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Soft patches hardening...molten metal forming - 89%

Gutterscream, August 1st, 2005

“…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.