Album Review – Anvil / Anvil Is Anvil (2016)

Against all odds, Anvil are still the same Anvil from their beginnings, but that doesn’t seem to be translating into thrilling heavy music in the end.

frontSomeone definitely needs to write a dissertation or a graduate thesis on how Canadian Heavy/Speed Metal power trio Anvil has managed to survive for such a long time (the band was formed back in 1978) without releasing anything truly remarkable in their career except for their 1982 classic album Metal On Metal. Well, I guess we all know that the main reason for the band to still be alive was the 2008 highly acclaimed documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil (if you haven’t watched it yet, please do it as soon as possible), but in terms of the quality of their music, let’s say nothing has really changed or evolved through the years.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on those Canadian metallers, but the music found in their sixteenth studio album, “cryptically” entitled Anvil Is Anvil, doesn’t really allow me to say anything newsworthy about them after so many years on the road. The only difference from all of their previous albums (and I dare you to name two or three of those, excluding Metal On Metal) is that this is their first release to feature bassist Chris Robertson. Apart from that, everything that the iconic lead singer and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb “Robbo” Reiner have to offer us is an uninspired and wearisome cover version of themselves during the entire album.

Why Anvil decided to “think outside the box” and go with a pirate song called Daggers and Rum to open the album is beyond my comprehension, but that’s fine, at least they tried something different.  What we have here is extremely basic and relatively fun Heavy Metal that should work well when played live, but somebody please ask Lips not to pretend to be a pirate again in his life. Up, Down, Sideways is much better in terms of speed and sound quality, with Chris Robertson doing a decent job on bass while Robb keeps delivering his classic beats. However, in Gun Control, an 80’s metal tune with some Sludge Metal elements added to it, its irritating and banal  lyrics (“Do you defend your family? / Or go and rob a bank? / Do you defend your country? / For that who do we thank? / Do we need some? / Gun control / Gun control”) make me think only diehard fans of the band are capable of enjoying this song.

Die for a Lie is a song with a religious connotation (against radical Islamism) that doesn’t actually make too much sense, not to mention its completely bland instrumental, with only some decent guitar solos saving it from being a total disaster; while Runaway Train puts the band back on track with its very direct and effective approach and great performances by Lips and Robb. This is in my opinion what Anvil should be doing nowadays, kind of a mix of their classic sounding with Motörhead’s high-speed Rock N’ Roll. On the other hand, they should stay away from the ridiculousness of Zombie Apocalypse, with its cliché lyrics (“Death and destruction becoming a routine / Only just a thought in reality obscene / Virus and bacteria, the biochemical host / Extinction of humanity, nothing but a ghost”) and a Hard Rock/Stoner Metal vibe that doesn’t work really well.

anvilAnd this roller-coaster of quality doesn’t seem to have an end, as once again they are the Anvil we enjoy and not an amateur garage band, delivering the fast and metallic It’s Your Move. It might not be brilliant, but at least it has a lot more electricity than most songs in the album. The same can be said about Ambushed, another good song that keeps the energy flowing at a decent level due to its nice chorus and what’s probably the best vocals delivered by Lips in the entire album. I also liked the drumming and the vibe in Fire on the Highway, despite the vocal lines sounding a bit disconnected from the music. Yet again, there’s absolutely nothing new presented in this tune, but that’s doesn’t mean it’s bad or tasteless.

Run Like Hell, a lot more complex and electric than all other songs, showcases a perfect synchronicity between Lips and Robb, nicely complemented by Chris’ bass lines and, therefore, resulting in the best song of Anvil Is Anvil by far.  Its kick-ass riffs and nonstop beats sound like an ode to their own legacy, with even Lips’ guitar solos sounding much better than usual. Regrettably, Forgive Don’t Forget was the worst possible way they could have chosen to close the album. Nothing in this tune works, from its mediocre rhythm to its even worse lyrics and backing vocals. I’m pretty sure I will forget this song exists really soon. And if you get the digipak version of the album you can consider yourself relatively lucky, because both bonus tracks Never Going to Stop and You Don’t Know What It’s Like are above average songs that should have been part of the regular version instead of all those weak tracks.

In summary, unless you’re completely mental for this Canadian band, don’t invest too much of your time on Anvil Is Anvil. I suggest you stick to their 1982 classic album and also to their 2008 documentary, because these are what the legacy of Anvil is all about. I still respect them for always keep trying no matter what, for always being the same Anvil from their beginnings and going against all odds, but that doesn’t seem to be translating into thrilling heavy music in the end. They’re still having fun being Anvil and that looks like everything they need to keep moving forward, so who am I to tell them their music today is not as exciting as they think? We should simply let those guys keep on rocking until their very last breath, because Anvil will always be Anvil, there’s no way to change that.

Best moments of the album: Runaway Train and Run Like Hell.

Worst moments of the album: Gun Control, Die for a Lie and Forgive Don’t Forget.

Released in 2016 Steamhammer/SPV

Track listing
1. Daggers and Rum 5:26
2. Up, Down, Sideways 3:19
3. Gun Control 4:22
4. Die for a Lie 3:17
5. Runaway Train 3:40
6. Zombie Apocalypse 4:22
7. It’s Your Move 3:30
8. Ambushed 3:22
9. Fire on the Highway 4:35
10. Run Like Hell 3:07
11. Forgive Don’t Forget 2:40

Digipak bonus tracks
12. Never Going to Stop 4:09
13. You Don’t Know What It’s Like 3:31

Band members
Steve “Lips” Kudlow – lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitars
Chris Robertson – bass guitar
Robb “Robbo” Reiner – drums

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Movie Review – Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell (2014)

Experience the biggest metal festival in the world, in 3D, and louder than hell.

Rating4

Wacken 3DIt’s undeniable that Wacken Open Air is the biggest, most exciting and most badass Heavy Metal festival in the entire world. For instance, it only takes couple of days after the festival is over for the next year’s edition to be sold out. If you’ve already had the indescribable pleasure of attending this 4-day monstrous gathering in your life (and I’m pretty sure that if the answer is “yes” you’ve already repeated that metallic ritual many times through the years) you have the chance to go back in time and feel that energy again by watching the awesome documentary entitled WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL. And if you’ve never been to Wacken, this is your chance to take a special journey to the heart of the festival, with the 3D screening making you feel like you’re right there with over 75,000 metalheads from all over the world celebrating life and heavy music.

Filmed with 18 stereoscopic 3D cameras during the 2013 edition of the festival, this excellent documentary by award-winning director Norbert Heitker will show you exactly what happens once a year to a calm farming village in the middle of a Northern German countryside, when it becomes the centre of the universe for all things metal. You’ll be able to see in details what it is to camp at Wacken, the daily routine of fans and bands, what musicians think of the festival, and even go crowd-surfing and mud-diving with the more lunatic fans. Not only that, you’ll also have a good time watching some electrifying performances by metal giants such as Deep Purple, Anthrax, Motörhead, Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Lamb Of God, and many more.

12_WackenIn my opinion, as a huge supporter of the underground of heavy music, the best part of the entire documentary is when they focus on some of the national winners of the already famous Wacken Metal Battle, showing what it is to be an up-and-coming band playing at the most important metal festival on earth. There are awesome bands from Uruguay, Romania, Canada and so on showcasing their music to thousands of fans, but my favorite one in terms of creativity and feeling were the Chinese Metal Battle winners Nine Treasures. All members of the band are from Inner Mongolia, with all lyrics being sung in Mongolian, which is beyond incredible. You have to watch it to understand what I’m talking about, and if one day those guys read this review, I would like to ask them to kindly send us their material for review. It would be a huge pleasure for us at The Headbanging Moose to do that.

06_WackenIn case you live in Canada and do not have any plans for tonight (well, even if you do have plans you should definitely cancel them), there will be a special WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL “One Night Only Across Canada” event today, October 29 at 7:30pm at several Cineplex theaters. You can check more details at the official Facebook event, see where the movie will be playing by clicking HERE, and also grab your tickets at the official Cineplex website. In addition, following the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas screening in Toronto, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner of Anvil will be in attendance for a Q&A, and if you cannot make it today but you live near Ottawa the movie will also be playing soon at the Mayfair Theatre, located at 1074 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario.

Best moments of the movie: The unique moments of glory provided by the Wacken Metal Battle bands from different countries, the iconic Rammstein playing Du Hast with thousands of fans screaming the lyrics together with the band and, of course, all the classy mud scenes.

Worst moments of the movie: The fact that there were no subtitles when a fan or a band spoke in a language different than English, especially when it was in German. At least the version I saw had no subtitles. Oh, and unfortunately there were no interviews with Lemmy.

Released in 2014 Jumpseat 3Dplus/Wüste Film

Bands and artists featured in the documentary
Rammstein
Alice Cooper
Deep Purple
Motörhead
Henry Rollins
Trivium
Ragnarok
Lamb Of God
Annihilator
Anthrax
…and many more!