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Metal, Eh? - 84%

Metal_Jaw, October 10th, 2011

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.