This is part of an ongoing series discovering and reviewing heavy metal bands in the order in which they appear in The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal by Daniel Bukszpan. Check out the rest of the series and stay tuned for new reviews each week. Until I finish this book, stay heavy, my friends.
Now this is what I’m talking about! This is the kind of band I was hoping to discover with this project. Banging heads since the early 80s? Check. Traditional metal imagery on their album covers? You bet. A catalogue that kicks just as much butt in 2016 as it did in 1982? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Anvil.
As I scrolled through the band’s substantial library, I noticed an unusual theme: every album is a (very metal-sounding) three-word alliterative phrase that always sounds better when spoken in a growly voice — beginning with 1982’s Metal on Metal to 2000’s Plenty of Power to 2013’s Hope in Hell and beyond.
Metal on Metal kicks off with a great title track, but my eyes jumped to the second cut, “Mothra.” I asked myself, Could this really be a song about the giant moth from Toho’s Godzilla universe? Yes, it can.
In 1996, the band gets a little bit topical on Plugged in Permanent—a protest of the popularity of the MTV Unplugged series. Look it up, kids. Covering big-news political stories of the day with tunes like “Doctor Kevorkian” and “Racial Hostility,” Anvil wasn’t afraid to pull punches. Their style also shifted ever-so-slightly toward thrash metal, probably best exemplified on “Five Knuckle Shuffle.”
By 2011, Anvil was securely back in their original form with Juggernaut of Justice. The title track is a real beauty that, with a little bit of tape hiss added, could have followed “Mothra” way back in ’82. Especially with lines like, “The aggression in my soul will blow you all away!”
And their sound has stayed right there since, with just a few diversions into topical political metal — done a little bit more sloppily than Megadeth’s Rust in Peace, but that’s a high bar to jump. “Through with You” is a crunchy breakup song that I’d recommend you fire up next time you get that Dear John text. If this one doesn’t make you feel better, skip ahead to track 11 on Hope in Hell, “Shut the F**k Up.”
[Find your next favorite breakup song and support this project at no extra cost to you by checking out Hope in Hell or the rest of the Anvil library on Amazon here.]
The bottom line
While I don’t always love the band’s ham-fisted shots at politics, I simply can’t deny the throwback-style riffs and satisfyingly shredding solos of Anvil. I can definitely see my past self smacking the steering wheel of my ’89 Ford Taurus to some of this band’s more notable tunes. There’s a lot to wade through, and only a few real standouts, but fans of speed and power metal should take note of this workmanlike band that has been quietly pounding the steel for more than thirty years.
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