut full length ‘Into the Night’. Since that time the Swedish heavy metal band has released three more albums and toured Europe and the UK quite a bit, leaving fans over on this side of the world clamoring for their return. 2016 proved to be the right time, as alongside Warbringer, Cauldron, and Exmortus the group embarked on a 43 date tour. While it passed over my immediate local market (Baltimore/DC), I couldn’t miss this chance to see Enforcer as I’ve been a fan since 2010’s ‘Diamonds’, so a close to two and a half hour drive was in order to catch the very last date in Richmond, Virginia.
With the lengthy drive and a healthy dose of Northern Virginia traffic, my buddy and I missed the local openers and Exmortus (sorry guys!) and got there right in time for Warbringer. Cauldron had to drop off a day or two earlier due to a car accident in Texas, which was a bummer as I was also hyped to see them, but thankfully this is one of those situations where everyone will make a full recovery rather than ending up as another tour tragedy. Warbringer was definitely a great way to start off my evening at The Canal Club, and while I’ve never been truly blown away by their particular variant of thrash on record the last time I saw them live was an impressive display of high energy riffs and a front man who knew how to work the crowd. This was once again the case, and though the group has been through some more lineup changes since my previous encounter they tore up the stage with ease. Currently touring with Warbringer is bassist Jessie Sanchez (Bonded by Blood) and Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez (Exmortus), and they fit in well with the remaining three members. What makes a set from these guys so much fun is they never let up on energy, delivering speedy and aggressive riffs from one song to the next while singer John Kevill screams his head off and whips the crowd up into frantic moshing. It was a lengthy set complete with some encores, and while some of the band’s songs still blur together a bit for me even in a live setting there’s something about watching how much energy they bring to the stage and how much fun the members are clearly having that makes it stand out. Whether you’re a huge fan of their four full length records or find them consistent but not quite mind blowing, I’d still recommend the live performance as this is where they are at their best.
After a short changeover Enforcer took the stage and the energy level in the room immediately went up another notch. This was my first time at The Canal Club and I was impressed at the quick gaps between sets, as it isn’t uncommon to have the headliner take an extra bit of time to set up and fine tune all of their instruments. But this wasn’t the case here, as very shortly after Warbringer had finished Enforcer was already on stage letting the high flying riffs of Destroyer fill the room. It’s clear that after four albums and plenty of time on the road that these guys are definitely headline caliber, as not only did every single song they played have that larger than life presence but each member was running around the stage and getting the crowd amped up and ready to sing along during every chorus. Lead singer Olof Wikstrand never seems to run out of energy, as he ran around the stage and got the crowd involved on a regular basis, giving off the same type of charisma as the best heavy metal vocalists out there. Everything was extremely tight, and my primary concern of whether Wikstrand could hit all of the high notes that he does on Enforcer’s recordings in a live setting was addressed fairly quickly once the higher ranged came bursting out of the venue’s PA. Drummer Jonas Wikstrand didn’t make it over for this tour so the band had Warbringer’s drummer Carlos Cruz filling in, and despite the fact that he had just played a lengthy set right before he fit in perfectly with the rest of the band’s adrenaline filled performance. The group covered material from all four records, with select highlights from ‘Into the Night’ and ‘Diamonds’ being supplemented by a healthy dose of songs from the more recent albums. It was a set that covered a lot of ground in a short period of time, and like most live performance that have your eyes glued to the stage the entire time it seemed like it was over far too quickly. I’ve seen a lot of great heavy metal performances over the years but Enforcer proved they are up there with some of the best, and it was one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a band in recent memory. Hopefully it won’t be another six years before a return trip happens, because I’m already ready to see these guys tear the stage up all over again!