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Anvil This Is Thirteen

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 @ 8:08 PM

VH1 Classic Records

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It's pretty cool that long-suffering Canadian metallurgists Anvil are finally getting their "15 minutes" thanks to the "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" documentary after 30 years of eating shit and anonymity. Christ, they deserve a lifetime achievement award - or something of the sort - just for their moxie and stick-to-it-iveness, because few bands have plugged away at it for this long with so little to show for their efforts.

Indeed, just seeing the indignities Anvil endured in their movie would probably be enough for some struggling bands to say, "fuck it, it's not worth it." But Anvil are either too dumb or too proud to quit. And God bless 'em for it.

Yet along with the usual reasons why Anvil never took off - bad business decisions, worse management, record company scumbaggery - is the fact that many of their dozen or so albums weren't really all that good, especially when compared to the output of other bands (Slayer, Metallica, et al) that came up at around the same time and went on to achieve speed metal glory. And though Anvil could bring it live - and certainly raise a few eyebrows as band leader Steve "Lips" Kudlow employed dildos to play his guitar - the material they churned out was pretty much grade-school, goof-ball thrash, typified by the likes of "Butter-Bust Jerky," "Show Me Your Tits" or "Mothra," that just got lamer and crappier sounding after their first three albums way back in the early '80s.

Now that Anvil are getting some attention, the band's latest album, This Is Thirteen - which, speaking of indignities, they didn't even have a label deal for and have been selling at gigs and online for two years - is finally getting a proper release. But with band mainstays Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner now in their 50s, I can't say the prospect of aging rockers cranking out puerile metal had me all that enthused for the album - especially given the relative slagging it got upon its initial "release" on this very site in March 2008 - see the article here.

But This Is Thirteen turns out to be a somewhat pleasant surprise. Not only are Kudlow and Reiner "acting their age," in a manner of speaking, they're writing better, ballsier material and have reunited with producer Chris Tsangarides to put together the best sounding album they've done in ages.

Musically, Thirteen isn't much of a stretch from what Anvil were churning out in the Metal On Metal days of yore - a fairly even blend of bare-bones thrash and thudding mid-tempo anthems that remain unapologetically simple and stubbornly old school. Don't look for any contemporary contrivances or fanciful shenanigans here, this is old-fashioned butt rock, like it or lump it.

Thirteen lumbers out of the gate with the plodding six-plus minute title track, but things kick up nicely with "Bombs Away," which lives up to its name with its charging tempo and Kudlow's propulsive riffs. And either way, the sound is crystal clear and big and beefy, with plenty of snap in Reiner's drums and teeth in Kudlow guitaring.

The up-tempo numbers are generally the most entertaining here, with "Flying Blind," "Ready to Fight," the galloping "Shoulda', Woulda', Coulda'" and "American Refugee" offering crunching hooks and catchy sing-a-long choruses that will set heads a-bobbing. The slower fare, like the aforementioned title track, "Burning Bridges" and the bonus re-recording of the way old "Thumb Hang" tend to be repetitive and, as in the case of "Big Business," over-simplified and obvious - and with Kudlow's warbly voice, kinda grating.

Though they put on a brave face in the movie and generally seem good humored in public, Anvil show they do have something of an "Axe to Grind" about the industry and the business that have been crapping all over them for all these years. They don't pull any punches on the self-explanatory "Feed The Greed," "Big Business," "Burning Bridges" and, of course, "Axe to Grind" - even though Kudlow's voice can hardly be considered surly or menacing. But it certainly rings true. And while their tune may change now that they've become "famous," at least they got it off their chest while they could. So while Thirteen is hardly what one might consider a metal classic, it makes for a respectable introduction to metal's most lovable losers for people who may have seen the movie and are wondering what the fuss is all about. And for all those who had written Anvil off after all those years of treading water and catering jobs, the band definitely still have some life left in them and - for once - perhaps the possibility of better things to come.

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Purchase your copy of This Is thirteen in the KNAC.COM More Store. Click here.

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