Anvil persists. That’s become an enduring truism and the mantra of this Canadian act since they first broke ground way back in 1981. You probably know their story – once poised to be the next big thing on the strength of classic albums like Metal on Metal and Forged in Fire, the call to greatness never came and the band watched younger acts like Metallica and Anthrax pass them by on the road to legend. But did they fold up shop and cry about it? Fook no1! When the going gets tough, Anvil gets going, and that brings us to their 17th goddamn album, Pounding the Pavement. With nearly 40 years in the biz, Anvil has remained largely static, playing traditional metal mixed with speed. You get burly riffs, hoarse, unpolished vocals and lyrics with tongue so firmly in cheek, you’d think gangrene would have set in decades ago. The last Anvil album I truly loved came out in 1983, but you always get a few fun tunes per release and Pounding is no different.
Opener “Bitch in a Box” has a main riff and style similar to 80s Accept, and it’s a decently crunchy, munchy cut with lyrics dumb enough to rot your frontal lobe. It’s a screed against GPS devices, don’t you know, with one squawking directions and “recalculating” in the background as Anvil does what Anvil does. It’s amusing, but quite silly. “Ego” is much better, leaning on the band’s speed metal roots for a rousing zipper with balls and decent hooks.
The title track is a ripping instrumental that sounds like a Running Wild album sailing backwards through Danger Cove, and it totally works. Then there are the rowdy, upbeat rockers that owe a big debt to Motorhead, like “Doing What I Want” and “Black Smoke,” both of which are fun, lighthearted, and boisterous burners. You get a few oddballs as well, like the 50s sock-hop style of “Rock That Shit” which will make you think of Marty McFly at his parents high school dance, injecting too much metal into the Chuck Berry swing. “Warming Up” is similar but adds a vague jazzy element into the 50s blues rock. Weird. “World of Tomorrow” unsubtly lifts the famous riff from Sabbath‘s “Sweet Leaf” for an awkward half-tribute, half-plagiarism that’s quite a hot mess.
And what Anvil album would be complete without a few shit bombs? Case in point: The awful “Nanook of the North” (no, not the Frank Zappa classic), and the 5th Grade level cheese and paste of “Smash Your Face.” The latter borders on so bad it’s good though, and I do find the idiotically simple chorus leaving skid-marks in my brain. All the album’s lyrics are off-the-charts terrible, and though I know the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously, the lyrics are often eye-glazingly bad.
Lipps has always been a solid riff writer but a sub par vocalist, and though he has plenty of metal attitude, he can’t sing and his raspy bellows aren’t what they once were. On some songs he sounds really bad (“World of Tomorrow” especially), and he’s at his best approximating Lemmy on aggressive cuts like “Black Smoke.” Robb Reiner, the long-suffering drummer, delivers a solid outing, especially on the faster cuts, and basically, the band still sounds like Anvil, for better or worse.
It occurred to me on the third or fourth spin that with the recent passing of Lemmy and now Fast Eddie Clarke, Anvil has become the closest thing we have to Motorhead by default. That softens my opinion of them somewhat, but Pounding the Pavement is far from an essential listen. See the documentary, check out their early classics and if you’re still hanging around, this will be here waiting for you. Anvil isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Persistence is a vice and a virtue.