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Anvil is a band known only to a select few die-hard fans, which is real shame, considering they are one of the best and most influential heavy metal bands of the early 1980s. I shit you not. These guys were hot property in 1981-85. Their first three full-length records, Hard n Heavy, Metal on Metal and Forged in Fire, are considered classics in the genre, and Metal on Metal is truly a landmark recording. Here you have the seeds of what would soon become speed metal, thrash and power metal. Add to that an electrifying live performance, lead by charismatic frontman Lips and drummer Robbo, a duo of childhood friends, and you had a winning formula… don’t you?
After releasing their third record, Forged in Fire, these boys were poised for metal glory. They were touring the world with the hottest acts at the time, and they had won the respect and accolades of bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Motorhead, as well as having influenced countless other groups who would go on to find fame and fortune. But as Anvil was ready to reach that next level, it all went to complete shit.
Why? Was it bad management, bad production direction, lack of booking or lack of a good and honest team to help them move forward? Who knows, but in 1985, just when it was time for Anvil to release what needed to be their finest record to launch them to stardom, all they managed was a best of compilation. Finally, in 1987, a full four years following their previous studio work, their fourth record, Strength of Steel, was unleashed. This one had to be a classic if Anvil were to take their place in metal history.
It didn’t happen. This record is a turd. It has a few redeeming moments, but it’s still a turd. A big steaming, stinky piece of shit. I remember how disappointed I was back then. I tried to convince myself it was good, but to no avail. I even put myself through the pain of listening to it several times on consecutive days but it only made me hate it more. I threw it aside as garbage. I sure as fuck didn’t shell out any money for their follow-up records. And I forgot about Anvil, like everybody else.
Twenty-two years later and I find myself listening to it again, to see if maybe I was harsh and maybe it’s aged well… Nope. It’s still a turd. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad. There are a few decent moments. I enjoy the hook of Concrete Jungle, and Flight Of The Bumble Beast fails embarrassingly in its attempt to be a new March of the Crabs, but at least it has more energy than the rest of the record. Kiss of Death is a cool track, as is Paper General. But the sound, the drowsy performances… Oh fuckit. It’s pretty lousy.
The title track, which is the first track on the record, is a perfect example of the problems with Strength of Steel. Do you remember the slow tempo of Forged in Fire, pounding like a ten-ton hammer, with Lips’ visceral vocals and guitar lines that cut your balls off and threw them to the rats? Awesome. Well, Strength of Steel seems to try to recreate that vibe, but fails miserably. Oh shit, so miserably. What a fucking disappointment.
One major downer is the sound mix, which is one of the worst, lamest and most pansy-ass engineering jobs in metal history, no kidding kids. Stale enough to ruin any chance of finding good stuff here. The guitar sound… well… do you remember a band called Europe? There you go. Ouch.
Another fuck-up, the production takes the band into a new direction, into the sound of 80s fairy hair metal, combined with overdone arrangements and mediocre studio performances from the band. How the fuck did they manage to make Robbo Reiner sound so lame, like he was very very sleepy. Jesus Hector Christ this is a fucking disaster.
And songwriting. The songs are so fucking slow, just endless, plodding nonsense. No strength at all. The band that used to put out so much energy was now putting us to sleep. It takes more than a few clichéd screams and well-placed dissonant chords to attain greatness. They needed to let us hear something with bite and balls, but they gave us a warm cow pie in the face instead.
So the mighty Anvil fell into the abyss of heavy metal obscurity, while many of their peers prospered from having stolen all of their early ideas. Let’s hope the recent documentary will help them build a new fan base, which they richly deserve. These guys are true metal forever.