Album Review: ANVIL Anvil Is Anvil
Early on in the earnest, deservedly beloved 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a series of 80's metal luminaries are trotted out in talking head fashion to opine about how influential the band Anvil were to their own band's nascent sound, the ultimate aim of which is to introduce the question the remainder of the documentary makes only the most cursory attempt to answer: why didn't Anvil become as successful as the peers namechecking them?
The documentary, as compelling as it is in terms of its endearing underdog humanity, focuses more on the band's attempts to just get a comeback tour off the ground than it does in addressing their allegedly shortchanged legacy, but after an initial surge in popularity after the doc was released Anvil quickly found themselves backsliding toward their previous dearth of prosperity. Which if anything just revives the question of why success continues to elude the band.
If we're being blunt, the truth is it's because they were just never all that good to begin with. Most will agree that the band have one legit minor masterpiece under their belt (Metal on Metal, of course) and, depending on who you ask, maybe one or two other pretty good albums circa that same time period, but between their final album on Canadian indie Attic Records (1983's Forged in Fire) and their jump to Metal Blade (1987's Strength of Steel) the genre had greatly sophisticated, and Anvil's rather lunkheaded brand of blunt, neanderthal metal seemed warmed over and stale.
Unfortunately here we are nearly 30 years later and Anvil are still trying to sell us reheated third string rock that would have seemed rote even back in 1984. To wit, "Runaway Train" sounds like a poor rewrite of Accept's "Fast As a Shark", "Daggers and Rum" is a first year guitar student's take on AC/DC by way of Running Wild's pirate fixation, and "Gun Control" is a frankly embarrassing attempt to be topical that falls flat with a resounding thud. And as if to prove just how hard Lipps and Robbo are struggling to keep up with the zeitgeist, we even get a zombie apocalypse song called… "Zombie Apocalypse". These lyrics unfortunately prove to far less endearing or personality-laden than the characters that appeared in the Anvil! doc would suggest, which answers every question you'd ever want to ask about why this band can't seem to ever get over.
Bottom line, then: Anvil is a band that sounds better on paper than they come off in execution: they have the old school street cred, an immediately accessible sound and well over three decades of experience under their belts. Yet none of those bona fides actually translate into anything you're dying to listen to more than once. In fact, by about halfway through Anvil Is Anvil you're already wondering why you bothered in the first place. For a band that supposedly inspired the quirky dorks in Spinal Tap this definitely lacks that unintentional oafish charm… Anvil are just flat out dull.