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The essence of Anvil - 85%

kluseba, August 31st, 2017
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Metal Blade Records

Canadian heavy metal band Anvil was always a group that was best enjoyed live to appreciate its entertaining shows, genuine passion and raw energy. However, only one official live record has been released in forty years of existence which is deplorable. Past and Present - Live in Concert was released before I was even born, more than twenty-eight years ago but the album has been reissued several times and any traditional heavy metal fan should call this release his own. This album is filled with amusing announcements, ferociously played jams and solos and almost all on Anvil's classic trademark songs. The record has aged very well and still sounds refreshing almost three decades later.

The album kicks off without lengthy introductions or overtures and comes straight to the point with the vivid ''Concrete Jungle'' which already seduces a quite audible crowd. This is what makes Anvil so special. The band is absolutely unpretentious and just tries to deliver the goods by doing what it knows to do best. For many people, this type of music might sound dated, repetitive and uninspired but Anvil plays this type of music with so much drive that this band can't be compared to truly old-fashioned acts like Saxon that should have called it quits decades ago.

The set list offers plenty of highlights. My favorite performance might be the heavy offering of ''Blood on the Ice''. The short, fast and dynamic rarity ''Toe Jam'' is as much a welcome addition as the ferocious instrumentral ''March of the Crabs'' and the extended closer ''Mothra'' that evolves into a jam session but doesn't overstay its welcome as it's the case with recent performances of the song where one could witness Lips playing a guitar solo with a vibrator for fifteen minutes.

The production of this live album is close to perfection. The vocals find the right balance between raw energy and melodic lines, the vivid guitar play takes no prisoners, the angry bass guitar tones are perfectly audible and the drum play is versatile but not overtly dominant. The crowd can be heard very well but isn't too loud to distract either. The record overall has a smooth flow and the few annoucements offer welcome breaks that blend in very well. On top of that, the cover artwork is one of Anvil's best as well.

The only weird thing is the fact that the final six songs of the show are delivered in three tracks only which extends them to unhealthy lengths of over sixteen minutes in the worst case. If you want to listen to a specific song like the vivid ''Jackhammer'', you have to skip Lips' short speech, the rhythmic instrumental ''March of the Crabs'' as well as an extended drum solo by Robb Reiner. Maybe it was cheaper for the band to produce eight long tracks instead of going for eleven shorter ones or even twelve if one separates the drum solo. I remember that Black Sabbath has done a similar thing early in its career when the band recorded its first studio album and didn't have much money. Anvil has never been a group of wealthy individuals but the band was still rather popular in the late eighties and should have had the means to pull off a decent live record with twelve separate tracks. The way the tracks are arranged on this album is slightly annoying and I wonder why it wasn't even fixed for the numerous reissues.

Aside of the weird three double tracks, Past and Present - Live in Concert is a very potent release and cements why Anvil has the reputation to be one of the greatest live bands of its genre. Since this is the only official live album of the band, it's mandatory to own this particular record. In fact, if I had one Anvil album to pick to take with me on an isolated island, it would be this one because it represents best what this band is all about. Let's hope that the band releases another live record twenty-eight years later and counting, this time with separate tracks only.

As solid a performance as their namesake implies - 77%

autothrall, January 5th, 2012

Eight years and five studio full-lengths into a career seems a very reasonable point at which to release a live record, and so for their final Metal Blade outing we were treated to Past and Present: Live in Concert, recorded in San Pedro, California. Having seen the band a number of times at fests and other gigs in the states, and I can say that they do put on a pretty fun show, Lips the proverbial heavy metal front man with a riotous presence. However, I cannot attest to having ever heard them sound THIS good in such a setting, so credit should be given to the band, the producers and the man at the sound board for delivering such comprehensive clarity. In fact, the album might seem a little TOO clean, in that the set selections so eloquently capture their studio atmosphere.

But basically, anyone who loves the collective 80s Anvil output is bound to enjoy this mix of favorites. Personal highlights from their career like "Blood on the Ice", "Forged in Fire" and "Metal on Metal" each sound fabulous. Material from Hard 'n' Heavy is nowhere to be found here, but that's never been their most popular, so if there were to be an omission that album makes sense. Metal on Metal is well represented with the title track, "Mothra", "March of the Crabs", "Jackhammer", and "666"; while Forged in Fire is covered through its own title track, "Motormount" and "Winged Assassins". Only one track makes it from Strength of Steel ("Concrete Jungle", a wise choice) and then "Toe Jam" joins "Blood on the Ice" from Pound for Pound, which was their latest at the time. The final three tracks on the album are each medlies of two songs ("March of the Crabs/Jackhammer", "Metal on Metal/Winged Assassins" and "666/Mothra"), which I found a bit unusual, since splitting these would have made the CD at least flow better...it'd be nice to visit the latter halves of these without fast forwarding.

I might have liked another track or two from Pound for Pound in the set, but what the band has included here all sounds excellent, with a clean and punchy guitar tone, solid bass plugging courtesy of Ian Dickson and vocals that feel quite authentic to their former, studio incarnations. Granted, you won't get a lot of the added howls and layered screams from the records, but in a way this more stripped approximation of the material delivers just as authentic experience even if Anvil seems mildly less 'wild' throughout. The mix is superb: while I would normally think that Reiner's drums might steal the thunder, they're kept appropriately balanced so that the melodies and minor vocal nuances shine through. Crowd participation is present, but never overwhelming, you'll hear this most in between the paired up tracks. In all, Past and Present is a rock solid representation of the band's material, perhaps not set up in the most explosive set list progression in this track order, but as smooth and clean as other quality live albums from the 80s like Live Without Sense, Live After Death and so forth. Further proof that the Canadians were a 'total package' deserving much more attention than they received in this time.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com