without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
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.