Album Review: Helloween – Self-Titled (Nuclear Blast Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

In more recent times, classic power metal act Helloween reunited with two of its core members; guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen and singer Michael Kiske, each returned to the band in 2016 to form one of the most solidified lineups in the group’s history to date, bringing its current membership up to seven.

The result is this twelve track, self-titled collection of new material (their first new studio album overall since 2015), which finds the band utilizing three vocalists at once for the first time ever. There’s some great moments found through out, with “Fear of the Fallen” leading the charge. Other tracks like “Mass Pollution” and “Indestructible” are some of the heaviest in the band’s career to date.

However, the end result is not completely flawless, either. “Skyfall” and “Out for the Glory” contain some impressive guitar work, but could easily lose the casual listener’s attention with their longer run times (the non-single version of the latter actually clocks in at over twelve minutes). And “Angels” feels incomplete, as if it can’t really decide what it wants to be.

There will always be plenty of naysayers out there looking down on Helloween for past “cheesy” moments (see: the music video for “Halloween”). But the more sophisticated listener should be able to appreciate the band’s highlighted technical skills, and recognize that Helloween have aged gracefully, worthy of being put alongside such contemporaries in the sub-genre as Queensryche or DragonForce.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: KennyHoopla – Survivors Guilt: The Mixtape// (Columbia Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Last year when newcomer KennyHoopla dropped the brilliant single “how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway?//,” it was apparent there was something uniquely special about this rising star. Now barely even a year later, he proves to be more than just a fluke with this brand new eight-song release.

Listeners first caught glimpse of Survivors Guilt: The Mixtape last November via the straight-to-the-point, 2-minute single and video, “estella//,” which also features Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker on it. Along the way, there’s painstakingly heartfelt slices of pop punk, indie, and emo that perfectly echo the soundtrack to youth. Tracks like “silence is also an answer//,” “smoke break//,” “turn back time//,” and latest single, “hollywood sucks//,” all display the singer’s raw talent and energy perfectly.

Every once in awhile, an act will come along and help restore my love of a music genre that I have often largely lost faith in. KennyHoopla has done just that, and if he keeps this up, he’s sure to lead the way at the top of his very own movement for years to come.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Little Ozzy at Oasis on the River in Sanford, FL on 6/12/21 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

I’ll be completely blunt here; when it comes to tribute and/or cover bands, I can sometimes border on the “snob-ish” side (my attitude has always been, ‘why would I want to see imitators, if I’ve already seen the original?’). But when it’s done right, a tribute/cover act can sometimes come close to being as fun as the real thing. Such was the case with 4’10 singer Lin Doak, otherwise known to the world as Little Ozzy, who along with his band, rocked Oasis on the River in Sanford this past Saturday, June 12.

Over the course of just a few years, Little Ozzy has climbed his way to the top as one of the world’s leading Ozzy Osbourne tribute acts, even appearing on such multiple TV shows including America’s Got Talent and Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour. And while I have already seen the actual Prince of Darkness himself before, both solo and with Black Sabbath (in 1997 and 2004, respectively), I knew there was something special enough about Little Ozzy to get me to put my usual reservations towards tribute bands aside for one night.

My gut instincts quickly proved right, as the band – which also consists of guitarist Johnny Lawrence, bassist Aaron Rowe, and drummer Draven Blaq – took the stage just after 9:00pm, opening with a one-two punch of “I Don’t Know” and “Crazy Train” (really the only appropriate way to introduce a set of Ozzy classics at this point). Adding to the overall decadence of the evening was the atmosphere of the venue Oasis itself; with a pool filled with bathing beauties directly in front of the stage, there was plenty for the eyes to behold.

I was pleasantly surprised when the band followed up with a bit of a deep cut in the form of “Believer,” before segueing into a number of Sabbath staples that included “Iron Man,” “Children of the Grave” (one of my personal favorites), and “Sweet Leaf.” Solos from Blaq and Lawrence sandwiched more hits like “Mama I’m Coming Home,” “War Pigs,” and “Suicide Solution,” before Little Ozzy told a brief story of meeting late Ozzy guitarist Randy Rhoads’ brother, Kelly.

The band then slowed things down a bit for a spot-on version of “Goodbye to Romance” (always a favorite), before finally calling it a night with epic renditions of “Mr. Crowley,” “Shot in the Dark,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Although their set was nearly flawless, I found it odd that mega hit “Bark at the Moon” was omitted from the set, and I would personally love to hear more forgotten tracks like “Breaking All the Rules” included as well (but that’s just me).

Still, there really wasn’t all that much to complain about Saturday night’s show. So the next time Little Ozzy comes through your town, be sure to catch him and his band if you can; it’s sure to put an Ozzy-size smile on your face!

Album Review: Mammoth WVH – Self-Titled (EX1 Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

The passing of iconic Van Halen guitarist/co-founder Eddie Van Halen last October sent a tidal wave of shock across rock communities the world over. Shortly after, Ed’s son (and most recent Van Halen bassist) Wolfgang dropped the emotionally-driven single “Distance,” a heartfelt track that served as a fitting tribute to his late father and resonated deeply with just about anyone who has ever experienced the lost of a loved one (present company included).

That first single was telling of what Wolfgang had been single-handedly putting together on his own for his debut solo album, which offers listeners a new prospective on the Van Halen legacy. Tracks like “Don’t Back Down,” “Stone,” and “Think It Over” feel as though they’d fit right in at the local watering hole on any given night of the week. That’s not to say there’s not a few weak spots, though; “Mammoth” and “The Big Picture” feel slightly forced, almost straining to sound modern while lacking much excitement.

No matter the caliber of song found here, there’s no denying the sheer talent and dedication put into this debut effort. One thing is apparent; this is only the start for Wolfgang Van Halen, who is sure to be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Atreyu – Baptize (Spinefarm Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Remember when a host of young bands began to emerge in the late ’90s/early ’00s to create an exciting new sub-genre known now as metalcore? Atreyu were one of the leading bands at the forefront of the movement, but unfortunately seemed to lost their way for a minute there (I can barely even remember much from their last release, 2018’s In Our Wake, which I also reviewed at the time for another publication). Thankfully, the band finally seems to be fully back on track again.

And like many, I too had doubts whether an Atreyu without now-former frontman Alex Varkatzas would be worthwhile or not. But Brandon Saller (who was already half of the band’s voice from behind his drum kit) and bassist Marc McKnight have done more than admirable jobs in his place. Any reservations I may have had about the lineup change were quickly dissipated quickly upon first listen of Baptize.

While I wasn’t too blown away by the generic-sounding first track the band released from Baptize as a single, “Save Us” (still probably my least favorite song on the album), its follow ups in the shape of “Warrior” (featuring Blink-182’s Travis Barker), “Underrated,” and the title track, were much more exciting numbers. But like any great album, the true magic is in the deep cuts, which are just as eclectic as ever here. Saller really belts his heart out on more emotionally-driven numbers like “Dead Weight” and “Stay,” while the band is firing on all cylinders on tracks like the Iron Maiden-inspired “Weed,” and the just-for-fun “Fucked Up.”

In all honestly, I was completely expecting to give just another mediocre review here. But I’m glad I approached Baptize with an open mind. It not only had me revisiting much of their older material, but helped to reignite a love for a band I forgot I once had so long ago.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Retrospective: 30 Years Since we Learned ‘The Secret of the Ooze’ By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Growing up a kid in the ’80s, I completely devoured everything the decade had to offer a kid my age. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were my world, and the films spawned by the latter of course became a monumental event for just about any kid around at the time.

Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the ‘heroes in a half-shell’ first came to life when their first comic book was published via Mirage Studios in 1984. But like many kids at the time, they didn’t appear on my radar until the animated TV series appeared a few years later in 1987, after which they became a household name, and a full-on worldwide phenomenon. From then on, every kid in America was clamoring for the action figures and having Ninja Party-themed birthday parties, where each kid wanted to be their personal favorite turtle (which most of the time was Michelangelo).

By 1990 the franchise was at it’s peak, and we were finally treated with a feature length film. It was an event that every young boy just had to take a part of at the time, and we all thought we were in on something ‘cool’ that our parents were just not hip to (in some cases movie goers were even given small promotional posters upon arrival to the theater, something I wish I had held on to til this day). Then just one short year later, we were given a second film when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, was released upon our young minds on March 22, 1991. Again I was right there in the theater watching the sequel with one of my older sisters, not knowing at the time it would ultimately be the beginning of the end of my Ninja Turtles craze.

Directed by Michael Pressman, the second Ninja Turtles film was much lighter in tone in comparison to it’s predecessor. And while many of the actors from the first film returned for the sequel, there were some changes to the cast, most noticeably Paige Turco taking over for Judith Hoag as April O’ Neil, and Adam Carl stepping in for Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. The turtles also befriend a new alley in the form of Keno (Ernie Reyes, Jr.) in a role similar to Casey Jones (who is strangely absent without any explanation). Another difference those with a keen eye might spot is the limited use of the turtles’ weapons. This was done purposely by filmmakers in an effort to reduce the violence in the movie.

Donatello at Vanilla Ice show at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, FL on 5/22/21 (Photo by Brooke Striewski).

In this entry, the turtles discover that The Shredder (Francois Chau) survived their final battle at the end of the first film, and still has a few remaining loyalists of the Foot Clan in his corner. They also learn their own origins when their master, Splinter (Kevin Clash) explains their mutation was the result of direct contact with a radioactive substance (i.e. the ‘ooze’) manufactured by a company called TGRI. The Shredder of course learns of this, and creates two mutants of his own, Tokka and Rahzar, in an attempt to combat the turtles (for whatever reason, these characters were used in place of Bebop and Rocksteady from the cartoon). The inevitable conclusion finds the turtles facing off and defeating The Shredder and the new mutants in a club where rapper Vanilla Ice (in his film debut) happens to be performing, and conveniently introduces the song “Ninja Rap.’

The Secret of the Ooze grossed over $78 million at the box office domestically, and was followed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III two years later in 1993, which was panned by critics and signaled a decline in Ninja Turtles popularity. This was further cemented when a live action TV series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (which introduced the first female turtle, Venus de Milo), came and went briefly in 1997-98.

The franchise laid dormant for several years until 2003, when a new animated series produced by Fox appeared. This helped lead to another feature film, the animated TMNT, in 2007. The series lasted until 2010, and was followed by yet another animated show, this time produced by Nickelodeon, from 2012-17, as well as a reboot film in 2014 starring Megan Fox and produced by Michael Bay, which in turn had it’s own sequel, Out of the Shadows, in 2016 (audiences finally saw the appearance of Bebop and Rocksteady on the big screen for the first time with the latter).

Today, the franchise is still in the hands of Nickelodeon, with Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being the latest incarnation as of 2018, and the Ninja Turtles are more popular now more than ever. This was evidenced when just this month, Vanilla Ice threw a Secret of the Ooze 30th anniversary show in Cocoa Beach, complete with appearances by both Michelangelo and Donatello on stage (see attached photos) that my family and I were in attendance for. It was a reminder of both a brief moment of time that those of us who were there ‘back in the day’ experienced together, and validation that that moment was truly something special to be a part of.

Vanilla Ice (center) performing onstage with Michelangelo (among others) at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, FL on 5/22/21 (Photo by Brooke Striewski).

Interview with Actor Sean Kanan By Jesse Striewski

There’s no doubt been a resurgence of interest in The Karate Kid franchise ever since the characters were brought back to the screen in 2018 for the hit sequel series, Cobra Kai. Actor Sean Kanan is no stranger to the Karate Kid universe, portraying Cobra Kai member Mike Barnes, who to date remains the final member of the revered dojo to officially take on Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in a match in 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III. Today, Kanan is not only still acting, he’s also an accomplished writer, having recently published his latest book, Way of the COBRA, last month. In a recent phone conversation, I was able to speak to him regarding highlights from earlier in his career, up to his latest published work.

But before he ever donned the famous Cobra Kai Gi outfit, Kanan had already trained in martial arts, and was one of only a handful of actors to have actually studied karate before being cast in one of the films. So one of the first things I wanted to ask him was what it was like to get into karate around the young age of thirteen. He explained; “You know, it really had a profound effect on me. I was kind of this undisciplined kid, and I definitely needed some discipline. Martial arts gave me confidence, and taught me humility and respect, and how to deal with people empathetically. It really had a significant impact on my life.”

He continued; “My martial arts school was eventually transformed into a larger organization, and at the head of that was a man named Master Fumio Demura, and he was actually Pat Morita’s stunt double. And when I came back later to finish my degree at UCLA and pursue acting, he told me they were going to be hiring the new ‘bad guy’ for the latest Karate Kid movie, and that I should try to audition. Long story short, I went to an open call with about two thousand people, and John Avildsen – who had directed the first two films as well – plucked me out of the line. I eventually went in and did a screen test with Ralph Macchio, and got the role. And that significantly changed the trajectory of my life.”

I also had to ask whether or not he had been a fan of the first two films prior to landing the role of Barnes in The Karate Kid Part III. He informed me; “Oh, yeah! I was the guy who paid for his ticket and sat in the theater like everybody else. And to suddenly be on the lot at Columbia Pictures staring in the third one was surreal, and just an incredible experience!”

Few may recall, but Kanan’s first film role had actually been in a low budget horror film the year prior to appearing in The Karate Kid Part III. I asked how he felt looking back on that experience, and he told me; “I did a horrendous horror movie called Hide and Go Shriek! Every actor’s got a couple of those in the wood pile, I suppose. But you know, I got to cut my teeth a little bit.”

Going back to his time filming The Karate Kid Part III, I wanted to know what it was like working with the previously mentioned, legendary late actor Pat Morita. He informed me; “Before I ever learned about The Karate Kid films, he was Arnold who ran the diner in Happy Days to me. He was great…very kind, very funny. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to see the documentary about him, but he also had a lot of adversity in his life. For example, he had a crippling disability when he was young, and he also struggled with alcoholism, too. So he was kind of a complex guy.”

Kanan is also not oblivious to the fact that the third Karate Kid film will no doubt remain the least favorite entry of the original series to some. He stated; “Well, first of all, I think a lot of people feel the third one should have been the second one, and vice versa. You know, there’s a lot of issues with the third one. For one, Martin Kove I believe was supposed to be the only main bad guy in it, but he ended up doing a TV series, which minimized the days I guess he was able to shoot. And if I’m not mistaken, that’s when they decided they needed to bring in another bad guy, and created the role of Terry Silver (played by Thomas Ian Griffith). And then for some reason, the female lead played by Robyn Lively, didn’t have a romantic relationship between her character Jessica and Daniel. And then Jessica just kind of leaves like halfway through the film, which was kind of weird. So there were some issues for sure.”

After The Karate Kid Part III, Kanan kicked off the following year with some notable TV work, including a brief stint on the short-lived series The Outsiders, as well as an appearance on the hit show Who’s the Boss? I was curious what each experience was like for him, and he informed me; “As far as The Outsiders, there was a lot of bad behavior that went on on that set (and I’m proud to say I wasn’t involved in any of it), and the network just pulled the plug on it. In retrospect, the show seemed to really be cursed; two of the actors committed suicide, then another one died tragically early. But I grew up on the book by S.E. Hinton, so to be able to portray a character from something like that was incredible for me. And then you know, Ralph Macchio ironically had starred in the earlier film, so him and I have really had some weird intersections in our careers (laughs). And as far as Who’s the Boss? goes, it was a huge show when I did it. It was great working with Tony Danza, he’s a great guy. I’ve had the fortune of seeing him over the years, and I’m such a huge fan of his. It was a great experience.”

Kanan then went on to star in numerous soap operas over the years, including such popular hits as General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful. I asked him which one was his personal favorite to appear on, and he explained; “I would say The Bold and the Beautiful, because I was able to originate a character that no one else had played. Then I was able to crossover and play the same character on The Young and the Restless. At one point I think the show was syndicated in almost one hundred countries, so it gave me sort of an international presence, which opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”

Regarding his new book, Way of the COBRA, he said; “Way of the COBRA is set up with the structure that you are a student of my dojo – the dojo of cobra life – and I’m the sensei. And ‘cobra’ is an acronym formed from the words character, optimization, balance, respect, and abundance. And a ‘cobra’ is really somebody who is living their best, most authentic life. Somebody that has unleashed their inner bad ass, which everybody has inside; it might have gotten lost, or yet to be discovered, but everybody has one. And in the book I say, I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news, and let’s do the bad news first; I don’t have this magic silver bullet that’s going to turn you into this incredibly successful individual. But here’s the good news – it was already there. Everything you need to achieve that is already within you, you just have to learn to get in touch with it and let it out.”

He continued; “The genesis of the book was about three years ago. I found myself at a place where I had some pretty significant success, and some epic failures. And I was looking in the mirror and thinking to myself, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ I was thirty-five pounds overweight, I didn’t have any prospects for acting work, and I realized I needed to do some things very differently, very fast. And I decided rather than wait for my ship to come in, I was going to build the damn ship, but I just had to figure out how I was going to do that. And I started doing things very differently, and in that year, I co-authored my second book, Success Factor X, which became an Amazon books bestseller. And I created a show called Studio City, which is on Amazon Prime and was nominated for eight Emmy’s, and one won (and was recently just nominated for two more). And I say this not as a way of impressing people, but impressing upon them, what can be done when you follow some of the strategies that I discuss in Way of the COBRA.”

As far as his thoughts go on the Cobra Kai series, he states; “Oh, I think it’s terrific. I think these guys really did a bang-up job, and I think it’s great they’re introducing it to a completely new generation of kids, a lot of whom have gone back and watched the original films after seeing the show. I’m completely humbled that all these years later this role I played so long ago seems to still have some relevance for so many people, and it’s great.” And when it comes to whether or not we’ll see Kanan reprise his role of Mike Barnes on the next season of Cobra Kai? He simply replied; “Ah-ha, I can neither confirm nor deny, my friend!”

However, Kanan definitely could confirm that he had just completed shooting two different films with Bruce Willis, produced by Emmet Furla and directed by James Cullen Bressacks, that you will be able to catch him in in the very near future!

Vanilla Ice at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, FL on 5/22/21 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Last night, ’90s rapper and longtime Florida resident Vanilla Ice knocked the socks off of Cocoa Beach, celebrating the 30th anniversary of 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (which he briefly appeared in) with one of the wildest on-stage parties in recent memory…and of course Rewind It Magazine were there to cover the entire event!

Upon arrival, TMNT screenwriter Todd W. Langen and producer Kim Dawson, who each worked on the first two films, were on stage, revealing trivia and partaking in some Q&A with audience members. Although slightly on the awkward side at times, there were no doubt some interesting facts thrown in throughout, such as Langen’s treatment of the original film’s screenplay being written in just ten days. It was directly at the end of this segment that the crowd caught it’s first glimpse of the Ninja Turtles, as Michelangelo and Donatello then appeared on stage.

After this, the music finally began, as local musicians Zander and Brian Lion unleashed their brand of reggae/surf rock on the crowd. To be honest, I’m not much of a fan of Sublime-type bands, which is what their sound heavily reminded me of. Still, those in attendance did not seem to mind as the guys went through numbers like “I Wanna Rocksteady” and “Ocean Floor.”

DJ Mark Longnecker was next up, and arguably performed the longest set of the evening (perhaps even longer than anyone had originally expected?). Regardless, he mixed in the sounds of many old school rap, hip-hop, and R&B artists that included everyone from TLC, Debbie Deb, Run-DMC, The Fat Boys, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash, Kriss Kross, Beastie Boys, Coolio, MC Hammer, Digital Underground, and Prince. It was equally exhausting as it was entertaining.

Finally, the one and only Vanilla Ice took the stage by storm, opening with a surprisingly ripping version of “Minutes of Power” from his 1994 ‘hardcore’ effort, Mind Blowin’. It didn’t take long for the Ninja Turtles to make it on stage again, as Ice quickly ‘kicked’ into “Ninja Rap,” unleashing pure pandemonium from that point onward.

Covers of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” followed, before tearing into his hit version of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” By now the Ninja Turtles were joined by other costumed dancers, local beauty pageant winners, and even Ice’s right hand man from The Vanilla Ice Project, Wes Kain himself (who was dressed as Elvis and draped with an American flag). The mega hit “Ice Ice Baby” followed, and predictably received the highest praise of the night.

But it didn’t end there; Ice followed it up with a killer rendition of Kaskade’s “Ice,” before proceeding with more covers of Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” Lil’ Troy’s “Wanna Be a Baller,” Ginuwine’s “Pony,” Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Finally, he ended the night on a bittersweet note, dedicating a version of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “No Woman No Cry” to the U.S. troops. It was a surreal moment, one where you could feel the genuine appreciation Ice had for every member of the crowd who has been there supporting his long-lasting career more than three decades later.

For many in attendance, last night’s show was pure nostalgia; there was no doubt a touch of that for me as well, having been a fan of both Ice and the Ninja Turtles since I was kid. But being there in the moment, witnessing so many aspects of my childhood alongside my wife and my own teen-aged son (as well as an old friend of the family in tow for good measure) will surely remain a treasured memory of mine for many years to come.

Album Review: Sunbomb – Evil and Divine (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

By: Jesse Striewski

While neither the album cover, nor the name of this current project between L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns and Stryper frontman Michael Sweet really grabbed my attention at first, what the two have achieved here is no doubt sheer heavy metal greatness.

Opening track/single “Life” packed enough of a punch to convince me to check out the rest Evil and Divine, and it was soon clear that this was a well-thought out effort from start to finish, with Guns unleashing some of his heaviest Sabbath-inspired riffs, and Sweet belting out each and every track with full passion. Some more album highlights include the timely “World Gone Wrong,” the ballad “Been Said and Done,” and epic single “Better End.”

It’s apparent the folks at Frontiers no doubt know how to put together a winning combination of established musicians at this point and let them do their thing. However, it would’ve been slightly more interesting had Sunbomb been a true “supergroup” rounded out by a full band, instead of only having Guns and Sweet as the faces of the project. Regardless, this still works for everyone involved.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Interview with Enforcer Vocalist/Guitarist Olof Wikstrand By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

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.”