15 albums in, Anvil still perseveres. I was saddened by the sudden departure of former bassist Glenn Five (no relation to John 5). His song “This Ride” was a personal favourite on Juggernaut of Justice. Still, Anvil bounced back incredibly swiftly with Sal Italiano, adding an American member to the otherwise Canadian trio. The change is seamless; Sal Italiano is an apt replacement and has no trouble at all keeping up with Robb Reiner (drums).
If you’re an Anvil fan, Hope In Hell is more of what you have grown to expect. Solid riffs, incredible drumming, lots of heavy metal with a little bit of humour in the lyrics. The title track starts the album on a slower groove, but that’s only a warning shot. “Eat Your Words” storms the stage amidst machine gun drums and chugging riffage. This kind of song is Anvil at their best; just playing their faces off at top speed. Add in those tasty trademark Lips guitar solos and we’re off to the races.
Unfortunately, all this momentum comes to a screeching halt on track #3: “Through With You”. The main riff and drum part of the song is a direct rip off from “Smoke On the Water”. The really unfortunate part is that the rest of the song is great! I’m quite surprised it made the album, just because of its similarity to the Deep Purple classic. Lyrically, it might be a jab at Glenn Five. Who knows?
“The Fight Is Never Won” is much better, back with the thunderous artillery and smoking guitars. By the chorus, it mutates into something more like classic metal. “Pay the Toll” too is red-hot. Anvil excel at fast rockers, and Lips’ solos fit like a glove. For lyrical hilarity, check out “Flying”. This ode to touring has my favourite lyric in all Anvil history:
“Tel Aviv to Turkey then down through Greece,
Back home to Canada to see our famous geese.”
As silly as that is, it actually exemplifies something I admire about Anvil: their earnest joy that they get to play heavy metal music for thousands of people. It is quite obvious that Anvil would not have carried on this long if they did not love what they do. It bleeds out of the music and lyrics.
The album continues, steadily rocking more excellent riffs. The songs are not all memorable, but all boast memorable parts. “Bad Ass Rock N Roll” for example has a cool chorus, but the song itself sounds much like the rest of the album. One issue that has always plagued Anvil is a certain sameness to their songs. However, much like AC/DC, Anvil try to play this as a strength with mixed results.
The final song (of the standard edition) finally gets us back to magnificent Anvil metal: “Shut the Fuck Up”. The sheer velocity of this short firecracker is a joy. It’s definitely one of the most indelible tracks. Plus it’s fun to sing along, I admit.
Then there are the bonus track. Europe got two: “Hard Wired” and “Fire At Will”. (The Japanese edition, which I want, has a live version of “Hope In Hell”.) I like “Hard Wired” better than a couple songs on the album proper. “Fire At Will” is not particularly special.
Hope In Hell is a good album, no more, no less. Anvil will continue. I believe that much. There is nothing anyone can do to stop Anvil now. I thought Juggernaut of Justice was a really excellent record. Hope In Hell is missing…something. It entertains for most of its duration, but it is uneven. Anvil can do better, and I hope they will do better, next time.