Anvil – “Pounding The Pavement” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Remember when mobile phones didn’t exist? Once heralded as the new gods of Canadian metal, Anvil faded into obscurity before returning to be almost ridiculed in parody through a mockumentary and today idolized for it across their 37 year history! Bands have their ups and downs and Anvil’s releases have reflected that, along with an almost ceaseless transition in bass players, but for the count, vocalist / guitarist Lips and champion drummer Robb Reiner have always been together and on this 17th album, they’ve never been tighter. A trio for the best part of a decade, Chris Robertson has brought his heavy bass on his 2nd run here, and certainly throws his weight into the beefy mix expertly crafted by German producer Jörg Uken. Still rooted in what must be a unique mix of 70s hard rock, early 80s metal, good ol’ fashioned rock n roll and a hint of jazz, many find Anvil’s style too wide and hard to pin, perhaps a reason for their lack of commercial appeal and while that bothered the band for a period, today they seem more at ease with their situation, taking stock from their diehard fans to return to their roots, which “Pounding The Pavement” actually does. For fans like myself who still believe that “Hard N Heavy”, certainly “Metal On Metal” and probably “Forged In Fire” defined the band’s glory days, then they will find undoubted solace across the 12 tracks here which contain riffs, melodies and licks that definitely sound like they could be from those albums, while not being patent rip offs. Smashing their way in with hammering double bass drumming and heavy bass strumming, ‘Ego’ shows what made Anvil so fearsome back in the day, riff chugging away furiously while the hypnotic title chant echoes in your ears while Lips blistering solos sear into you on several occasions – damn, that boy can still play! Once considered younger versions of Motorhead, ‘Do What I Want’ proves it across the attitude drenched lyrics with Lips even going for a take on Lemmy’s glass in throat drawl while raw chugging those riffs – well, he was considered for Motorhead’s vacant guitar position and certainly proves it with the wild pyro on those solos. Slowing things down to crushing heaviness melded with lead break melodies and grinding bass, ‘Smash Your Face’ definitely reminds me of “Forged In Fire” while the title track is a complete surprise being an instrumental definitely in the vein of ‘March Of The Crabs’ from “Metal On Metal” – well, it’s Anvil innit, doing whatever they want. Right! So ‘Rock That Shit’ does exactly that, but high school prom style sorta like Chuck Berry with Animal from The Muppets kicking in those double bass drums while ‘Nanook Of The North’ goes for stadium shaking dinosaur rock a la 70s Kiss, tongue in cheek mebbe but thanks to the incredible tightness and outstanding musicianship (not to mention that sound) it actually makes a believer out of me! Hitting the speed and Motorhead aggro on ‘Black Smoke’ Lips goes for that Lemmy tone while interestingly there is a subtle second vocal that is cleaner and higher while on ‘World Of Tomorrow’ Ozzy might do a double take as dirty doom Sabbathy riffs come blasting through as Lips himself trips out freakus acidus style – truly remarkable for a shy vocal guy! Nigh on ending with ‘Warming Up’, it’s time for Robbo to show his remarkable technical prowess plenty of drum, cymbal and cowbell pyrotechnics with Lips adding in funky lead breaks and his own wild solo to burn the house down. This is the best Anvil album I’ve heard in years and truly heralds their next chapter as a trio so let’s hope they can keep it together for the next one!