Review Summary: Inconsistent, unripe and with little brain. Sounds fun, right?
Dedication is the perfect word to describe Anvil. After releasing some greatly influential records in the first half of the eighties, the band started to disappear from the scene. Nevertheless, singer/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (the only stable members and founders) kept releasing new material, and are still active today. Plus, the band saw a significant increase in popularity in 2009, with the Anvil! The Story of Anvil
documentary directed by Sacha Gervasi.
1981 marks the beginning of the journey with the debut Hard 'n' Heavy
, originally released under the Lips name which was then changed to Anvil. Gritty riffing, frantic leads, imposing drumming and mostly sexual lyrics are the factors that join to create Hard 'n' Heavy
, a racy record that will almost surely be bonded with the listener with a love or hate relationship. But, casting aside the power of image that made Anvil (in)famous, does the formula really work" Well, kind of.
Opening the record is the sound of a school bell, starting in a strong way with "School Love." Maybe, the starting point is a bit too strong. "School Love" is simply infectious in almost every possible way. In particular, the drumming is massif, precise and ends the guitar solo with a short drum solo. Sadly, starting from the following track "AC-DC", the record reveals its flaws. Above everything, the lyrics. While the songs are never really boring, the lyrics can be hard to digest in a full listen. With poetry like "She's got me cumin', got me going / Shorted wires, circuits blowing" ("AC-DC") or "Tie me down you mean old bag / Wrench the ropes down leave no sag / Crack the whip across my back / I love your hot and nasty attack" ("Bondage"), one has to accept what he is going to listen to.
The other problem of Hard 'n' Heavy
is its consistency. The few real highlights outshine the rest of the platter, which isn't really that varied to begin with. The fast "Bedroom Game" can count on a blistering lead guitar accompanied by another massif drumming backbone by Reiner, the same man that sustains almost alone the headbangable "Hot Child" with its march rhythm. That said, the biggest surprise is the cover of "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones. Darker and more mature than the rest of the tracks, this is where the band shines as a whole. Even Kudlow, whose singing voice is far from perfect, successfully delivers his lines in a melancholic way. Then, what remains is a collection of songs with little soul, songs that are likely to be forgotten quickly because, even though the instrumentation tries always its best, they inevitably sound samey and not strong enough to rival the highlights due to a songwriting that reuses similar formulas a bit too much.
Hard 'n' Heavy
is clearly not at Metal on Metal
's or Forged in Fire
's level but, listened to in doses, it can provide some good fun with no frills (and possibly no brain). That is exactly what one should expect: an energetic record that, going from hard rock to speed metal, plants the seeds for the stronger releases that are about to come.