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“Hope In Hell” is the 15th record of the legendary Canadian heavy metal institution Anvil that finally got some well-deserved and needed attention after the release of the documentary “Anvil: The Story Of Anvil” five years ago. What followed was some sort of rebirth for the band with a strong record entitled “Juggernaut Of Justice” and two years after, we get this follow-up.
This record is the perfect example of an album that kicks off very strong but falls a little bit flat towards the end. The album starts with a bunch of energizing and also diversified songs. The opening title song “Hope In Hell” has a slight doom metal influenced tone but also a few riffs reminding me of slowed down thrash metal influences even though it doesn't directly sound like groove metal. This track sounds maybe like a mixture of Black Sabbath and Metallica. The following and truly energizing “Eat Your Words” is a lot dirtier and sharper and should be a fan favourite during the next concerts. This track isn’t a far cry from Motörhead for example. ”Through With You” has an opening riff that reminds me a lot of “Smoke On The Water” from Deep Purple but it’s far more than just an uninspired copy of it. The track is in fact a very catchy mid-tempo rocker with diversified vocals. This was one of the songs that already remained on my mind for quite a while after a first try. The band continues to deliver some of the most energizing and catchiest tracks I have heard in the traditional heavy metal genre for quite a while. Short and long, slow and fast, melancholic and joyful, dirty and melodic songs appear in a quite balanced way and the record seems to never get all too boring even if Anvil doesn’t try out anything truly new. I would also like to point out the track “Flying” which is a sympathetic rendition to the band’s fans all around the world and one of the best potential live anthems on the record. Let’s mention that the bonus tracks are also quite energizing and if you consider buying this release, you have no choice but to get them in my humble opinion. Especially “Fire At Will” is a firework of energy and a true monster of a song.
But despite all these positive elements, this record falls somehow flat in the last third which is rather sad because this release would have made it straight into my top five records of the year. During the last few tracks, you can’t help but feel like you have already heard these tracks before on the record because they are less original and unique. The simplistic hard rock driven “Badass Rock ‘N Roll” is such a track. Another good example is “Time Shows No Mercy” which is not a bad song per se but another typical mid-tempo track that worships the heavy metal style of the early eighties. Don’t get me wrong, these songs are still performed with passion but with a running time of over an hour things start to get redundant after a while and the concept starts to feel a little bit worn-out. A little experimental track or change of style would have made the final result a little bit fresher, more modern and more relevant in my humble opinion. Another possibility would have been to replace these tracks by the bonus songs and cut the record down to nine or ten songs only.
In the end, I’m not that much an expert of Anvil but I really liked a couple of energizing, honest and straight hard rock and heavy metal tracks on here and this especially in the first half of the album. This band is clearly better than many of those boring heavy metal revival bands with members in their late twenties who sound musically more closed-minded than their own parents. This record is a must have for somebody who still adores the pioneer years of heavy metal and wants to get back to this style without looking for old and dusty vinyl records in the attic. I don't really understand the negative critics concerning this album as it really is a worthwhile fun ride in my opinion.
Originally written for The Metal Observer
The story of Anvil is a story of resilience. Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner have toiled through decades of obscurity and hardships, but they always managed to crank out some excellent albums from "Metal on Metal" to "Juggernaut of Justice". Their courage and steadfastness are the driving force behind their works, but recently, they released "Hope in Hell", an album which surprisingly isn't quite as powerful as their previous releases. It seems as though their creative juices haven't been flowing so much lately. So what's the problem?
While it does have that same Anvil charm that all of the other albums have, these charms don't quite add up here. It's true that Lips isn't as subtle a lyricist as Ronnie James Dio was, the lyrics in much of the songs here are pretty blatant and bland. Case in point, "Badass Rock n Roll". The fact that the song is about rock n roll rather than metal (look at the title, it's pretty obvious!) would throw some fans off, but if other fans would give it a listen, they would hear lyrics typical of any song about rock n roll. "Kick it out, with no doubt, shout it out, that's what it's all about". Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect Lips to be a masterful lyricist, but he could have at least come up with some lyrics that didn't come out of someone who wrote them in their sleep. ANYBODY'D be able to come up with lyrics like "that's what it's all about"! And then there's the last song on the album, "Shut the Fuck Up", which mainly consists of "shut the fuck up". Seriously, do you need to repeat the song's title over and over throughout the entire track just to get your message across? That'd be something a pop musician would do! And that's not the worst of it! That would be in "Through with You" in which the chorus contains, get this, "see you next Tuesday". Really dude? Is THAT all you can come up with for legit song lyrics? Have those lyrics been accepted in any METAL song in the history of mankind? I haven't heard any lyrics so asinine since the "na na na's" from Def Leppard's "It's only Love" on their godawful "Euphoria" album!
The riffing is also kind of unoriginal and stagnant. Now I know that Anvil uses pretty standard rock and metal riffs for much of their songs, but on "Hope in Hell", they just sound more bland than usual. One of the best examples of this is "Mankind Machine". In this song, they use the standard power chords with the e-note rhythm. I'm pretty sure that this is what went through Lips' mind when he came up with it; "What do ya mean it's not original sounding? I can just use a standard metal riff and just write the lyrics about a robot apocalypse! THEN it would be ORIGINAL! My god, I'm a musical genius!" That's not all, Some of the songs have hooks that sound like they've been plucked from other, more well-known songs from other bands. "Through with You" also contains a riff that bears an astonishing resemblance to Deep Purple's classic "Smoke on the Water". Don't forget the song "Flying", that song has a riff that really hasn't been used before...except in Judas Priest's "Steeler". Look, this is the kind of riff that a group of 5th graders that had just discovered the guitar and started a band would come up with, not 50+ year-old veterans of metal that are capable of a whole lot more.
There are also a huge problem concerning one particular song on "Hope in Hell". That one track is "Call of Duty". The song is about war and dying in combat, what a surprise, but it's got a pretty slow time signature. Normally if a song about combat has a slower tempo, the music should be dramatic and epic, like Iron Maiden's "Afraid to Shoot Strangers". That song has a pretty emotional, and even morose feel to it as Bruce Dickinson laments about fighting and killing. What we've got with "Call of Duty" is a song that, while it is slower-paced, contains an aggressive, raunchy-sounding, riff with lyrics that sound like advice in surviving combat. Listen, if a there is a song about combat that has an angry-sounding hook, I suggest you speed up the time signature significantly so that the song could at least sound like it's actual combat. Cos this song right here just doesn't have as much energy to it, as it's supposed to, and it just stagnates on the album. The title of the track doesn't really help much either, it's literally been snagged straight from a well-known video game that some people play while on a Mountain Dew and Doritos binge!
We have had very high expectations with Anvil for the decades they have been active. Yet despite all of the faith we had in them, they had to come up with "Hope in Hell", which is by far the most underwhelming disappointment in the year 2014. Come on Anvil, you could come up with something much more powerful than this! You've been doing it for almost 30 years! You would think that a band would evolve with more experience in that amount of time, but here, we get an uninteresting flop.
Anvil, the hard working band that sacrificed pretty much all they had but never got that big break and truth be told, there were other bands who had success simply because they were better than this three-piece. Anvil, or to be more precise, guitarist and vocalist Lips and drummer Robb Reiner never gave up their quest for fame and even if they still to this day don't have a massive fan base, most people into metal know something about this combo. After parting ways in a heavy dispute last year with long time bass player Glenn Five, Sal Italiano has joined the ranks of the Canadian veterans.
To no surprise and guarantee, this release is yet another backbone heavy metal album. It's energetic and the flag of metal is raised to the top. Hope In Hell shows a somewhat timeless metal if seeing it from today's point of view, yet with slightly better sound quality than on their earlier albums, naturally. No compromises, taking no shit, and no greasy ballads. What more is there to ask for?
With this solid background, indeed I want to totally sell my soul and dig this effort to infinity, but the lack of good songwriting is truly evident and it never gets past decent. The lack of this most important ability is clear throughout almost the entire record. Some of the songs are all but good and only a few, like Eat Your Words, The Fight Is Never Won, and ironically the bonus track Fire At Will, sets my body and neck muscles in motion. I've only listened to Hope In Hell six or seven times, but I can't see an opening to make this album grand eventually.
I know there are diehard Anvil fans out there who will see this album as another true masterpiece and question my hearing and see me as tone deaf, but to me this is just a release in the immensely huge jungle of metal music that grows on trees. It's not striking me at all and I quickly lose interest.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com
The fifteenth full-length effort from Canadian metallers Anvil, “Hope in Hell,” is one more testament to the band’s undying ethic of producing classic rock ‘n’ roll with a metal attitude, but that never does anything more than present this as another middle-of-the-road effort.
One of the main issues with the album is immediately found in the first half of the album, where the majority of the songs placed here are seemingly mid-tempo efforts that aren’t all that impressive. Alternating between a plodding pace and a chugging mid-tempo effort, the songs are mostly devoid of energy and manage to come off as simplistic, lifeless efforts. While there’s some fine moments spread throughout due to some overall above-average drumming that sticks out nicely, there’s rare moments within this where it rises above and sticks out and leaving the songs to rely solely on the riffing to stand out, which does it little favors. Alternating between the two tempos leaves no room for variation within the songs at all, and while great effort is made for the riffs to give off a sleazy, old-school metal vibe that has remained a band trademark since their inception, this makes for an altogether disorienting experience.
There’s very little difference to the second half of the album, which tends to follow the same formula found on the first half of mixing up the mid-tempo efforts with the faster songs, and the results are about the same in terms of good songs and bland ones. Mixing in the sleazy riffing style and more of a love for classic rock ‘n’ roll than traditional metal bands display, the quality slips when compared to the front part of the album where more metal was featured, even if it was a lackluster quality, and as a whole there’s some rather forgettable tracks there with really only one standing out as being impressive. As this manages to feature the traditional Anvil juvenility effort, it sinks even more due to the whole child-like atmosphere of the song that really doesn’t need to be featured in this stage of their career. Overall, this is where the majority of the album is lowered due to the bland songs and unnecessary childish track.
There’s not a whole lot of songs here that really stick out due to the rather pedestrian writing. The title track’s plodding pace works in this instance only due to the moody atmosphere created with the vocals mixing splendidly with a decent central riff, creating a pretty decent effort. The same can’t be said for similar tracks ‘Through With You’ and ‘Call of Duty,’ both bland and mostly-forgettable chugging mid-tempo efforts with very little life or energy that recall the majority of the songs on here. The effort does contain a couple of faster stuff with ‘Eat Your Words’ and ‘The Fight Is Never Won,’ both containing chaotic proto-thrash riffing and faster paces with well-placed atmospheric interludes through those sleazy riffing, while ‘Pay the Toll’ and ‘Hard Wired’ are more of a classic rock ’n’ roll effort played in metal tones that’s reminiscent of their earlier days. ‘Flying’ and ‘Mankind Machine’ are both classic old-school metal with some aggressive riffing but the mid-tempo pace undoes them somewhat, while ‘Badass Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is a more energetic rocker with nice riffing. The rest of the songs aren't really worthwhile, a blend of bland metal or ridiculous rock trying to pass itself off as metal.
Overall, this isn’t all that great an effort and really shows the band as either being out of it altogether or just relying more on their laurels than anything else, a move that’s not a surprise at this state of their career but they should know better with what material they have presented here. A few decent songs here and a host of bland, lackluster mid-tempo efforts that veer more into classic rock than straight out-and-out heavy metal makes for a really uninvolving effort that sounds far better than expected due to a potent, charging production that gives everything a pretty clear sheen and mixing the guitars to give it a sleazy swagger that should really entice the old-school Anvil fans more than anything. Really, at this point, it’s all who’s going to buy into this one as lazy as the album is and who really should be looking into this one.
Hope in Hell is an interminably frustrating album because while its fully smooth and consistent with Anvil's canon, it just seems so bland, also- ran and forgettable by comparison to even their last few records. There wasn't a single hook or chorus among the 13 present here that I felt any attraction towards, though it's a direct stylistic successor to their last triumph (Juggernaut of Justice) and even bears a lot of similarities to their classic 80s fare like Forged in Fire or Metal on Metal. The tunes seem more or less dialed in from prior ideas the Canadians had already executed better, and the lyrics border on stupider-than-usual (from a group that has always had a penchant for a few silly themes on each of their many full-lengths). Not to mention, that even while I can't say I've ever seen an album cover of an anvil transmogrified into an aircraft carrier in the flames of the abyss, the artwork and title seem a little cheesy...not a first, really, nor is this the first disappointment I've encountered from this very band.
Don't get me wrong: it's pure Anvil. They haven't suddenly become Bon Jovi. The titular opener is the sort of slowish, heavy/doom crawl you'd expect from a band constantly attempting to reinvent "Metal on Metal", "Forged in Fire", or any other example of their Sabbath-like pacing. Instantly, you know where you are, back in the 'concrete jungle'. The musicianship is in no worse shape than on any of their prior efforts, with Rob Reiner's able drumming and Lips' pitch remaining consistent. But Kudlow is just not capable of pulling off a truly memorable line in either verse or chorus, and though they've always partaken of the 'everyman' lyrics rather than excursions into philosophical pretension or loaded prose, sometimes this just grows tired in its execution. Surely guys with 30+ years of experience have more wisdom to kick at me than "Badass Rock and Roll" or "Shut the Fuck Up", the latter of which is terrible. Sure, I'm nitpicking a bit, because the whole layman heavy metal thing has been their shtick for decades now, but combined with the very weak selection of rhythm guitar progressions on this album, it seems even more lazy and banal than usual.
Of course, if the chords and chugs were anything more than blazing effigees to tired, uninspired traditional heavy metal cliches that have been retread since (in some cases) the 70s, then I might still have retained a level of interest. This is Thirteen and Juggernaut of Justice were far from rocket science, but they both knew how to throw out some rhythm guitars or vocals that reaffirmed why I enjoyed them so much as a kid. Even the heavier, driving tracks here like "Eat Your Words" and "Shut the Fuck Up" are lamentably boring in their note choices, and though they definitely persist in that added layer of melody they implemented well the last time around, here the airy harmonies are every measure as predictable as the heavier undertow. "Time Shows No Mercy" and "Through With You" are examples of even blander songwriting, riffs that wouldn't even deserve to be on the cutting room floor of Metal on Metal or Pound for Pound, but somehow made it on here because 'like...they're pure old heavy metal, man.' In spirit, they're serviceable, but if I were to compile a list of post-80s Anvil highlights, not a one of these would make muster...
Anvil is a band you (or at least I) always want to love, and WILL continue to, because they're cool guys with hearts committed to music that most people abandoned for 15-20 years until its inevitable 'cycle' returned to fashion and then suddenly everyone decided to get back in touch with their youth. And yes, I'd say the same even if I had never watched The Documentary. But despite their best intentions, the Canadians are not above hitting a slump, like the substantial rut they found themselves in between Worth the Weight and Back to Basics, and I just hope this Hope isn't the 'teaser' for another one. Solid production, ageless musical ability, and familiar songwriting are the best accolades I can hoist upon this, but otherwise it's the least impressive outing they've had since hitting their nadir with Plenty of Power in 2001. As much as I admire Anvil, they are obviously far, far more capable than this, so I'm not about to sugarcoat my blasé reaction to this painfully average music. Time for an sonic enema of "Blood on the Ice", "Corporate Preacher" and "Fire in the Night" to purge myself of this lackluster offering.