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As old school as it gets, Enforcer won’t be changing their tune anytime soon.
Formed as a solo project by singer, guitarist and songwriter Olof Wikstrand in Sweden in 2004, Enforcer was created to pay homage to the sound, style and spirit of classic 80’s metal. Fifteen years later, Wikstrand’s vision has spawned five albums, the most recent of which is Zenith. The first to feature new guitarist Jonathan Nordwall, it shows a band continuing to hold the torch well aloft for the spirit of classic heavy metal. Eschewing the thick sound and heavy guitar crunch that modern production styles bring to the genre, Enforcer sounds like a band that fell out of a vortex directly from the mid-1980’s.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Wikstrand says of Zenith. “When you’re in the bubble, and you’re working on something every day you should try to be objective, but now that it’s out I realise how happy I am about it, and how certain songs grow and others … not as much as I expected.”
Fans of the band’s previous albums won’t be disappointed by the latest release, which holds true as ever to Enforcer’s devotion to a time older than Wikstrand himself. Zenith combines straight-up classic metal like early Iron Maiden with the later speed of bands like Exciter and Jag Panzer, and the melodic sensibilities of Scorpions, then peppers it further with hair metal-style riffs and backing vocal chants. They even drop in a long piano-driven power ballad.
No matter how good your new stuff is, some fans are always going to prefer what you’ve done before. Because that’s when they discovered you, that’s what they associate with you, those songs they discovered.
[ Olof Wikstrand ]
“You don’t want to be predictable, do you?” Wikstrand affirms, with a note in his voice that suggests it’s an accusation that’s been levelled at Enforcer in the past. “No matter how good your new stuff is, some fans are always going to prefer what you’ve done before. Because that’s when they discovered you, that’s what they associate with you, those songs they discovered. It’s almost impossible to recreate that. So being predictable is the worst thing you can possibly do.”
He doesn’t apologise for doing exactly what he likes though. When pressed on whether he thinks Zenith will live up to what Enforcer’s fans have come to expect from the band, he quite assertively declares, “The only thing I care about or am concerned about is my own expectations.” On the other side of the coin, he admits that there are times when he isn’t certain those expectations will be met.
“You always go through periods of doubt, particularly when you’re working on something. Making an album is very emotionally draining. Once you’re done and you get to the point where the songs are close to where they are in your head when you first started, it’s ok, but there’s a long period of doubt before that.”
He speaks with the air of confidence that comes from being in the game for half a lifetime. In the early days, Wikstrand covered all bases himself, from composing and singing to playing all the instruments. Now, he has the support and security of a full band to help him achieve his musical goals, and while but he’s careful to admit that endeavouring to up the ante with each release gets progressively more difficult, being part of a band makes it a whole lot easier.
“Of course it helps, writing when you’re a band and performing as a band,” he says. “I found the first album very easy to write because it just came together so easily and we were also building our own identity at the time. It seemed like the inspiration was endless. Now we have this expectation of yourself after each and every album, it seems to get harder each time to produce something that’s better than your last effort. So in those terms, if you have such high expectations on yourself and you really put the bar up there, that’s getting harder, but it helps to get a different perspective on things [in a band situation], which is really really helpful.”