God bless ANVIL. Like RAVEN, GRAVE DIGGER, U.D.O. and EXCITER, under-the-radar bands, ANVIL continues to spread its ball-busting metal legacy, and cultivate its devoted cult audience. They all just won't die, no matter how much you expect them to.
It's already coming on a decade since ANVIL began shooting their acclaimed and impossibly successful documentary, "Anvil! The Story of Anvil". If there's any sentiment left behind that wonderful, honest film, it's the fact that ANVIL is grudgingly resigned to being a third-tier metal act, even with a brief rise to modest fame on 1987's "Strength of Steel".
Still, for all the style changes, Steve "Lips" Kudlow and his enduring partner-in-crime Rob "Robbo" Reiner have tinkered with, ANVIL is a meat and potatoes metal band, period. Sometimes power metal, sometimes blues rock, sometimes thrash, most of the time a stinking beast right down to their sweaty post-show armpits, ANVIL is, well, ANVIL. So acknowledged on their latest offering, "Anvil is Anvil".
Leading this new jaunt in the spirit of RUNNING WILD and ALESTORM is the jokey metal chanty celebration, "Daggers and Rum". It's laughable how low-key and sloppy ANVIL plays it. Lips huffs and swills like he hit half a fifth before laying down the vocal tracks on this one, though his guitar parts are heady. At least the boys get down to business on the faster and tighter "Up, Down, Sideways", notching a fast power cut that shows off new bassist Chris Robertson's knotty lines and Robbo's whacking tempo. Lips's guitar is as chewy as his snarls.
Other brisk cuts on "Anvil is Anvil" are "Die for a Lie", "Runaway Train", "Fire On the Highway", and "Run Like Hell". Frankly, the faster the songs here move, the better. The up-tempo speed keeps Lips and Chris Robertson railing their lines with melodious fluidity, and Robbo flogging away sturdily. The veteran instrument playing takes away from the inherent cheesiness bogging this album, the dragged-down "Zombie Apocalypse" and "Forgive and Forget" in particular, which are both flat-out horrible.
Take ANVIL's social commentary as you will on "Gun Control", but pay more attention to the slow and sleazy Ted Nugent licks and grooves to decide if Lips and the guys are taking a poke. For certain, there's a blatant shot aimed toward insurgents and terrorists with "Die for a Lie", right down to Lips's swollen squelching—though his guitar solo is a burner.
What's to be said for "Anvil is Anvil" is that Lips and Robbo have not slowed one iota, and like any other bassist hanging in this band, Chris Robertson is a snug fit. When this album hums, it hums, and it's always a treat hearing Lips burn up his frets. Some of this album is a flush, but there's enough to rock out to for a stupid good time. As this album's bonus track proclaims, ANVIL is hell-bent to never stop, and ANVIL is ANVIL, 'nuff said.