I often lament the state of current metal, and how so many of us seem to have lost our way over the course of these many years. There was a time when metal bands didn't consider it a sin to write songs that were melodic, hooky, and memorable. If a song caught on with people who weren't the truest of the true, it was a good thing, because it meant more people might start listening. Nowadays, that attitude is all but gone, and anyone who isn't already a metal fan is shunned from entry, due to the retrograde thinking that has taken over metal songwriting. Metal songs are now written as metal first, and songs second, which is the opposite of how it should be done. Kayser, thankfully, proclaims that they are not part of this downward slide, that they want to write and play metal like the old days.
Of course, the old days are long gone, and no one can recreate them. The best we can hope for is an album that captures the right spirit, even if we know it is mostly a deliberate decision. Kayser may aspire to the old days of metal, but they don't hit upon the right formula to claim that lineage. Their music is rooted in the past, but lacks the flair and immediacy that made the best of those records great. Kayser's music is not unlike a Hollywood remake; technically proficient, hitting the right notes, but missing the soul.
For a guitar fan, Kayser has plenty to offer. “Read Your Enemy” captures a massive guitar tone, and utilizes the simplicity of their riffs to great advantage. The riffs that carry songs like the opening “Bark And Bow” are pulled from the past, and they rely on their ease to become the most memorable parts of the songs. You can hum along to all the guitar work on the album, which is the way it should be. You don't need to be a contortionist to play air guitar along with these songs, only a decent sense of rhythm.
Instrumentally, “Read Your Enemy” is a fine mix of thrash and classic heavy metal, not sounding unlike Testament. The songs pound along with the relentless pace of thrash, which the solos bring melodic flair that is much needed. There's little, if anything, to complain about on that end of things. Kayser plays their music well. What needs to be said, however, is that there are two sides to the equation, and Kayser doesn't fare quite as well on the other one.
The songwriting on “Ready Your Enemy” leaves me wanting. I enjoy big riffs as much as anyone, but there needs to be a song wrapped around them, which is something I can't say often enough about these songs. There are some, like “I'll Deny You”, that do a fabulous job of balancing the metallic fury with a strong hook, but most of the songs are lacking that element. Vocally, the album falls short of where it needs to be. Kayser has the music to make an ass-kicking modern metal record, but the vocals and the melodies aren't up to par. The songs get held back by the vocal performance, which is that mixture of screaming and singing that drives me crazy, and too often replaces real hooks with simple chanting.
I wanted to like “Read Your Enemy” more than I do, since they deliver the kind of roaring heavy guitars that are up my alley, but there aren't enough songs here. There is a lot to like in the album, and people who can tune out vocals will surely love it, but for me “Ready Your Enemy” is a decent album that won't be added to the list of metal albums that are able to showcase the potential of metal songwriting.