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"Monument of Metal - The Very Best of Anvil'' has only one single purpose: introducing the band to those who haven't known them before and those who have only occasionally listened to them. This compilation is a good way to get introduced to the band and makes sense since it comes out exactly thirty years after the band's foundation and three years after the famous documentary ''Anvil! The Story of Anvil''. Usually, it's always better to chose a specific studio album over a compilation but this band had already released a whopping fourteen albums before this release saw the light of day which makes it rather difficult to simply chose one or two records. This release is definitely not called an extensive rarities compilation or a complete collection of re-recorded tunes and that's why actual die-hard fans of the band don't need to buy this output at all. Therefor, it would be quite inappropriate to criticize this release for fans since these critics would miss the point. One should simply take this best of for what it is. I must even praise the band for the decision not to include any new material or exclusive tunes on this release that would force regular fans to spend an exaggerated amount of money on an album just to get one or two new songs. As an introduction to the band, this compilation does a great job and features both most of the band's greatest tracks as well as a few forgotten cuts from overlooked records.
This release represents everything Anvil stood for over the past thirty years. The cover artwork, the lyrics and the song material give you a very precise idea of what you are dealing with. Still, this album is quite diversified and has an unusually good flow for a compilation which is generously filled with seventy-eight minutes of music. Newcomers get to hear the charismatic instrumental tune ''March of the Crabs" which often opens Anvil's concerts. The live version of ''Jackhammer'' shows the playful side of the band and proves that Anvil's music works much better in concert than on a studio record. The compilation includes classic heavy metal stompers such as the energizing anthem ''Metal on Metal'' which might sound simplistic at first contact but turns out to be one of the greatest classic heavy metal tunes in history. On this release, we get a recently re-recorded version which has a better sound than the original track but exactly the same spirit or energy. That's why this version isn't worse than the original but probably even a slight improvement. The bass-driven ''Winged Assassins'' and the energizing mid-to up-tempo track ''School Love'' get the same refreshing treatment while all other songs are original versions. From fast tunes such as the enthusiastic ''666'' over powerful mid-tempo stompers such as ''Sins of the Flesh'' to more dragging and sinister tunes like ''Mad Dog'', this release shows you both the passionate strength and the genre-specific limits of the hard rock and heavy metal band.
Anvil are an authentic, passionate and sympathetic band that wrote a few great heavy metal anthems but it's also clear that the band didn't have the courage, the vision and the will to try out new things as the biggest genre bands and that's why they didn't have a real breakthrough and might sound a little bit too repetitive at times. That's why it makes perfectly sense to own a compilation record of this band and maybe a few other selected studio or live releases with your favourite tunes on it but I wouldn't say that it's essential to own a lot or even all of their records. These down-to-earth, fan-friendly and honest musicians deserve to be supported and you can simply do that by buying such a compilation record and by going to their concerts. For me, this record was a fine introduction to the band and even though I have purchased more of their records by now, I consider this release a good starting point and summary for your discovery of one of Canada's most iconic rock and metal bands that still holds the heavy metal banner high after more than thirty years.
A compilation album can serve several purposes, if done correctly. They can provide a great snapshot of a band's entire career or up to a certain point in the band's history. To be successful they should be balanced, providing a good representation of what a band has released and being in a chronological order never hurts. That way you can hear a band grow into a style, develop their skills, rise to success or crash and burn. On the downside there are many ways to screw up them up. Those include a poor song selection, unnecessary bias to their more successful material or a convoluted running order. Anvil has released two (2) compilations now and managed all the above.
On their first compilation, no less than five of the eighteen tracks were from Metal on Metal. On Monument, rather than get a newcomer (who I assume is the target audience) acquainted with their catalog or at least pick up where the last one left off, they blow it. Once again they rehash the Metal on Metal tracks, offering little else to show what the band has done. A fan is likely to already have all these songs and a newcomer won't have any idea what the band are really capable of or what they've done in the last 30 years. Re-recorded classics and a grab-bag of album tracks apparently chosen at random are of little value. While Anvil only have a handful of start to finish solid albums, there are some great songs in their catalog. The problem is you just can't tell it by this release.
Monument of Metal is the second of Anvil's major compilations, and about the best I can say for it is that it's a fraction less worthless than its predecessor Anthology of Anvil. Sure, these releases keep to the alliterated titles the Canadians enjoy employing, and this one's got a fancy Robb Reiner cover which should thrill fans of the documentary who like that the drummer's into that, but in the end, all you really get are songs the the long term devotee has already heard, in some cases for many years. Granted, this is a more strategically positioned package meant to capitalize on the success of the film and upwards momentum of their latest studio offerings, both returns to form, but it's ultimately a massive missed opportunity to sate both the new and old audience...like so many other comps of its kind.
This could very easily have proven a great value had it consisted of 2-3 discs, perhaps with one devoted to lives and another to rare demos and unreleased studio tracks, but instead it's just one crammed disc, nearly 80 minutes of material, almost all of which is previously available on one of the band's 14 full-lengths, lives, or as a bonus track on a prior album. A handful of these are the 're-recordings' of classics: "Metal on Metal", "Winged Assassins" and "School Love", all of which sound pretty potent in their new incarnations but lack the character of the originals. "Thumb Hang" is a 'lost classic' of Anvil history, but was already included as a bonus on This is Thirteen (along with a remake of "666", which is also here). You might remember the scene in the Story of Anvil film about how this was their first written song, relating to torture in the Spanish Inquisition. While I've never heard the original rehearsal version, this sounds as if it must have been updated as more atmospheric. It's a slow, strong mover with decent, arching melodic vocals that has a similar appeal to "Concrete Jungle" or "Forged in Fire". Some sentimental value, but not entirely catchy.
Otherwise you've just got a bunch of rehashed material from the bands various full-lengths. I don't really see the point of including something from Juggernaut of Justice, which was still fairly new as of this compilation, but the title track is nonetheless present. A number of other choices are questionable. "Plenty of Power" from the album of the same name? Why bother? "Race Against Time" from Still Going Strong? "Park That Truck" from Speed of Sound? I realize their intention is to incorporate something from all the albums, but far better would have been to just dish out the quality goods. I mean, the point of Monument of Metal is to give the band's newer audience a taste of what they've been missing out on, so where is "Blood on the Ice", "Concrete Jungle", "Forged in Fire" or a number of their other pieces? Hell, where's "Smokin' Green"? They do include some of the necessary cuts like "Mothra", and surprisingly "Fire in the Night" from my fave Anvil outing Pound for Pound (great song), but it feels like an inconsistent sampling at best.
Presumably you'd just buy this if you were brand new to the band, checked out This is Thirteen or maybe Juggernaut of Justice and wanted to purchase a collection of the 'best' from their extensive backlog. You'll be disappointed, because these are not necessarily their best. I cannot recommend enough that you take the more direct route and purchase their early albums. I've always found metal tracks to be best experienced on their native recordings, even if that means they are surrounded by tracks one might feel are 'filler' from that same era. It's a far better representation of a band, and in the age of the internet you can already sample just about anything you'd want to begin with. This is part of the reason I hate comps like this, which simply don't go the extra mile to fulfill the long term followers. Not worth the money. Surely in 30 fucking years there were plenty of rare cuts, extra live recordings and such to cull material from? Monument of Metal might feature a few re-recordings you don't own from the original albums where the songs were first spawned, but otherwise its just furnace fodder.