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Young blood came out of nowhere unexpectedly as the 80’s dawned, changing things forever for the rock/metal scene, specially in the UK but also in Germany, Eastern Europe (will Turbo ever get the credits they deserve?) – even in Canada, while their neighbors from the US of A were getting alarmingly clumsy and repetitive. Although new bands formed by veterans from the 70’s like Whitesnake, Rainbow, M.S.G. and Motörhead had already introduced some fresh elements on the genre, all those new acts cleverly made theirs. So the revolution had started, the NWOBHM exploded, accompanied by Anvil, Accept, Exciter a little bit later, among others. Unfortunately, most of those bands were overshadowed too soon by the next evolutionary step named thrash, whom they’d influenced – yet albums like Metal On Metal still sound satisfying a bunch of years later, despite not having aged that well.
Certainly, Lips & co. were doing something different from exhausted 70’s classic rock – the sound is looser, explicitly simpler and less classically-arranged than B.T.O.’s on the title-track or “Tag Team”, starting with the tempos. That hammering, persistent pace might not be so fast and aggressive but accompanies the clearly edgy structures with bigger fluidity than some blues-reminiscent beat. Riffs and choruses are equally emphasized with the band blatantly designing truly repetitive patterns, which make the music irresistible catchy and deliberately infectious. The commercial edge and focus is there, highlighted particularly on tracks like “Stop” and “Scenery”, which get pretty radio-friendly with the addition of much more unashamed melodies and once again, driving verses and recurrent choruses. Instrumentally, it all remains direct, far from ambitious and not progressive by any means – though very efficiently-played. “Tease Me, Please Me” for instance, puts attention again on catchphrases, as well giving room to Lips to perform some substantially-extended pickin’ parts, complemented by solid riff and lick bases. The beat starts getting more vital on “Jackhammer” and “Heat Sink”, on which bass kicks and more flexible, snaky riff textures increase exponentially the energy and power of the music, pretty spontaneously. In contrast, the epic “Mothra” and “666” are clearly intended to go faster and be much heavier, discovering a brilliant instrumental configuration with more serious arrangements, more preconceived solos and less brainless lyrics – now that’s a pioneer sound. Lips & co. are no virtuosos but you see, they ain’t lacking enthusiasm and elemental abilities to deliver coherent instrumental sequences. On the brief “March Of The Crabs” doing a decent display of humble, limited complexity, distantly obeying a classical/baroque music harmonic/chord progression.
Metal On Metal, features strong songs, banging away on “Mothra” and “666” most definitely, which might not sound that explosive and ingenious for 1982 however, when you had already “Tyrant Of The Airways”, “Witching Hour”, “Breaker” & co. but they can be thought as the definition of 80’s heavy metal, rightly. More direct, simplistic riffs, predominant up-tempos, evident chorus abuse, reduced instrumental passages, no more blues clichés…rock has eventually evolved. Although Anvil was no entirely speed metal band, as velocity is generally complementary and moderate here (with some major exceptions). Lips & co. don’t seem to intend to be the heaviest and fastest only, they keep an eye on melody reasonably, also insisting on accenting the presence of catchphrases and extended verses – even tempos get pretty traditional and weighty. Certainly, there’s a good variety of sounds here, as the group doesn’t stick to the same formula on each song, proving to be more versatile, adult and less narrow-minded than most of their peers in the old continent. Anvil combines the American and European attitude, the soft spot for melody and sing-along vocals they inherited from Cactus and Ted Nugent is fused with the heavier-edge, looseness and riffy policy of UFO and early Whitesnake. You see they know their roots, yet too many times they lack direction and conviction, not sure if playing Def Leppard genteel AOR or taking a heavier, less mainstream approach instead. Misconception and uncertainty affect the final result of the album, which stands between Journey's Departure pop and Restless And Wild heavy/speed mindset, in the end confusing the perspective and concept of the song-writing and the arranging on the songs. Too bad, as these Canadians actually possessed the necessary potency and attitude to turn this into a huge hard ‘n’ heavy rock/metal masterwork…but they didn’t.
Nevertheless, here you got a classic record whose songs might haven’t stood the test of time as good as other seminal 1982 albums, but still provides cool hard rockers, prolific lyrics, choruses you won’t resist to sing-along…an awful lot of fun, isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be about? Anvil also contributed to set the musical values and characteristics of following subgenres, not as fruitfully as their compatriots from Exciter, though they taught a whole new generation of teen musicians to play heavier, yet at the same time sophistically (much sonically cleaner than others, for sure). If only the conception on the album was right…
Anvil might have had a pretty good start with Hard 'n' Heavy, but it was the sophomore Metal on Metal that would usher in a new wave of attention towards the Canadians and very nearly hand them a hall pass to the level of notoriety bursting like fireworks around a select handful of other North American metal luminaries in the same era. Yeah, we all know how it turned out in the end, but no one can deny that this time, the band came strapped with more than just the good intentions and raw testosterone of their heavily hard rock influenced debut. This time they brought a 100% genuine anthem with them that would remain their best known song for all the decades to come. In fact, there are people out there who likely know Anvil ONLY for the track "Metal on Metal", as if the rest of their storied saga could be swept under the rug.
And it wouldn't be hard to plead their case, because this is one of those timeless monsters that simply won't escape your memory once it's pounded itself in there. Personally I loved the clever use of their namesake in this and other album/title track selections, but beyond that you've got this unique, dark and swaggering brute which features the appropriate metal clanging gimmick that you'd expect from the title. Immediately we're introduced to a darker, heavier Anvil with far more muscular guitar tone, and Steve 'Lips' Kudlow, while still utilizing the same range as the first album, seems as if his balls have dropped, or he smoked a few packs before churning this out in the studio. Huskier, manlier, and bolder, the near growls in the bridge stand out as a welcome warning that you are about to get your skull caved in by the weight of it all. Doesn't hurt that the lead burns like molten steel, the backing shouts are well developed and the damned central guitar riff is one of those so simple and effective that many other bands were probably slapping themselves in the forehead that they didn't come up with it.
But that's not the only great track here, and a number of its neighbors possess a rather startling depth that I don't remember experiencing on much of the debut. The year before, the Canadians had written the first good metallic tribute to a Stones' tune I'd yet heard, and here they unleash the first to a Toho monster in "Mothra", and a good one. Solid, mid-paced Judas Priest riffing helps spin the saga of the fictional Japanese beast while spurious leads help glide it into a finely structured chorus and a killer breakdown riff which yet again seems like a precursor to thrash. Lips is all fucking over this song, and the robotized vocals at the finale are another nice touch. Another legendary Anvil cut is the instrumental "March of the Crabs", also pretty effective as it allows Reiner's pummeling abilities to rise to the fore behind the rise and fall of the melodies, and fuck, the very EXISTENCE of this piece on the album just goes to show that these guys were getting serious...
Alas, not all of the writing here lives up to this same, impressive standard. We've got another Dave Allison fronted track called "Stop Me" which by this point feels like another band entirely, and a girl anthem called "Scenery" in which one of the riffs is a bit close to "Crazy Train" for my comfort (though the song is not entirely without merit). Others, like "Tag Team" in which Lips channels a bit of Gene Simmons' rugged vocal appeal is not all that special, or the driving if bland "Tease Me, Please Me" and "Jackhammer" just can't compare to a song like "Metal on Metal", and perhaps that's the reason the album wouldn't have the staying power the band needed to ride their momentum to the top. Don't get me wrong, there are a few other delicious tunes here like "Heat Sink" and "666" to strengthen the back end of the record, but it doesn't have that pure track by track appeal that contributed to the success of an album like Kill 'Em All or Number of the Beast.
Metal on Metal deserves a lot of credit, though, for the clear evolutionary path it represented for its progenitors. Louder, brasher, and far happier, the woodshed studio tones of the debut were dropped here in favor of a more industrial strength workspace, and this is felt in the thunder of the guitars and the raw weight of the guitar tone. Even the bass of Ian Dickson sounds more metal on this effort, thunking away with abandon even when he hasn't got an interesting line to engage. This transformed Anvil from a rather average sounding, fun hard rock/metal entity into something to be respected and perhaps even feared, as the celebrity roundup on their documentary film will attest.
I'd only heard of Anvil a few times before "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" came out, and every time I've checked them out since then, I've found them to be pretty lame, largely due to the vocals of Steve "Lips" Kudlow. However, I've always acknowledged that my opinion can be changed, so I think it's time for me to give their most popular album, "Metal On Metal" a fair shot and review it.
The first track is the title track, and, despite a strong intro, quickly becomes unbearably repetitive. The titular phrase is repeated at the start of every verse, and it gets old pretty fast. The chorus is unremarkable, nothing too different from your usual '80's fare, and as a result, I have no clue why this track is held in such high regard. For one of their more "famous" songs, "Metal on Metal" doesn't give too good of a first impression, and is largely the reason why I ignored Anvil all this time.
Luckily, the second track, "Mothra" is a much, much better track, and it surprisingly rocks pretty hard. I have to admit, I was not expecting this song to be so good, especially at the section that starts about three-and-a-half minutes into the song. It's a very good speed metal song with some great drumming from Robb Reiner, who throws in some surprisingly fast (for the time) beats that were much faster than what a lot of heavy metal bands (save for Venom) were doing at the time, and for that, he should be commended.
In fact, the deeper we get into the album, it's looking like my initial impression of Anvil was wrong, as their brand of AC/DC-influenced heavy metal is delivered very energetically on several tracks, and the guitar solos are all exceptional.
However, this does not mean that "Metal On Metal" is perfect. Lowlights include the third track, "Stop Me", which is a very commercial track that honestly sounds like a heavier, less vocally talented Def Leppard. The only thing the track really has going for it is the guitar solos, the best of which starts at the three minute mark and lasts for about thirty seconds, and is just enough to make the track not completely useless. This was probably Anvil's attempt at a radio hit, and I think we all know how Anvil's attempt at courting fame would turn out. The lyrics are also pretty awful in general, as most of them (even in otherwise good songs like "Heat Sink") are your typical rock and roll cliches revolving around sex and love. Furthermore, the album started to lose me at around track six, though it does pick up at track nine and finishes the album strongly with "666", an homage to metal's favorite number, although it's not nearly as good as Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast', which was released the same year.
Overall, I can definitely say that I'd misjudged Anvil based on the weaknesses of a few tracks. However, there are still a large amount of flaws present on the album, namely in the lyrics and vocals, and several songs that drag on for too long and have uninteresting riffs ("Tag Team"). "Metal on Metal" gets an average rating from me, because the good songs roughly balance out the bad, and while you may listen to "Mothra" or "March of the Crabs" several times in a row, you'll have no desire to her "Stop Me" more than once or twice. I would recommend this to fans of classic metal as well as fans of AC/DC, as they'd be more inclined to like Anvil's odes to sex and rock than your typical thrash metal fanatic. Anyone looking for heavier stuff should probably stay away, unless you're curious about the origins of thrash metal, which this album did play a part in, as shown by some of the speedier moments on the album. I would suggest paying about $8 for it, since anything higher probably wouldn't be worth your money.
Highlights: "March of the Crabs", "Mothra", "Tease Me, Please Me"
NOTE: This review was written for http://lavidastrangiato.blogspot.com/
30 years later it’s still an overlooked classic. From some (unsung) pioneers of early metal, the forefathers of thrash, comes their most celebrated release… When you investigate the roots of heavy/thrash metal, you’re sure to get bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax popping up on your radar. If you were looking for something a little more original, edgy, and entertaining, you would have to dig a little deeper. Do so and you might just discover Anvil. Discover Anvil and you’ll surely discover “Metal On Metal.”
“Metal On Metal” is a bit of a bag of marbles, but with many priceless gems in the mix. The album showcases Anvil’s speed and precision and the heaviest stuff I’ve heard from this era. It rockets off with the title track and if this song doesn’t get a smile from you, find another genre of music. This song sets the bar for the rest of the album, and the bar is pretty damn high. A few of the album’s other offerings fall short of this bar, but most come pretty close.
‘Mothra’ is an incredibly awesome song. ‘March of the Crabs’ is an incredibly awesome instrumental. ‘Jackhammer’ will chisel your face off and ‘Heat Sink’ will melt your mind with its fiery licks and pummeling drums. ‘Tag Team’ doesn’t quite share the level of chaos featured on the aforementioned tracks, but it’s still a hardhitting number. Something must be said about ‘Stop Me’ and ‘Scenery,’ both tracks seem to lean towards the lighter end of the metal-spectrum. These two catchy tunes seem as though they would be at home in a hard-rock crowd… Bon Jovi, Scorpion etc. But they seem a little out of place in the hellish realm of chaos in which Anvil have pitched their tents.
After ‘Scenery,’ Anvil pick up the pace again with ‘Tease Me, Please Me,’ rocketing back into the raunchy lyrics, blistering licks, and battering-ram drums that set them back on the path towards… 666. Anvil takes it to the next level in their fiery finale, ‘666,’ without a doubt. What more can I say? This album allows you to witness an evolving sound from hard-rock to heavy metal to thrash. Certainly Anvil were ahead of their time and this album is testament to their pioneering of pushing the limits and taking metal to the next level. I regret that I procrastinated in getting this album until the Anvil documentary came out, even though I’ve known about the band for a long time. Anvil doesn’t get the credit they deserve. You need to dig a little deeper. Do so and you might just find Anvil. You’ll be glad you did.
Anvil's second album "Metal On Metal", released in 1982, was a wild card of the the then emerging international Metal scene, and more specific, Thrash Metal. By now you've heard time and time again how much the big four own their very existence to Anvil's music and how they never got the break they needed. But as God himself a.k.a Lemmy explained if you're not in the right place at the right time, you're not going anywhere. For now let's put all known facts from the documentary aside and focus on the album for what it is.
"Metal On Metal" IS dead-smack between what was NWOBHM and what would emerge as Thrash Metal and even has ties with Power Metal. Yes this album has as much to do with both genres because of the band just somehow mistakenly manage to do so. It has the dueling Maiden/Priest guitars, the speed of Motorhead, and the heavy riffs ala' Sabbath/Purple....essentially what every new band starting out in the early 80's listened to. Remember there was NO Metallica. There was NO Slayer. There wasn't even Hellhammer/Celtic Frost/. This is 1982. Even Running Wild was starting out as a demo band. The only thing you could compare to or put Anvil next to is Venom, or Accept in terms of the heaviest bands around. For what Anvil did...if they mistakenly stumbeled onto what would become the Thrash Metal formula, they did it with grace. But Anvil had a very comedic element to their nature. Funny ha-ha style. Even Steve 'Lips' would make his vocals sound totally overblown with goofiness.
The songs have a good variety to them. The opening title track and most well-known song by Anvil is "Metal On Metal". It simplistic in terms of delivery. Sounds of metal clanging together and then comes in a heavy-as-hell Sabbath riff. With lyrics such as "Metal on metal, It's what I crave, The louder the better, I'll turn in my grave" how can you not crack a smile in terms of it's half seriousness/half silliness? The next song "Mothra" starts off with a great NWOBHM riff that is complete Saxon worship. I guess if Blue Oyster Cult had "Godzilla", and Megadeth has Gigantor, then Anvil can have Mothra. It's very enjoyable. "Stop Me" then flips everything upside down and sounds like a way more mellow version of themselves and is total A&R radio-friendly! Next is "March of The Crabs" which is a galloping instrumental that would have Iron Maiden taking notice. "Tag Team" is your standard fist-pumping Hard Rocker. "Scenery"' starts off sounding like "Crazy Train" but is no different than "Tag team" in terms of more Hard Rock material. "Tease me, Please Me" is straight-up Judas Priest-worship. Even Steve Lips does his best attempt at Rob Halford. I still can't get over the song's title which is so campy/cheesy, but this is 1982 we're talking about. The last song Anvil goes for broke where you think they did it all with "Mothra" in terms of Metal epicness....nah, the song "666" is even more pic with even more goofy vocals. This is probably the only song Anvil did with anything darker than a giatn flying Moth! It's great stuff. This song along with "Mothra" is what I was saying how Anvil had everything to do with Power metal as well as Thrash Metal because of the delivery of the riffs and over-blown epicness.
For the majority of the album "Metal On Metal" works. It's got the riffs. It's got the lyrics that would have any Metalhead banging their heads, pumping their fists, and rockin' out to. It's even better for the fact that "Metal On Metal" came out at a time when Metal was still in it's infancy and was still a wild bastard child of Rock N' Roll. And by today's standards, yeah you wouldn't be too surprised to see Metal hipsters with beards laughing at this and going "LOL, thiz iz the funnehs!!!1!" and then going on Ebay and buying up anything with Anvil on it to look cool.....but maybe then again Anvil, like a lot of other bands from this period and time in Metal, never got the chance to be loved by today's Metal audiences and they deserve their brand new success with the documentary. In closing, again, it's a good album that's great to put on the stereo when you want to invite your fellow headbangers over and burn brain cells.
“…metal on metal, it’s the only way, to hell with tomorrow, let’s live for today…”
I consider Canada’s Anvil the first ‘underground’ band I ever heard, actually conscious that it was off the beaten path and that I was probably one of two or three kids in junior high who knew the band existed, which is sad and thrilling at the same time. I bought this off one of those two kids for $5 with a split upper seam, but I couldn’t have been more delighted with my steal. Previous to that, I had only witnessed a pair of tracks - “Metal on Metal” and “March of the Crabs” - recorded to a DIY compilation tape courtesy of the same kid. Many years later I would learn the album is heralded as a classic metal icon.
The title cut is my first taste, a palate of gruff, almost raunchy vocal tones, traditional and deliberate guitars, and lyrics right out of a book of anthems. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that thrilled with it at the time, hoping for something a bit more over the top, and that’s when the wordless “March of the Crabs” climbed into the ring. On the strength of this stunning instrumental that is still one of my faves, I bought the lp.
In all honesty, the lp starts out rather deceptively with the title cut, sounding unlike the other nine songs. If I hadn’t already heard the instrumental, worry may have creased my brow. A sigh of relief came with Godzilla’s arch-nemesis “Mothra”, a song driven by rotating, fast-moving riffs and a powerful dual-toned chorus while Lips tears through with several lightning bolt solos. Vocal gruffness is tossed for more of an untamed shriek more fitting to the music. The album has its low points, and “Stop Me” is definitely one of them. The band's debut, Hard 'n Heavy, is a softer affair, and some of this would carry over. While looking for heavier metal, this was exactly what I was trying to escape: glammy, sappy, and very conventional with a sugarcane field for a chorus. At 5:24 you’re about ready to hang yourself in the attic, but about four seconds later “March of the Crabs” triumphantly bursts forth with numerous rhythms that either fast-pick, glide, storm or, yes, march you into a mesmerizing launch that harks the title’s imagery. “Jackhammer”, a great track, centers on brawny breaking riffs displaying Robb Reiner’s stick gymnastics, ending side one.
Not to be outdone, side two plows forth with top track “Heatsink”, a fantastically feverish number that knows no rest. Gloves off, Reiner fortifies some of the main riffs with untraditionally timed percussion that is the icing on the cake. “Tag Team” isn’t as bad as “Stop Me”, but “Scenery” comes damn close. The intent is there in “Tease Me, Please Me” as well, but is actually much livelier than the title would imply and isn’t a bad song. These three mushier tracks lead up to “666”, the lp’s bruiser – easily the dirtiest, most daunting song featured, unleashing hostile riffs that rage close to non-existent thrash territory...dangerously close with its dual-version chorus, several shrilling solos, the crudest vocals in Anvil’s lengthy repertoire, and one of the heaviest songs to dawn in '82.
To take a nod from Gabometal below (whose review has now apparently been deleted), there was some heavy stuff being released at this time, and to add to the list: Under the Blade, Battle Hymns, Speak of the Devil, and Dawn Patrol (just wanted to see if you were paying attention on that last one), but unlike these classic stalwarts, Anvil was light years from being celebrated and was on a nearly unidentified label, and that’s what made Anvil all the more endearing.