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It's often the case that a band seeing a brief and sudden splash of success will attempt to closely emulate that success, if not note for note than at the very least aesthetically. Metal on Metal was likely not a commercial breakthrough on anyone's scale, but clearly that leading single was far more resonant than anything off the debut album, so it makes sense that Anvil would follow it up with a similar lead-in title track on Forged in Fire. Not that these have been the only two tracks in this style by the Canadian old timers, and not that "Forged..." is in any way a direct knockoff of its spiritual precursor, but it's difficult not to come away with a sense of deja-vu for the first five minutes of this third album.
Fortunate then, that "Forged in Fire" is one of the clear highlights of this disc. Set at a dangerous, slow groove, it lurches along at a spidery pace while Lips performs a treatise on metallurgy, the duality of which would not escape even the most addle brained headbangers. The vocals trade off on the signature sneers and howls, while the thud of the bass sets the momentum. I rather liked the glistening strings of melodic feedback throughout the bridge, which set at atmosphere even greater than that of "Metal on Metal", but probably the most interesting element is the counter point of the guitars in the verse. It's also an introduction to a 'cleaner' Anvil, at least in the tone of the guitars and tidiness of the drumming. Clearly more polished than the sophomore effort, with a dearth of rawness in the chords, but that said the music is stylistically quite similar to Metal on Metal and the heavier cuts found on Hard 'n' Heavy, 'pound for pound' their most muscular effort to date, if you'll forgive the foreshadowing.
That's not only due to the pace of many of the tracks here, but also the drumming. Once again, we're faced with a performance that might audibly come off as less menacing than the prior LP, but in terms of technicality Robb Reiner seems somewhat more energetic and advanced, as if he's slowly evolving along with the riffs. Outside of the title track, favorites here include "Free as the Wind", a nice atmospheric speed metal piece which served as a peculiar presage to the late 80s stint of Germans Running Wild, even funnier as the first lyrics in the song are, in fact, 'running wild'. "Make It Up to You" has a bit more of a commercial appeal, sort of like Heart meets REO Speedwagon, but while the lyrics are shitty, the music is incredibly catchy. And then, of course, you've got the closer "Winged Assassins" which serves as the ultimate Anvil tribute to aerial combat, pretty fast for the band at this time and incorporating some of Lips' better vocals on the album.
There are a number of tunes ("Shadow Zone", "Hard Times Fast Women") in which he utilizes a shrill, shrieking tone that almost devolves into parody, but thankfully the music is great; and others where he uses the same style of screaming more effectively ("Motormount"). We've also got what must be the best of the Dave Allison fronted tracks here in "Never Deceive Me". It still feels heavily influenced by that 70s rock that the Canadians have a hard time shaking out of their set, and far from perfect, but good enough that fans of KISS, Boston and so forth might dig it. And then, of course there's the mandatory ridiculous sex song, which is even more laughable and absurd here in that it's distinctly about ejaculating on your female partner's chest and having her rub the results onto her preferably large mammaries. This is, of course, the "Butter-Bust Jerky", and yet I know that even reading that has the potential to scar you for life. I apologize, since Anvil is not likely to.
Overall, various gripes and coital eccentricities aside, the album is quite consistent in quality and I believe it's nearly a match for Metal on Metal. Song for song, there's a lot of excitement, some tearing leads, and a laudable atmosphere which prove that Anvil were continuing to evolve as songwriters. The best was still yet to come, but they were well on their way, and Forged in Fire has a timelessness about it that is hard to ignore (much like the debut).
Lips and Rob, oh where would the proud land of Canada be without you guys? Well, they do still have Razor...and Annihilator...and Exciter...and Voivod. Well...at least you guys are certainly heads and toes above The Overrated Brigade (aka Rush), and none of the previous metal bands had a heartfelt documentary produced about them. Eh, comrades?
Anvil, legendary for their cheesy but heartfelt never-say-die metal, first released way back in '81 their debut album "Hard 'N' Heavy". It wasn't very good; basically corny, annoying AC/DC-worshiping sex anthems. This was followed by arguably their most legendary album, 1982's "Metal On Metal". Though still a tad bit hard rockish, it was still overall a hard-hitting metal album (especially for the time), with songs that still kick today. While not quite as popular as "Metal On Metal", 1983's "Forged In Fire" is still rightfully considered one of the group's best, even by some as their overall greatest.
It's about on par with the previous album in some respects, yet much weaker and also MUCH stronger in others. The Chris Tsangarides production (who produced with the likes of Helloween, Black Sabbath, and most famously with Judas Priest on "Painkiller) is immense and pounding, but for some reason not as sharp as the work on "Metal On Metal". The group puts out some pretty good effort here. Lips lets out his usual (but admittedly sub-par) vocals here, but at least his decent guitar skills and passion behind the music manage to shine. Dave Allison's rhythm guitar is top-notch, really shining on some of the faster numbers. Ian Dickson's bass never shines very much however; he just sort of weaves his way through most of the tracks without very much notice. Last but certainly not least is Mr Robb Reiner on the drums. Dammit, this guy could be dropped in the middle of the Landing of Normandy with just his drum kit and still come out alive and ass-kicking. The speed and precision he shows on these songs is nothing short of jaw-dropping. He's right up there with the likes of Scott Travis, Abaddon, Cozy Powell and...somebody else I can't think of right now.
The songs are all pretty good in their own ways, though some stand out more than others. "Shadow Zone" is one heated number, possibly the fastest on the album with a catchy and aggressive chorus to boot. The closing track, "Winged Assassins", is slightly slower but still catchy and overall very sinister-sounding. Arguably the standout track here is "Free As The Wind". With its atmospheric intro and outro, passionate and strong lyrics and a simple but catchy riff, it just comes off as nearly perfect; the best song on the album. Other tracks don't fare quite as good. The title track is rather plodding and boring, never feeling like it really wants to get going. Numbers like "Hard Times-Fast Ladies" and "Make It Up to You" suffer from that corny hard rock vibe, though they, especially the former, still manage to be a bit catchy. The super-fast "Motormount", while heavy and speedy, just kinda comes off as forgettable.
Overall, "Forged In Fire" beats "Metal On Metal" out in some respects (ie riffing, catchiness and writing), but falls a bit short in others (the performance of the band, the production, etc), but still manages to be a classic of bacony metal.
I really hate to rate "Forged In Fire" better than Anvil's previous classic "Metal On Metal", but at the end of the day, it takes the ground-breaking proto-thrash metal sound and progresses it further to an even better more well-rounded album that see the Canadian metal heads completely discover their own brand of epic, technical, yet cheesy in a completely amusing way type of brand that not too many bands have come close to replicating and probably for good reason.
For their third album, Anvil continue the formula that brought them international success and cult status with "Metal On Metal" and work out some of the kinks and quirks they had. Not to say that was a bad album, but it sounded like they were coming into their own and on "Forged In Fire" they find themselves comfortable with their instruments. Quick history lesson; Anvil were still somewhat pioneering with their music. Outside of Raven, Accept, Venom, and Motorhead nobody was really pushing the envelope as far as speed and heaviness goes. Anvil got that process started and no more than a year after their 2nd album, things started to catch up. The year is 1983 and we all know the big names that would pop-up; Metallica, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, and Hellhammer. They would start infiltrating on what Anvil mistakenly had done which was be the bridge between NWOBHM and thrash metal, but fortunately for Anvil they had one last classic album before they really started to be left behind in the trail of dust the other bands would create.
First the sound production is not as echoy as heard on "Metal On Metal." "Forged In Fire" has a sound that could easily compete with any Judas Priest album out there for the most part. Secondly the lyrics are even better, more well-constructed, but this is really all we get. "Forged In Fire" follows the same song formula as "Metal On Metal". You have the heavy-as-hell Sabbath title track , with the second track being the more epic power metal-sounding anthem. And let me just say this, fucking Anvil sounds a LOT like Judas Priest's "Ram It Down" but not as fast. Vocalist Steve 'Lips" Kudlow does his best Rob Halford impression and comes pretty damn close. "Free As The Wind" starts off with a psychedelic melody but turns into a "Saba Cadabra" on speed minus the heaviness of the first track. "Never Decieve Me", and "Make It Up To You" are the album's attempts at trying to have that AOR/Hard Rock/Radio metal chance at success, but in truth they're not bad. "Future Wars" and "Winged Assassins" are the album's "666" and "Mothra".
Again if you put "Metal On Metal" and "Forged In Fire" back to back, you would be listening to the same album in terms of how the songs are out together, sound, and where they are placed. It would seem like a cop-out on the band's part to try to play it safe seeing how 'Metal On Metal" gave them the international cult status they have, but "Forged In Fire" improves on everything they were trying to do and is a signature of the Anvil sound.
Canada. When you think of music, what countries come to mind? U.S.A. and U.K., though probably to a metalhead, Norway and Sweden might also come up, but not Canada. And well, Canada has been the home of many good metal bands, and Anvil is one of them.
The album starts out with the Black Sabbath influenced Forged in Fire, then speeds it up with Shadow Zone, and doesn’t slow down from there, except on the love song Make it up to You, but even there, the pace doesn’t change that much, so it really doesn’t hurt the experience.
Musically, the album is done well, its in between NWOBHM and thrash, so it should please fans of both. You can also feel a bit of a glam metal influence, but it really doesn’t show as much, but weather that’s a good or a bad thing depends on the listener.
Lyrically, the album is ok, nothing new or special, but nothing preachy (as in saying war is bad in 16 different ways) so they really shouldn’t piss off or annoy anyone.
Overall, the album is solid, and its worth a listen to anyone who likes thrash or NWOBHM, and there are no tracks that are bad, most of them are on the same level, however, the ones that stand out are Forged in Fire, Future Wars, Make it up to You, and Winged Assassins.
“…If it’s too loud, you’re too old – get the hell out cause you’ve been told…”
‘82’s Metal on Metal lp saw the Canadian four-piece starting to heat their concealed aggression to a visible bubble, a cauldron of songs overthrowing about two-thirds of the material on the debut. A year flies by and with a wrist sturdy and firm they hand us Forged in Fire, an lp proving Anvil’s coming into its own as a metal force by throwing much of the creampuff songwriting and attitude that sweetened their earlier offerings into the fire.
This gradual renewal of style doesn’t come with the adding/subtracting of members ‘cause holding the line from day one’s original Lips Hard ‘n Heavy release is the stable membership of distinguished lead guitarist/vocalist Lips, premier woodsman Robb Reiner, durable bassist Ian Dickson, and accomplished rhythm guitarist Dave Allison. Of course, the mindset of sexual innuendo still exists in mild portions i.e. “Never Deceive Me” and “Make It Up to You”, but with the crop of heaviness growing in each release, the carnal insinuation no longer rides on the backs of the tracks like a bucking cowboy waving his hat in the air.
The song “Forged in Fire” isn’t the album-commencing anthem “Metal on Metal” is, the former hooking together a methodical, semi-fractured main riff, diabolically-delivered lyrics, and a chorus frothing with a strange surging menace that swathes the lp’s mood in an almost oppressed veneer. Within about three seconds though, the harshness laid by the title cut is dispelled by the faster, more up-tempo “Shadow Zone”, a tune that owes much of its catchiness to the chorus. More of a quick gallop rides the medium pace of “Free As The Wind” until an uncharacteristically courageous chorus downshifts it into an undertow of melodrama that is new to the band. “Never Deceive Me” is one of those slices of vanilla cake that somehow managed to catch the wind like mold spores from the debut, while the oddly titled, sexually-enthused “Butter-Bust Jerky” could be as heavy as Anvil has ever gotten. Full frontal heaviness carves a frightful path away from the previous track with short, quick tilling riff strokes and abrasive momentum to end side one.
Fortunately “Future Wars” doesn’t let “Butter-Bust Jerky” die in the weeds. With a white window of danger in its eye, “Future Wars” shatters the silence with a slew of short, screaming solos, a bevy of slightly changing rhythms, and an overall thrust that buries prisoners as they are taken. With more flesh-sharing appeal comes “Hard Times – Fast Ladies”, a dashing song that proves its worth by keeping plush sensitivity in the closet and only loosing the frenetic. Then, from within, the closet door creaks open, allowing “Make It Up to You” to sneak out, a tune that would be more palatable if it weren’t for the saccharine build-up in the chorus. Guarding the room where the closet resides is the monstrous “Motormount”, a concrete creature that parries the cotton ball attack of the previous slender slab and easily hurls it crippled back into the closet. “Winged Assassins”, much like its lyrical description of “…machines made for killing at mach speed and more…”, sail in quickly behind it with burly riffage, a seasoned chorus and pre-chorus, and “…rockets home in, strike and devour…”, hopefully ending the existence of “Never Deceive Me” as well.
As it becomes more agreeably lopsided, the strengthening ratio of prissy boy band rock to stalwart metal doubtlessly cements Anvil more into the minds and playlists of many not searching for coming of age song topics. Unfortunately, after the spectacular release of Forged in Fire, Attic Records would cut the band loose, leaving them to dangle ‘til ’87 when Metal Blade would finally throw them a net. In that time, much of Anvil’s growing fervor would dissipate and mar Strength of Steel with a weaker tread. Still, there’s no taking away from Forged in Fire, a glittering prize of power/speed metal.