Tommy Lee injured himself with sparklers. Vince Neil is hitting half his notes. Mick Mars is three inches shorter than before, his lower spine frozen by disease. David Coverdale's voice crapped out. Rob Halford is using a cane. Steven Tyler fell off the wagon—and off the stage, breaking his shoulder and cutting his head.
The summer of 2009 may go down as the final season for the elders of hard rock and heavy metal. From unsuccessful tours—$10 lawn seats at last month's area Crüe Fest—to outright cancellations (Aerosmith, Ozzfest, Guns N' Roses, Rock Gone Wild), it's hard to imagine a proper rebound for the bastards and night crawlers of the nostalgia circuit. "Time to savor every time you get to still see some of these guys," writes Sirius XM DJ Eddie Trunk on his blog. "Time catches up to all of us."
Enter Enforcer, a tiny blip on the ever-darkening metal radar. The young Swedish outfit unashamedly upholds the nasty lixx and sleazy-clean vox of bands like Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., and Judas Priest. Into the Night, its full-length debut, is the shimmering metal of a quarter century ago: "Living in violence/ready to fight!" Singer Olof Wikstrand has one bombastic Halford holler; his brother, drummer Jonas, pummels at the pulse of Flying J trucker speed. Guitarist Adam Zaars' masterful leads screw righteous hooks into polished steel, while Joseph Tholl (now second guitarist) tightens it up with melodic, rapid-fire bass runs. Traditional, yes, but the group's 23-year-old frontman would prefer we not call it "retro."
"Just because we're inspired by old bands doesn't mean that we're an old-school band," he says. "Just look at a band like Metallica. They played their favorite kind of music and [made it] their own. Iron Maiden did too. That's basically '70s music or even earlier, just in an '80s kind of way." Metal's early icons haven't all become artifacts, he adds. "Look at Ronnie James Dio. He still sings like he's 20!"
Dio is 67. May he live long and prosper. For classic metal to do the same, it needs all the Enforcer it can get.