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“…your mouth is bigger than a two car garage…”
Accidentally thrown on first is side two. “Where Does All the Money Go?” whirls almost promisingly, but within twenty seconds I’m already a fondue pot of frustration, distress, and oh I don’t know, relief I guess, ‘cos within that meager time span I become pretty convinced I don’t have to look pleadingly to the future for another good Anvil disc. I mean, it’s only been a little more than a year since Strength of Steel curled my toes with disenchantment. While the production sounds pretty hefty with Reiner machine-like in a tribal, almost anthemic (who, Anvil?) beat, the main verse only putters through the campfire, yet is immune to the flames. The song has little chance as it wanders into my crosshairs. The inner sleeve shows the four of them serious n’ scowling, much like myself a couple hundred miles away. Lips is now bearded (and admittedly looking cool), staring back heatedly like I just spit on his cat or something, but to me the only bullseye here is on the cover. No more expectations. No more anticipation. It’s over. I’m free (sob).
Ow! What the fuhhh...
…a sharp pain shrieks at the edge of my mouth. A sliver of metal and blood weighs coppery on my tongue, and slowly yet suddenly I’m being pulled forward through the calm waters of this fairly tepid tune. Somehow its hook-shaped chorus has snagged my bottom lip and is reeling me in like an expert bassman. Grumbling double bass ripples the water. Verses overlap one another like the waves themselves, cresting foamy with backlit vocals. The rhythm seems to twist like a fish in the air. Eyes widen to a fishbelly-white as the distance shortens between this spinning wax of a fisherman and myself, my struggling slowing more and more until infectious n’ brawny “Brain Burn” heaves me into the net. I look around feverishly for the frying pan, and it's got “Machine Gun” riveted into its iron.
With a gleam in my once resentful eye I announce that much of this nine-tracker clangs noisily like the Anvil of old, the part-time aggressors, part-time goofballs who carved the underground metal map into my personal, Motley Crue-bound world. With four minds and sixteen limbs vibrating simultaneously around the same overhauled engine, Pound for Pound called Strength of Steel a granny car even louder. My buddies are back, for real this time, and it feels damn good.
While pound fer pound this really can’t be called the band’s finest or mightiest release, and aside from a couple of weak high-heeled tracks they’ve conceived over the years, Anvil’s songwriting has always been pretty strong, yet it’s safe to say the weaponry created on its dented hide here is possibly more thoughtful, sharp, and even more cunning than that of their other spinners. There’s wisdom here, webs of wonder spun and dried, adhering great sleepers like “Senile King”, “Corporate Preacher”, and even obscure, album ending “Fire in the Night” to perhaps higher arcs of deduction, musically-speaking of course, ‘cos the lyrical preponderance of sexual square dance “Toe Jam”, responsibly sleazy “Safe Sex”, hockey hailer “Blood on the Ice”, and more boneheaded parallel to Billy Joel’s ‘Big Shot’, “Brain Burn”, are excusable only because they haul ass almost like it’s ’83 again, plus when has anyone ever looked to Anvil for fatherly advice? Despite this shockless revelation, squished even more to the front of the bus (because the back is way cooler) are the high school loser songs. The mindset is still there, only now the legwarmers and charm bracelets are abandoned to history class. Hey, I don’t mind if they rant and rave about twisting sheets in the bedroom, behind the gym, or in the dumpster, but give us something musically vitalized to bang our weary heads on while they do.
Alright, enough with the lyrics; as always it’s the rhythmic storm that kept us coming back to the troth. Having entered speed metal bliss as early as ’82, Anvil bent speed barriers even more shamelessly on ‘closest to thrash you can possibly get’ Forged in Fire, and while none of these noels (well, maybe one) can ravage train tracks like “Motormount” or “Butter Bust Jerky” (still the stupidest title going), these curb-jumpers are more rhythmically bantered, a bit more fleshed out, and still a little loosely-harnessed for that bit o’ craze as organic alpha male Robb Reiner is forever cement-handed yet nimble in his whirlwind drum maze. As always, gnarly Lips strafes this side of unpredictable, unknown if he’s going to roast a verse or skin it clean until it’s already packed away under his guitar strap. The two ‘sons’ are still here, Dickson and Allison, confirming the unchanged connection that was simmering with revolt only a year ago.
Sure, we’re all standing in line to feel velocity whip our skulls like the standard Canadian bicycle chain, but as if in cahoots with Strength of Steel’s troubled “Kiss of Death”, victory lies more with a penance against swiftness, most desirably “Senile King”, who’s rotund, high-hilled cadence flexes the chorus’s muscle somewhere near measuring tape-snapping proportion. It’s their years in the biz showing age without the liver spots, brows creasing out of reflection rather than birthdays, and it’s quasi-epics like these that are mercifully pushing ‘squeeze my (beach)balls’ knuckleheaders onto the ‘tard cart where they belong. Everybody now: it’s about time.
Strolling through the neighborhood we see Pound for Pound on a few acres of fertile property, farther from the mean streets below than Metal on Metal, but downwind from bludgeoningly-upscale Forged in Fire. Definitely not a bad place to be.
More than just the continuance of album title alliteration, and hey, no friggin’ anthem!