Enforcer: The MetalKult Interview
When asked about playing an old-school music style, Olof Wikstrand—singer and founder of young Swedish speed/heavy metal band Enforcer—answered, “heavy metal is timeless.” Fittingly, one listen to the band’s latest release, Diamonds, isn’t a throwback to 1983, but rather a documentation of five classicly-minded dudes playing classic heavy metal in 2010.
Formed in 2004 as a solo project of Wikstrand’s, the group released their blistering debut, Into the Night, four years later via Heavy Artillery. Though the band is rapidly gaining attention and success (with even an unexpected name-drop by Lady Gaga’s DJ, Lady Starlight), they recently suffered a major blow: the departure of lead guitarist Adam Zaars.
The remaining members—guitarist Joseph Tholl, bassist Tobias Lindqvist and drummer (and Olof’s younger brother) Jonas Wikstrand—vow to carry on with their relentless touring and deliver the goods the only way they know how: pure, heavy and fast.
While I was over in Bergen, Norway for the Hole in the Sky Festival last August, I caught up with Zaars, Tholl and Wikstrand shortly after their set to talk about touring North America, success, Diamonds and heavy metal in their native Sweden.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Enforcer.
You guys went on a full-scale North American tour in 2009 with Cauldron. How was that?
JOSEPH THOLL It was sort of like a test for us. After doing a tour like that, we now know that we can do any tour. I mean, most bands who go through a long tour like that—five weeks with nine guys stuffed in a van—would probably say, maybe this isn’t what we are supposed to do, and break up. We enjoyed every second of it, even though it wasn’t a luxurious tour.
ADAM ZAARS I think it was a step in the right direction for us. We planted a seed over there, and I’m happy to say that we’ve done it though I wouldn’t headline Texas ever again.
THOLL It also varied from state to state. Like, the coasts and major cities were really good to us, whereas the middle part of the country wasn’t. Looking back, I can say that it wasn’t a good idea to play Texas as a headliner…or Idaho.
What’s the difference between touring in Europe and in North America?
THOLL Ugh, the drives! America is much bigger than Europe, but Europe is good to us all around.
OLOF WIKSTRAND But, like America, the big cities in Europe are better than the small ones. I would say the biggest difference is the distance between towns in America. We had to travel like 16 hours between shows where it would take us like three in Europe.
Are you guys ever surprised that you’re gaining recognition and success by playing such a traditional style in today’s contemporary metal scene?
WIKSTRAND It’s very hard to say. When we write music, it has always been for ourselves.
THOLL I personally feel that we’re on a much higher level than what I expected. I know that there are many people in the underground who loves this music, but I’ve been seeing a lot of people who aren’t music freaks that really enjoy what we do, too. And that’s really good.
WIKSTRAND We always knew what we wanted to achieve, but our goals are always higher than what we set. It wasn’t that surprising when we were able to play big festivals like Band Your Head or Metal Camp because we’ve always had a much higher goal in mind. We enjoy it, of course, but we are still aiming for the top.
Let’s talk about Diamonds. The album has a sound that is very different than most other metal albums from 2010, especially with the guitars. They have a very classic sound to them.
WIKSTRAND We wanted to achieve a sound that was eternal, where every instrument has its own part.
THOLL Yeah, when I was recording, I didn’t think about the Seventies or Eighties. I was just thinking about a good guitar sound—a sound that comes straight from the amp, and I was using a 1969 Vox amp. That’s a good guitar sound.
WIKSTRAND We wanted the guitars to sound like guitars, not when they are put into the mixer and “right in your ears!” A guitar plugged into an amplifier will give you a guitar sound and that’s what we wanted.
ZAARS I guess we could have experimented with 20 different amps, but we didn’t. A Marshall JCM900 and a 1969 Vox amp will always give us a good sound. I mean, we’re not guitar nerds. I could care less about the technical side of amps but this is what fits our needs.
The songs on Diamonds are more cohesive than your debut, Into the Night. Were there any goals in mind during the writing process?
WIKSTRAND The basic difference this time was that we had nothing to start with. We built everything up from the beginning rather than record songs we already had, like the first album. We wrote songs with more dynamics and different parts this time around. Also, we all worked together in a different way than we had on Into the Night, as we wanted Diamonds to be an album—where you put it on and listen to it from the first song to the last in one sitting and find all the parts interesting every time.
Do you remember the moment that made you decide this is what you want to do?
THOLL Megadeth got me into this mess.
ZAARS Kiss. The first time I watched Ace Frehley play, I knew I wanted to be a guitar player.
WIKSTRAND I first heard Metallica when I was four years old and I was completely sold.
Is heavy metal accepted in Swedish society?
WIKSTRAND My interest in heavy metal is purely based on my dedication to it. The only reason why I do this is because I love it.
ZAARS It’s what Darkthrone said: we were “raised on rock.” [laughs]
Being from Scandinavia, why do you think that region of the world has such a huge amount of metal bands?
THOLL Well, in Sweden, we have a lot of great bands in all genres—not just metal.
ZAARS I think it’s because we have such a rich history of music, especially pop music.
WIKSTRAND From ABBA to the Cardigans and to anything, really, Sweden has everything for everyone. You can dig into anything and find something you will like and I think that’s a part of why heavy metal is so good there.
There’s been a lot of interest in classic heavy metal from younger people these days. What do you think of it?
ZAARS I see it as a double-edged sword. There are, of course, good bands and there will be some bad ones who are in it for the wrong reasons. The good thing about this current interest is the publicity: more people are starting to get into heavy metal music. The bad thing is that there will always be people who just follow what other people like and that ultimately makes some bands sound like crap and pollute the scene. It happens in every “revival,” where the good, real bands stay together and the ones that aren’t disappear. It always happens.
Finally, what’s next for Enforcer?
WIKSTRAND Touring our asses off!