Lips

REVIEW: Anvil – Hope In Hell (with bonus tracks)

NEW…ish RELEASE!

HOPE IN HELL_0001ANVIL – Hope In Hell (2013 The End Records)

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.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Anvil – Juggernaut of Justice (Deluxe and iTunes versions)

For my recent review of Anvil’s This Is Thirteen on vinyl, click here!

JUGGERNAUT_0001ANVIL – Juggernaut of Justice (2011 The End Records)

When I first heard all that cowbell on the track “Fukeneh!” I screamed aloud, “YES!” Anvil don’t give a crap about what’s trendy and what ain’t. That’s why they’re still around over 30 years later, and Juggernaut of Justice was one of their best albums since the early 80’s.

It’s not commercial, but it is more accessible. As good as This Is Thirteen was, I like Juggernaut of Justice better. It is slickly produced by Bob Marlette (at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606). Bob Marlette is not my favourite producer, I’ll admit that, but he’s done a bang-on job here. A little trebly on the guitars in the mix, but otherwise a fine, clear sharp production job. Lip’s vocals are more accessible, but not overproduced. You can still hear flat notes here and there, which is good!  I like production to remain authentic.  Kudos to Marlette who made a great sounding Anvil album.

Every song is great. I especially loved “Conspiracy” and “Fukeneh!”. “On Fire” is cool and fun lyrically, an obviously autobiographical tune about Lips himself. The title track is great, and so is the galloping nu-metal sheen of “This Ride” (featuring bassist Glenn Five on vocals.)  Yet there are no weak tracks, Anvil sharpening their metal edges.  With the exception of the 7-minute “Paranormal,” (a great slow burner) all songs are in the 3-4 minute range, packing maximum punch into the grooves.  Also noteworthy is the horn-laden metal of “Swing Thing”!  This great instrumental shows off the considerable chops of drummer Robb Reiner. It is the icing on top of this heavy metal treat!

I love the cover art, which reminds me of Endgame by Megadeth for whatever reason. (Also “Conspiracy” reminded me of some of the lyrical themes on Endgame.)

I liked Juggernaut of Justice enough to buy it twice: Once digitally, to get the bonus track “What I Want To Be”, and then the limited edition CD which has its own pair of bonus tracks. “The Station” grinds along relentlessly, with a metallic sheen of multiple layered guitars. “Tonight Is Coming” is more basic, but with G5 hanging out on the upper frets of his bass every now and then to give it some flavour. The chorus is pretty amusing: “Tonight is coming, all day long!”*

The digital bonus track, “What I Want To Be” is the best of the three, a bright metal song with Reiner playing it fairly straight and the transmission in drive. Each bonus is a perfectly fine track, so purchase as you feel so inclined.

Very, very happy with this album. I had my doubts due to the presence of Bob Marlette instead of Chris Tsangarides, but…well done, Bob.

4.5/5 stars

* their new album, Hope In Hell, features the song “Flying” with the following lyric:

“Tel Aviv to Turkey then down through Greece,
Back home to Canada to see our famous geese.”

You gotta love that.

REVIEW: Anvil – This Is Thirteen

“Keep on rockin, keep on rockin’, to this metal tonight!”  The first of two Anvil reviews this week!

ANVIL – This is Thirteen (16 track vinyl edition, 2009 VH1 Classic Records)

I won’t go into the whole Anvil story — see the movie (Anvil! The Story of Anvil), and then get this album if you haven’t already. Don’t get this album because you feel sorry for Anvil and want to help them on their quest for stardom; buy this album because it is one seriously heavy piece of metal greatness. It’s amazing that thirty years on, a band can come up with something as strong or stronger than their classics.

Surely some of the credit must go to veteran knob-twister Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Bruce Dickinson) who produced This Is Thirteen. Tsangarides, if you’ve heard his past productions, gets a simply great sound and performance out of bands. In particular, heavy bands like Anvil. Everything here sounds great — the drums are pounding, clear and heavy and the guitars are shredding and crisp. Excellent sounding record!  (NOTE:  Tsangarades has been ill recently, and we wish him nothing but the best.)

The songs? Well, originally there were 13 songs…this is Anvil’s 13th album, get it? However, some extras were added to this vinyl edition (more on that later). The core 13 songs are pretty damn strong. I would say heavier than the “classic three” Anvil records, but every bit as catchy and memorable. The riffs are the kind that bore their way through the skull into your brain. And Lips plays almost all the guitars here — clearly, he is not only a talented frontman, but also an underrated shredder.  No one will mistake Lips for Alex Skolnick, but he’s like a more talented Nigel Tufnel — and I mean that in the nicest way — style wise. (Former lead guitarist Ivan Hurd also appears on a handful on tracks.)

Bordering on thrash metal at times, and sinking to Sabbathy lows at others, This Is Thirteen gives you a variety of metal to sink your teeth into. Check out the title track “This is Thirteen” for some seriously heavy doom. Sounds like something on Sabbath’s Dehumanizer CD, even lyrically. I’m sure Dio would approve. Then skip ahead to something fast and heavy like “Shoulda Woulda Coulda”. This Is Thirteen has a little of everything!

Highlights for this listener included the title track, the apocalyptic “Bombs Away”, “Burning Bridges”, “Feed The Greed”, “Room #9” and the three bonus tracks.

I love when bands put bonus tracks on vinyl. It makes the metal geek in me scream in joy. Here there are three:

14. “Thumb Hang” – a song Lips & Robb wrote in highschool, about the Spanish Inquisition. Finally recorded 30 years later, it’s actually a pretty decent song!

15. “Metal On Metal” – re-recorded for that heavier sound, but don’t worry, it’s not modernized at all. It’s a straight remake, just better sounding.

16. “666” – same deal. The great thing about these re-records is that it allows new Anvil fans to get their two best known songs along with the new album. Pretty genius if you asked me!*

My only gripe? Occassionally Lips’ voice can be a little grating. I have the same issue when I listen to Megadeth for a couple hours on end. I just can’t listen to Mustaine’s voice for too long in a row. Lips’ voice isn’t as grating to me, but too much Anvil and I need to play something else.

4/5 stars

* These three songs were later re-released on the 2011 Anvil compilation Monument of Metal.

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