Anvil – 2012 Re-releases

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Review by Jason Guest

Since the movie, Anvil have been doing all they can to get the recognition they think that they deserved but were never granted. But what band wouldn’t do the same? Having been thrust into the spotlight, they are seizing every opportunity to get paid for what they love doing. And so, on 23rd January 2012, Anvil’s fourth, fifth, and sixth albums – Strength of Steel, Pound for Pound, Worth the Weight – are seeing a re-release through Steamhammer / SPV in high class digipak format, with new booklets containing liner notes from Lips and Robb, along with new photos. The three of them will also be released as gatefold coloured vinyl LP’s with printed inner sleeves, meaning that Worth The Weight will see its first release on vinyl.

Strength of Steel – first released in 1987

Strength of Steel appeared in the middle of a metal explosion. Master of Puppets, Peace Sells…. But Who’s Buying?, and Reign In Blood had been released a year before, Among The Living was released about the same time, and Guns N’ Roses were about to release Appetite for Destruction. Having fallen off the radar, what chance did Anvil stand? On Strength of Steel, their material suggests imitation of the likes of Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and Poison in sound, no doubt because they also wanted to imitate the kinds of success those bands had seen. The commercial sound to the songs – the big, simple and catchy choruses in particular – are a painfully clear attempt to gain access to a wider audience and reek of desperation. Thus, Anvil’s development had stymied and they produced an album that remains relatively weak. The rhyming dictionary lyrics laced with double-entendres and the stereotypical heavy metal themes don’t help but are no real surprise as Anvil had been churning this kind of stuff out since day one.

The album does have many a moment that is impressive. There’s powerful riffs and striking lead work strewn across the record, such as in the instrumental ‘Flight of the Bumblebeast’ and the ‘Kiss of Death. The playing on the album may be top notch but the songs aren’t great. ‘Concrete Jungle’ has a decent hook, as do ‘Kiss of Death’ and ‘Cut Loose’, but they are hindered by the naff production and poor mix. In trying to be commercial, Anvil made an album that was hard to listen to and not heavy enough to compete with what was out there. Strength of Steel is more a curio than a necessity that provides an interesting insight into the band’s history at a point when they were attempting to integrate what was commercially successful at the time into their own sound. Much to their detriment…

5 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Strength Of Steel
  2. Concrete Jungle
  3. 9-2-5
  4. I Dreamed It Was The End Of The World
  5. Flight Of The Bumble Beast
  6. Cut Loose
  7. Mad Dog
  8. Straight Between The Eyes
  9. Wild Eyes (The Stampeders Cover)
  10. Kiss Of Death
  11. Paper General

 

Line-up:
Steve “Lips” Kudlow: guitars, vocals
Robb Reiner – drums
Ian Dickson – bass
Dave Allison – guitars

 

Pound for Pound – first released in 1988

As if apologising for Strength of Steel, Anvil turned it up and turned it on for Pound for Pound. The songs are faster, angrier, and passionate, even the juvenile sex songs have spunk (sorry). The violent ‘Blood On The Ice’ harnesses the thrash style that the band had hinted at in their first albums, the band sounding distinctly different than the one on their previous album with rapid riffs and dissonant runs up and down the neck in the lead work. The heavy and down-tempo ‘Corporate Preacher’ doesn’t do the album any favours as the momentum is immediately lost. Thankfully ‘Toe Jam’ shifts the album back into the high gears where the album stays for ‘Safe Sex’. The commercial/glam element of Strength of Steel rears its ugly head for ‘Where Does All The Money Go?’ but this time it sounds like Anvil know how to make that sound their own. ‘Brain Burn’ is a thrashier, catchy track, and ‘Senile King’, like ‘Corporate Preacher’, is sleep-inducing. ‘Machine Gun’ is fast and heavy, ‘Fire In The Night’ is very long and slow, a trudge to get through, and the thirteen second-long ‘Cramps’ is funny(ish) but pointless. What stands out on Pound for Pound is the musicianship. In eschewing desperate attempts to be commercial, the songs are mostly high energy blasts with a darker side to them and so the band’s capacities as players come to the fore. This is much better than Strength of Steel and is in many ways the album that they should’ve produced in 1987.

6 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Blood On The Ice
  2. Corporate Preacher
  3. Toe Jam
  4. Safe Sex
  5. Where Does All The Money Go?
  6. Brain Burn
  7. Senile King
  8. Machine Gun
  9. Fire In The Night
  10. Cramps

Line-up:
Steve “Lips” Kudlow: guitars, vocals
Robb Reiner – drums
Ian Dickson – bass
Dave Allison – guitars

 

Worth the Weight – first released in 1992

Having (sort of) found their feet with their last album, Anvil took four years to get their next album out. With six of the eight songs being over five minutes long (track 8 is nine minutes), Worth the Weight is more technical than any of its predecessors with more lead-work and experimentation in composition and structure taking place. Lyrically, the album is darker, no doubt the product of the frustration that had been accumulating over the years as they were constantly ignored by the fame, fortune and glory they so desired. Musically, it’s much heavier. ‘Infanticide’ moves from an acoustic opening into a mid-paced section before the floodgates open and the pace picks up for a dose of up-tempo, classic heavy metal. ‘On The Way To Hell’ sounds like Black Sabbath – Lips almost sounding like Ozzy – and is another great track. ‘Bushpig’ is by far the best track that Anvil had written in a long time, at least musically anyway because the lyrics are nothing short of embarrassing. With dark lyrics suited to the feel of the song, ‘Embalmer’ is again musically brilliant, as is ‘Pow Wow’. And ‘Sins of the Flesh’, ‘A.Z. #85’ and ‘Sadness / Love Me When I’m Dead’ are all great tracks too, with riffs that any of the Big 4 could’ve written peppered throughout each of them, Worth the Weight finishes on a high. Here, Anvil stand up as a great band capable of writing an album of great songs rather than an album with just one or two. This stands up even today as an almost great record. But in 1992, grunge was in, metal was out, and only the likes of Metallica and Pantera were strong enough to survive.

7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Infanticide
  2. On The Way To Hell
  3. Bushpig
  4. Embalmer
  5. Pow Wow
  6. Sins Of The Flesh
  7. A.Z. #85
  8. Sadness / Love Me When I’m Dead

Line-up:
Steve “Lips” Kudlow: guitars, vocals
Robb Reiner – drums
Ian Dickson – bass
Sebastian Marino – guitars