Live Review: Enforced - Rough Trade, Bristol
28th June 2022
Words & Photos: Paul Hutchings
2021’s ‘Kill Grid’ saw Richmond’s thrash crossover outfit Enforced make the metal world sit up and take notice. It was an album that got fans of thrash and extreme metal excited, and it rightly figured highly in those contentious end of year lists.
Like many US bands, travelling across the pond has been a challenge and so it’s been pleasing to see Enforced scatter-gunning their way across the UK as well as Europe as the festival season gets well and truly underway. Ten days before, the band were ripping Hellfest’s gargantuan festival a new one, before stops in Belgium and Germany saw them arrive in the UK for a support slot with Blood Incantation at the Underworld followed by an appearance at Uprising.
After all that, finding yourself in a record shop with a small back room for live music on a rainy Tuesday night in Bristol must have been a change in tempo and atmosphere. A paltry crowd of 30 or so dedicated fans arrived and shuffled around the venue in typically introverted metalhead fashion, snapping up rare vinyl copies of ‘At the Walls’ and the remaining tour merch but struggling to hold conversations elsewhere. All the while vocalist Knox Colby and other members of Enforced watched on with a look that combined mild amusement with resignation. Chugging back their Red Stripe at least dulling the pain.
One couldn’t help but understand the excitement that London youngsters Thrasherwolf must have felt having grabbed the support slot. Dan Lucas and band hauled their carcasses through the M4 network for what on paper looked a tasty opportunity. Whether they feel so thrilled the morning after, one can only imagine.
Bang on 8pm, Thrasherwolf clambered on stage in the half light and haze of the music room, squinted in the darkness and hit the accelerator as ‘Good Old-Fashioned Violence’ signalled the start of their 35 minutes. For those familiar with the band, then you’ll know that Dan Lucas is a child of the 1980s, despite his tender years. Dressed similarly to how I did in 1985, with white high-tops, cut off jacket plastered in patches and tight black jeans, he lives and breathes thrash metal.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years since the band released ‘We Are Revolution’ and the songs from that album formed the bulk of the set. The band slowly warmed up, as did the crowd, throwing in a rare version of ‘The Pack’ for the first time in over two years, bringing a promising new track to life and even having the courage to drag the Metallica style ‘Ruin’ out, with Lucas offering the band’s support to anyone who is struggling at any time. A generous and heartfelt gesture, and one you’d have no doubt they’d fulfil. As the finale of ‘The Vortex’ rang out, Lucas made one more circle of the room, bassist Alex Mitsis took a flying leap from the top of the amps and the assembled fans roared their approval. Maybe it wasn’t in vain after all.
Scattered around the main area of the venue, there was sudden panic as a wall of noise emanated from the live room. Rushing back in, a sigh of relief as Enforced were merely sound checking. Five minutes later and vocalist Knox Colby, guitarists Will Wagstaff and Zack Monahan, bassist Ethan Gensurowsky and drummer Alex Bishop were intent on providing one of the most intense sets I’ve ever witnesses.
Colby commands the stage, a gruff, grisly bear of a man who roars rather than sings, and who eyes the crowd with distrust, bar the occasional urging for the assembled throng to get stuck in. The power is immense, the driving drumming of Bishop powering the band forward. Having recovered from the face-melting opening, those at the front began to bang their heads, and slowly and surely a small but frantic mosh pit opened as the aggression in the music took control.
Having been hammered by Enforced’s sheer brutality for the first 30 minutes, the stunned and bemused silence that morphed into disbelief as Enforced said “thanks …” and were gone was the complete antithesis! A few minutes passed before the realisation that Enforced were not coming back slowly dawned on the audience and we filed out, disconsolate into the rainy half-light. What we’d seen was incredible, raw, and ferocious. It was like being allowed to stay up til 9:00pm when a kid … only for the visitors to arrive at 9:10pm.
When contacting Enforced the following day, I was surprised to receive a message that said they had only prepared for a 30-minute set as that was all they were playing.
All photo credits: Paul Hutchings