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The Anvil of the 90s turned out to be considerably less appealing than that of the 80s, not for any lack of trying but for a lack of those same, memorable results that numbered their formative output among the best heavy metal exports of Canada. Part of this was due to the decreasing popularity of the style they played, and a larger part was their misfortune at being tossed around between labels, shifting management and band members. Full-length releases were scarce, at least in the former half of the decade, and what we were given was hardly anything to write home about. That Worth the Weight was the band's most thrash oriented album is no coincidence, as the band had brought aboard Sebastian Marino to replace Dave Allison, a man many might know better for his later move to the East Coast staples Overkill.
So what we have here is what must be the most technically inclined and frenetic of all the Anvil recordings, with the implementation of tremolo riffing (as in "Embalmer") and a copious load of frantic lead sequences which feel incredibly structured compared to the previous record Pound for Pound. From a proficiency perspective, Kudlow and Marino really shine here, and there's no shortage of innovation to their playing, at least compared to prior Anvil records, but this factor is betrayed by the dearth of quality sing-a-long songs. The war drums and harmonics which lead into "Pow Wow", the shrill vocals used in the chorus of "Sins of the Flesh", the straight muted thrashing rhythms (and sexual double entendre) of "Bushpig" and the groove and drive of "Infanticide" all seem like a fresh canvas for the Canadians to paint upon, though stylistically they don't deviate a lot from the formulas on prior albums. Unfortunately, none of the songs really have an impact. The drier, spiffier guitar tone fits the new paradigm of the writing, but it feels nowhere near as heavy as its predecessor, and even though the note sequences can seem intricate and explosive, they're rarely if ever memorable.
Even worse, the vocals are rather limp throughout. There are these points at which Lips emits these puerile screams on tunes like "Infanticide" and "Embalmer" where I felt myself cringing, and yet by far the low point of their career to its day was the balladry of the opening sequence to "Love Me When I'm Dead": "Sadness", in which the vocals meander all over the spectrum, the only ligament to bind them the awkward means by which they panhandle the depressing lyrics. Anvil had spared us such atrocities in the past, but clearly Worth the Weight was not the place to start in on this tripe. There are some positives to the album, like the sheer ability wrought through the guitars, and the fact that they didn't become an all-out, Pantera worshiping tough guy groove metal band like so many other speed, power and thrash metal acts from N. America in the 90s, but after the climactic and immensely fun Pound for Pound this record felt rather lifeless, dry and uninspired. In short: it wasn't worth the weight.
“Worth the Weight”, Anvil’s 1992 album, finds the band firing on all cylinders in a massive display of metal musicianship. Frantic, dueling guitars courtesy of mainman Lips and co-guitarist Sebastian Marino (later of Overkill), the unrelenting sonic assault of drum god Robb Reiner and original bassist Ian Dickson and some of Lips best vocal performances are all hallmarks of this excellent recording.
The album begins with the anvil strike of “Infanticide.” A creepy acoustic guitar intro leads into a crunchy, midpaced electric guitar riff and chorus. Midway through the speed kicks in with Lips high-pitched shrieking vocals. Sounding a bit like Rob Halford here, Lips is underrated as a vocalist. Lyrically, this song is the first of many dark themes found on this album. It seems that all the frustration and letdowns of years past really influenced “Weight,” making it one of Anvil’s darkest and heaviest offerings.
“On the Way to Hell” shows the band’s Black Sabbath influences. This one is so Sabbathy it’s almost doom metal, save for the melodic solos preceding the Iommi-style verse riff. Lips even sounds like Ozzy here. This one is sure to have you headbanging, caught in its groove before picking up speed midsong, again very much like Sabbath but with a few thrashier drumbeats before returning to the midpaced verse riff and chorus. Simply put, this one’s a killer.
“Bushpig” is, musically, the best song on the album, with probably the dumbest, retarded sex lyrics. Seriously, the outdo Spinal Tap on this one. Robb Reiner will kick your ass throughout this song. The man is an amazing drummer. He stands head to head with Dave Lombardo and makes Lars Ulrich sound so damn sloppy. Listen to the awesome double bass footwork. And both guitarists shine as well, shredding solos like there’s no tomorrow. Faultless arrangements here, the riffs and drumbeats compliment each other so well and the band is so all-over-the-place your head will spin. Aspiring musicians, do yourself a favor and listen to this because this is how fast metal should sound. But damn, those lyrics!
Next is “Embalmer,” and it absolutely crushes. If you’ve never been afraid of dying, you will be after you hear this song. Again, musically brilliant and lyrically one of Anvil’s darkest songs. Frenetic drumbeats, speedpicking, wicked solos, it’s all killer and will send weak losers to the grave!
“Pow-Wow” centers around a Native American-sounding rhythm and riff and seems to be an anti-religious song. Slow and pummeling, the song speeds up midsection, leading into a drumbreak courtesy of Reiner. Lots of catchy rhythm guitar riffs, “Pow-Wow” is another excellent track.
“Sins of the Flesh” sounds a lot like a song Metallica would like to steal (they stole half of Diamond Head’s catalog, didn’t they?). This one is again full of crushing riffs and melodic soloing and it’s easy to see why Anvil influenced the entire thrash metal movement which they preceded. Lyrically focusing on the evils of the world, this is not music for shiny, happy people.
Delving into the history books for “A.Z. #85” Lips tells the story of gangster Al Capone. The song features fast downbeats and speed soloing before the cell door gets slammed a final time. Track #8 is actually two songs; don’t know why they’re not separated, except maybe for similar subject matter. “ Sadness” an acoustic ballad, voices Lips’ frustration with the fame and recognition that eluded the band for so long. This a really well-played but sad and melodic song which segues into “Love Me When I’m Dead” and a riff that Slayer would like to have written. A powerful conclusion to a monstrously heavy and well-written album.
“Worth the Weight” shows just how good a band Anvil really is. Perennial underdogs, the band never got the respect the deserved. The songs and musicianship on this album are such an inspiration to me and if you are a musician, as I am, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Then you can hang your head, cry and go practice some more. Yeah, it’s that good and this album, more than fifteen years after its release, sets the bar higher for everyone wanting to play metal. This is quality heavy metal music from start to finish. So if you’re new to Anvil’s music, discover this album and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth its weight in metal.
Anvil is usually...Anvil...never much of a change from album to album, and its been that way ever since Forged in Fire. Granted they did get heavier after Strength of steel was released. My point is that if you liked their first album, chances are, you'll like their latest effort, Back to Basics. You could almost classify these guys as "monotonous heavy metal". The only album that has any sort of deviation from there entire catalogue would be this one...and it also happens to be there BEST. The guitar work on this album is fucking amazing, hands down this is a true shredding masterpiece. Partly due to the fact that the incredibly talented "Sebastian Marino"(who went on to play with Overkill from 95-99) shares lead guitar credits alongside Lips. "Seby" is one mean guitar player folks...he actually resembles the virtuoso type players who onced flourished on the "Shrapnel" recordings back in the day...I think there's something like 47 different lead breaks on this disc. Unfortunately, the lyrics as you might guess are as cheesy as ever...and the vocals...well you either love Lips or you hate'em...I dig the vocals. Ironically, aside from Seby's guitar work...the other great thing about this album...yep you guessed it, Rob Reiner's drum work. The guy is a fucking menace on the drums! He's awesome and definately delivers his best work on this album. So there you have it...the only Anvil album that sounds a little fresher than the rest of em...but they are all decent!