Anvil - This Is Thirteen

The Canadian metal act Anvil has experienced a Cinderella like year so far. Their film Anvil: The Story of Anvil has become a favorite of the film festival circuit, played to sold-out crowds for most of the year in theaters, will debut on VH-1 this coming week and there's a DVD release right around the corner. If all of this wasn't enough, their most recent studio album, This Is Thirteen has finally been reissued by VH-1 Classic Records. The genesis and creation of this record is documented in the film. Initially sold via their website, it's now widely available and after a few listens, all I can say is that it's definitely worth seeking out and has more to sink your teeth into than you would initially imagine. Despite all the good humor and Spinal Tap hurdles the band endures, at their core, they are a dynamic and magnificent metal band who can't be denied.

Like any band in the midst of a crisis, Anvil has gone through its fair share of identity obstacles in the last decade. After releasing a number of albums that lacked sonic sophistication, not to mention a lack of personal honesty, the band decided to re-enlist the producer who brought them their greatest success on their first three records; Chris Tsangarides. Tsangarides' resume speaks for itself (Judas Priest, Helloween, Black Sabbath & Thin Lizzy) and he brings a raw yet sophisticated edge to Anvil. Drummer Robb Reiner and guitarist/vocalist Lips (Steve Kudlow) sought a muse to help them find their way back home and Tsangarides led the way. Over thirteen carefully executed songs, the band found themselves and made their best record in over two decades.

The slow churning title-track is a throwback of sorts, but one can't deny the stormy chord Sabbath-like chords that punctuate with truthfulness. After a decade of trying to chase and follow trends, the band sat down and wrote and recorded a record that is honed in the sound of their landmark records. Then there's the interlocking drive of "Bombs Away" permeates with a hailing chorus. "Ready To Fight" features soldiering camaraderie amidst a ferocious rhythm section (which includes bassist Glenn Five who is often overlooked). "Flying Blind" evokes a keen sense of vintage Judas Priest. "Axe To Grind" is unrelenting with an in-your-face defiance. "Feed the Greed" is framed by clashing guitars and a rave-up chorus pointing fingers at those whose life mantra is controlled by the incessant need for the green. Especially poignant on this track are Kudlow's raging vocals which bring to mind Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister. The blues-channeled "Big Business" has a groove to it reminiscent of Creem while "American Refugee" finds the band getting political and discerning showcasing that Anvil writes more than head banging riffs to rock out to. The album's final track reveals a new found sense of maturity where the band took a view of the world and made it into a tour de force finale any metal band would be proud of. Instead of falling into old sexual innuendo traps, they created something far more indisputable and mature. The CD reissue has one bonus track, "Thumb Hang", a classic among the die-hard Anvil fans, but had never been recorded before now.

This Is Thirteen feels like an ageless metal record; it isn't death metal, speed or thrash metal, but simply a distinguished metal record cut from the cloth of their classic past where they embrace all of the elements that made them so influential in the first place. While it doesn't take the listener in any new musical direction, it doesn't have to when the performances are as infused with passion as these are. When artists accept what makes them undeniable, they can't go off course. By embracing their past and writing lyrics with a more aged view, Anvil is showing us that they are more than just an influential band from the past but an influential one from the here and now.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.

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Anvil - This Is Thirteen

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