Boasting a cool, comic book style cover (take a bow: Chris Imber) you get a feeling when you first see the Enemo J CD that it’s going to be something of interest. Remarkably, the band has been going for ten years or so and ‘ill begotten means’ is their fourth album of genre-hopping heavy metal, but the band have spent their time productively, honing their sound with high profile support slots with the likes of Korn, HED P.E and Sylosis and with the realease of this new disk they look set to gain the recognition they clearly deserve.
Opening with an intro, the album’s first song is the rabid title track, a slamming mix of guttural roars which tear through the mix with utmost ferocity, scarifying guitar riffs and occasional snatches of clean vocals drifting from out of the ether. It recalls the less predictable European metal of bands like Soilwork than the tried and tested formulae of Killswitch Engage and is all the better for the fact that as the CD goes on the band mix up the ideas offering subtle aural shifts between tracks. ‘Heaven is my hell (without you)’ for example, despite having a title that belongs to Meat Loaf, features the vocal talents of Joanne Finnegan and serves up a refreshingly different sound early on in the album whilst still retaining the band’s core heaviness. ’Children of the night’ is definitely a highlight thanks to riffs hewn out of granite vying for attention against a shockingly memorable clean vocal, a skull-flattening deathly roar and a thunderous percussive assault that in the live arena must surely sound like the war drums of an entire army marching your way. It’s melodic, brutal, groove-laden and then, just to make sure you’re paying attention, the snappy bass-led intro to ‘scapegoat’ announces one of the album’s heaviest tracks with its throat-ripping vocals, chugging guitars and relentless drums all seeking to crush your skull.
‘Chaotic disorder’ provides exactly that – a doom-laden intro paving the way for a full-on aural devastation that will leave you exhilarated as the riffs pile up and the screams push to the front of the mix, being delivered as if inches from your face. A short interlude provides some much needed respite and then ‘A storm in heaven’ provides a more melodic blast of metal, taking the metalcore approach of dividing verse and chorus between screamed/clean vocals. ‘Cold’ emerges from a haze of echoing noise, slowing the pace with slower, heavier riffs dominating the sound and vocals which are pure death metal mayhem whilst ‘intentions aren’t a crime yet’ astonishingly ups the ante another notch to simmer in a mire of white-hot rage. ‘White noise’ is the most surprising departure, featuring Chris Greenslade and being straight up rap rock it offers a very different take on the Enemo J sound, but not an unwelcome one. The final track, ‘exit strategy’ seals the deal with raging guitar riffs and Craig Hartwell’s gloriously unhinged vocals, leaving you in no doubt as to Enemo J’s consummate skill.
Enemo J are clearly a band with the talent and the desire to go far. There is much on the album that is familiar, but the band are skilful enough arrangers (and big enough fans of the genre they so whole-heartedly play) that they are not afraid to mix up the sound thus avoiding the trap of resorting to an easy formula to get them through. The production is very crisp and clean although the drums could do with a touch more punch the next time out, but overall it is the songs that matter and each and every one has something interesting to offer and enough of a hook to keep you coming back for more no matter how exhausted you may be after the last round of sweaty head-banging. Offering elements of death, metal-core, nu-metal and alternative, Enemo J clearly have a wide range of influences, but it is to their credit that they have integrated them so successfully and ultimately ‘ill begotten means’ is a huge amount of fun and a record you’ll happily return to on a regular basis.