without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The 90s felt like a decade of lost causes for traditional metal bands, and it would have been nearly impossible for a group like Anvil to make any headway when the misguided youth were awash in the revolting tides of gangsta rap, boy bands, grunge and the 'alternative' rock scene which was born of numerous genres. So many of those apes who were newly drawn to metal, or formerly enamored of thrash, USPM and NWOBHM would become converts to the raging tough guy and drug addict attitudes of bands like Pantera and Cypress Hill, so what could be left for an Anvil or an Exciter? Not a whole fucking lot, so it's a miracle than such acts managed to stay afloat when it seemed like the world was ready to shove them face first into the dust. Thank the stars for metal festivals, Europe, Japan and that dwindled population of loyal headbangers who somehow kept it all worthwhile!
Sadly, I can't follow up such sentiments with any proclamation that Anvil would soon return to relevance, or write that long-anticipated comeback album we all knew they had in them. Why, I myself had been waiting for such an album since 1988's Pound for Pound. For a decade they had toiled with the law of averages. Plenty of Power had plenty to prove, and yet it manifest as what must be one of the band's most joyless exercises in composition to its day. The gaudy, ugly cover art might bear some relevance to the title, but it's one of the worst in their discography, and the songs aren't much better. Anvil were attempting to tap into the 'issues' of these times, tackling internet addiction ("Computer Drone"), turn of the century Armageddon ("Ball of Fire"), or the plight of the middle class everyman ("Disgruntled") that they'd been on about since Strength of Steel in 1987, but then tempering the seriousness with "Pro Wrestling" or the sad pair of self affirmation tracks in "Groove Science" and the lame "Real Metal"...
Seriously, you don't need to justify your existence as a metal band with weak 'I don't give a fuck' lyrics aimed at critics and the non-metal audience, nor by listing off some of your past album titles in one of the verses. Or, rather, if you do this, the music had better be damn good enough to forget such pitiful prose. "Real Metal" is instead one of the most pathetic tracks on this album, a mix of uninspired demi-thrash rhythms upon which a half-decent lead is wasted. Compare and contrast this with listless numbers like "Ball of Fire" or "Plenty of Power" itself, mediocre riffing made even worse by the phoned in vocal patterns that show only a faint resemblance to any of that rugged charisma Steve Kudlow exhibited through the 80s works. He's not heavily relying on his Lemmy-like lower grit as much as he was on the previous pair of albums, but he's got very little to show for himself here, on an album that includes not even ONE good chorus, and a metric fuck ton of boring hard rock Skid Row boogie riffs in songs like "Beat the Law" or "The Creep".
Not every song here sucks entirely in the composition category, but almost any case of the guitar getting interesting is only due to its deviation from the norm. They once again try the tremolo proto death lines in "Pro Wrestling"; and "Computer Drone" incorporates some decent, leaden grooves through the oozing bass lines and slow, thrashing chops. But the majority of the tracks never reach any of the excitement levels that one would find on Forged in Fire or Pound for Pound in the 80s. The production is clean but lifeless, and strangely enough there's no silly sex song on the core album (not counting the bonus track "Dirty Dorothy"). As much as I'd been pining for Lips and company to kick that tradition, it's sad that it had to come amidst such an uninspired crop of songs that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Plenty of Power is not the worst album in the history of our species, nor even particularly terrible, but it's the first time I think I ever felt that the band sounded 'old', a strange descriptor to cross the lips of such a lover of old as I.
This is probably not the best Anvil disc to start with, as none of the tracks standout like those from “Metal on Metal” and “Forged in Fire”, but this album is another fantastic album by an underappreciated band. One thing I really enjoy about this album is the artwork. There is nothing more direct than calling your album “Plenty of Power” and having a giant bulldozer on the front. It perfectly describes this album; powerful, crushing, and heavy.
Onto the music now, every track here follows a fairly basic song structure and utilizes great but predictable speed metal riffs. Lips’ vocals are just as powerful as the early days and he still uses a mid to low range bark. It isn’t far-fetched to hear traces of Lemmy’s vocals at times. With that said, they aren’t great, but they fit both the music and the lyrics. Songs like “Real Metal” and “Disgruntled” show a lot of anger coming from Lips. A lot of people seem to think that Anvil’s lyrics are fairly weak but I’ve always liked them. They show honesty, which you don’t see from a lot of bands. Sure they don’t talk a lot about nuclear warfare or brutally killing people, but when you really look at the lyrics, they are really quite profound. Plenty of Power features some common lyrical themes for Anvil; heavy metal, wrestling, and everyday life. “Computer Drone” and “Groove Science” stand out as two of the most lyrically interesting songs. The former is about the obsession with staying on the computer all day (a song that was ahead of its time), and the latter being (quite literally) about how creating music is like science.
The guitars are just one of many parts that really shine on this album. One thing that has always intrigued me with Anvil was the distinctive soloing style. Once again, this album is no exception. Lips and second guitarist Ivan Hurd may not be the fastest or most technically proficient guitarists, but their solos are extremely well-structured and thought out. The opening solo to “Beat the Law” stands out to me as quite interesting. In addition to having great solos, Anvil certainly knows how to create a catchy riff. The chorus of the aforementioned “Beat the Law” features a simple riff, but when combined with Lips’ vocal patterns; it really takes the songs to the next level. Bassist G5 (Glenn Gyorffy) is no slacker either. You can constantly hear the low rumble of his bass and often times he comes out of the shadows to play a few perfectly placed notes. Much like Lips and Hurd, G5 does not play to impress anyone, just to write great songs. Both the bass and guitar tones are fairly standard, but it works.
Now we come to drummer Robb Reiner. If you aren’t familiar with the earlier Anvil material you may have missed out on some of the most interesting and technical drum fills in existence. In 1982, I seriously doubt there was a better drummer than Robb Reiner. Reiner continues his dominance on this album with a strong double bass attack and insane fills. The simplicity of the rest of the instruments allows Reiner to stick out. Even though his drum fills are often over the top, it never feels overwhelming and really adds a lot to the music. The tone Reiner gets out of his drumkit is quite odd. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a snare or bass drum sound like it does on these mid 90’s-early 00’s Anvil releases. This is actually a good thing, as it keeps the music fresh compared to other bands.
If there seems to be one common theme throughout this review, it’s that Anvil doesn’t sacrifice song writing for technicality. The chorus of nearly every song on this album (and on most Anvil albums) should stick in your head after a few listens. Some of the standout tracks include the title track, “The Creep” (which has a hilarious chorus), “Disgruntled”, and “Real Metal”. None of these songs are blast-beat inducing fast, nor do they ever slow down; they are just excellent heavy metal.
After all of this praise, why am I only giving this album an 87%? For two reasons; firstly, the chorus of “Siren of the Sea” is more annoying than memorable, and secondly, while the songs are all great and stick in your head, there aren’t songs that really take it to the next level. In other words, you won’t be hearing any classics like “Metal on Metal”, “666”, or “Free as the Wind”.
Anvil’s formula works and while some albums are better than others, you won’t be disappointed with this one. Plenty of Power is another highlight of Anvil’s career and the fact that they can continue to pump out albums of this quality says something about the skills of these musicians.
Many bands from the 80s have come and gone, but are remembered in various ways. Some are dearly missed and the demise of the rest couldn't have been cared less about. Poor Anvil seemed to have be forgotten almost completely. That has changed as of late with a documentary about their life receiving rave reviews and it couldn't have happened to a better band...well, it could have, but Anvil are worthy of the second chance they seem to be receiving. For the better parts of the 90s and 00s, though, Anvil hasn't gotten much attention. This didn't stop them from releasing quality metal. While not all awesome slabs of heavy rock, their ratio of good to bad leans exceedingly towards good.
Anvil's 10th album in 20 years starts off with a bang. The title track rages across with the power it implies and the momentum doesn't let up. Track speeds vary from Sabbathian doom to thrash Overkill. The production is crystal clear and most everything can be heard relatively easy though the bass is buried quite some bit like a lot of metal albums (unfortunately). Kudlow's vocals won't blow anyone away or even impress, but they fit the music which is something a quite a few bands can't seem to grasp. Don't expect Roy Khan, but they're nothing terrible. Solos were/are this bands strong points. Ivan Hurd and Lips share lead duties and the leads/solos really spice up songs that might have otherwise been a tad dull. Not Yngwieish in any way, they are fun rock and roll-types that accentuate the song they appear rather than something thrown in to extend the song length. Lyrics here are...words sung. Kudlow's lyric writing are often cliche and sometimes downright juvenile at times, but they are all amusing in a way. From "Pro Wrestling," which is self-descriptive to "Disgruntled" a song about the daily grind getting to be too much are just two ideas of the lyrical content on this full-length. "Real Metal" is not the JoeyDiMaio penned anthem you might assume it to be, but a nice tribute to Anvil's fans as Lips gives thanks to those who stood by their side.
Anvil's heads are probably as thick as their namesake, but their hearts are filled with the purest of metal. This album might not be their strongest, but it's indicative of their career. Decades and a multitude of hardships later, they still have plenty of power left in the tank. Recommended to the seasoned Anvil fan, but if you're looking to get into the band, I'd suggest "Metal on Metal" and "Forged in Fire," two awesome metal albums. Not thrash, not death, not doom, but just good ol' hard-hittin' metal.