While I’ve said this many times already in the past, allow me to go completely ‘fan boy’ here again for just a second; I cannot stress it enough how Sweden’s Enforcer are the real deal, and possibly the best, true heavy metal band to emerge in the past two decades. It was an absolute blast to finally catch them live and review one of their shows for Rewind It Magazine back in 2019 (see attached photo above), and even more of a thrill meeting frontman Olof Wikstrand (among others) shortly after the show. It was just as much of an honor getting a chance to pick Wikstrand’s brain recently about the band’s latest release, Live By Fire II, which was actually recorded on the same 2019 North American tour in Mexico City.
One of the first things I asked him about was why the band choose Mexico City to record a live album, and he explained; “I think Mexico City is one of the greatest places in the entire world to play traditional metal. It has a great scene for it, and the people are incredibly enthusiastic about music in general, so I’m very grateful to go there as an artist. We also had the full lineup for it – we’ve been touring a little bit with session musicians lately – so this was a good chance to capture a show that we had the entire lineup of the band together for once. We also had good ticket sales for this one, so we knew that it was going to be something special.”
He continued; “Another reason was we had a good venue that we could set up exactly how we wanted, both in terms of sound, as well as stage. And we had a full headline slot to preform, so we could basically do anything we wanted with this show, and it was a great opportunity not to miss. I think we decided that same week that we were going to record the show, and we flew in our Swedish light guy about five days prior, just to do the show. So it was a spontaneous decision, but it worked out really well. When you get so much back from the audience and you really get the energy flowing, it makes you play so much better. I think we did a pretty good show, I think it was the second out of fifty-eight shows that we did in North America in 2019.”
Something about Enforcer’s style, and Wikstrand’s songwriting, has always struck me as uniquely authentic. So I wanted to know just where some of that inspiration came from. He told me; “I’ve been into heavy metal for the majority of my life. I think when I was like three or four I started to get into The Rolling Stones because of my dad. And then a year or two after I was introduced to Metallica by an older cousin, and that must have been around ’91 because it was right around the time of The Black Album. My parents come from a very musical background, so I had the interest for music already, and when that interest met with heavy metal, I thought that that was the coolest thing in the universe; it was like this mixture had set something special on fire.
He explained a bit further; “It started with a little bit of a thrash wave in the beginning (Megadeth, Slayer, etc…), and then I got more into death metal for awhile, and then I wandered out into Scandinavian black metal when I was a mid-teenager, before going back to thrash, heavy metal and classic rock more recently. So it’s been a lot of different phases throughout my entire life, and I’d say that I’m inspired by pretty much everything that’s ever touched me musically.”
I was curious what some of the tracks Wikstrand enjoyed performing live the most were. He stated; “I think the best songs to perform live are the ones where you get the most instant feedback from the crowd. Usually songs like “Destroyer,” “From Beyond,” or “Die For the Devil” create so much movement from the crowd, and you can feel so much energy coming back from them to you on stage.” I was also wondering if there were any forgotten songs in the band’s catalog that the band might consider resurrecting someday. He said; “I used to really liked “Roll the Dice” from our second album – that’s one that I would personally like to get back. But it’s also a little hard to bring them back if the crowd doesn’t want to hear them. So if it’s songs that haven’t really made an impact on people, then it’s hard to play them live because it will kind of kill the vibe. I think the track list that we have right now is the product of years of trial and error to find the right songs that work the best live.”
I couldn’t help but notice how the piano-driven ballad “Regrets” from their last studio album, Zenith, had not made it into said live sets, and inquired why this was. He replied; “We tried to it with the piano backtracked first, but it didn’t really feel genuine. Then we tried to do a guitar version in place of the piano, but it didn’t feel the same, really. So we have not yet been able to find a way to perform that live in a genuine way. We might still play it in the future , but it also depends on the demand of the song. And with a song seemingly so deep, I wanted to know if there was any meaning behind the lyrics. He stated; “The lyrics weren’t really inspired by anything in particular, but the original idea was to make it as dark as possible, with the thought of the love for something being beyond reach.”
With concerts slowly creeping in again, yet still up in the air for nearly any band on the planet, I of course had to ask what the band’s future live agenda looked like. He informed me; “We’ve had a European tour scheduled that has moved forward twice now. I think I’m in a state where I don’t want to book anything right now because it just feels so frustrating to keep having to move it forward and forward. I guess we have to wait this out and keep trying to come up with other creative ways of putting exposure towards the band. I think this year has shown that you don’t necessarily have to be touring on such a high level to create exposure for your band, and you can do that on social media instead. But we’ve had great responses from almost everything we’ve been doing on social media, and the contact with the fans has been the greatest thing. That’s something we’re definitely going to focus on in the future.”
But that has not slowed down Wikstrand’s creativity much. As far as the band’s future goes, he assured me; “I’ve been writing songs, and I think I’ve been more creative these last twelve months than I’ve been in the past twelve years. So it’s been very nice to have all the pressure off of touring/playing live and that whole aspect of the band, and hopefully we can actually get into the studio soon and record the follow up to Zenith. We have focus on growth almost everyday with every step we do as a band, and I hope to be able to keep taking this concept to the next level and get the music out there. That’s the only focus that I have, and it’s always been.”