A few years ago, I thought we were about to experience a revival of 80's sleaze rock, to the size and scope thrash is currently seeing. Guns N Roses managed to finally put out “Chinese Democracy”, Motley Crue managed to resurrect themselves with a new album and an endless string of touring, and there were new bands like Hardcore Superstar that seemed poised to break out and become what their name already proclaimed them to be. It was that band, and in particular their song “Dreaming In A Casket” that made me believe in the sleaze renaissance. I was partially right in my assessment; the music did continue to flow, but it never made any dent in the larger scope of things.
Enforcer doesn't bill themselves as being a band of this ilk, but the labels attached to “Death By Fire” don't change the fact that sleaze is all I can think of when listening to the record. There's more of a metal edge to the guitar playing throughout the record, and more than a hint of the spirit of classic Dio, but the actual sonics of the record scream Sunset Strip. The guitar tone and vocals both give off more than a passing similarity to Motley Crue, a comparison that struck me immediately and without any effort to categorize what I was hearing.
The record puts itself behind the eight-ball less than a minute in. Already a short record at well under forty minutes, they delay in getting to the action with a pointless opening track, followed by the crashing drums and ringing guitars that would fill the space between songs at a concert when the band is trying to end a song that faded out on the record. All of this is aggravating, as short records have no business wasting time. “Death By Fire” is no epic statement needing epistolary exposition, so making me wait for my metal fix isn't the smartest decision the band could have made.
Once “Death Rides This Night” gets going, it's worth the wait. Mixing riffs from various styles of 80's rock and metal with one of those slyly melodic vocals that doesn't seem as catchy as it is until you stop and think about it, the song is a great tribute to the music the band grew up on. The record isn't able to keep up the pace, though. “Run For Your Life” has a great riff and twin-guitar solo, but the rest of the song is a standard-fare rock/metal hybrid that runs through the paces without offering up much of a gripping hook.
“Mesmerized By Fire” is centered around a gang vocal chorus that never hits on all cylinders, easily one-upped by the following “Take Me Out Of This Nightmare”, which has both a sharper riff and bigger chorus. Like “Death Rides This Night”, it's a simply put together bit of catchy-as-all-hell metal you can't help but enjoy.
But then things take a turn, as the band tries some things that aren't playing to their strengths. “Crystal Suite” is a fine enough instrumental, and better than some other that bands who aren't adept at that sort of thing try, but it's still not captivating. And then comes the slightly more extended offerings “Sacrificed” and “Silent Hour/The Conjuration”, which at well over five minutes each, are overlong entries from a band that works better in shorter doses.
“Death By Fire” is one of those records that leaves me scratching my head. “Death Rides This Night” and “Take Me Out Of This Nightmare” are both so good that I can't understand how the rest of the album isn't even in the same league. An album of tracks like those two would be something special indeed. An album consisting of the rest of the tracks on “Death By Fire” would barely get noticed. The combination merits enough attention to be heard, but will certainly have a hard time being remembered. What a shame, because those songs prove Enforcer can do great things.