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“…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.