Anvil - 'Strength Of Steel' / 'Pound For Pound' / 'Worth The Weight' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 16, 2012    
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Re-issues of three Anvil albums.

Things were not well in the Anvil camp as they set to work on their fourth studio album ‘Strength Of Steel’ in 1986. Their record deal with Attic was gone. Their big time management contract with David Krebs had soured and with it went any chance of a major label deal. It also found the band divided on what musical direction to pursue. Drummer Robb Reiner and guitarist Dave ‘Squirrely’ Allison favoured a move to a more mainstream hair metal sound whilst lead guitarist and vocalist Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow wanted to stay true to their pioneering speed metal roots. A compromise was reached and Squirrely (so called because of his per chant for showing off his nuts to the ladies!) took control of the production.

And to his and the bands credit they came up with an album that really has stood the test of time. Yes it does have a more mainstream feel and is one of the most commercial sounding albums in the Anvil canon. It benefits from a big, booming 80’s production and to be honest the batting average is pretty high featuring classic cuts like ‘Concrete Jungle’; ‘9-2-5’; ‘Cut Loose’ and ‘Straight Between The Eyes’ (where Lips and Squirrely share lead vocal duties). ‘Strength Of Steel’ was derided as a sell out by critics and hardcore fans alike on its original release on the Metal Blade label in 1987 but it was their only album to date that has dented the Billboard charts in the States so it did find an audience. This was largely on the back of a video that they made for the single ‘Mad Dog’, which was funded by a grant secured from the Canadian government by the ever resourceful Lips. ‘Strength Of Steel’ is by no means a classic but it is one of the most underappreciated albums in their back catalogue and as such is well worth exploring.

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The following year the band released ‘Pound For Pound’ which saw them return to more familiar speed metal territory with blistering tracks like ‘Toe Jam’; ‘Safe Sex’ and ‘Machine Gun’ as well as the mid-paced menace of ‘Fire In The Night’. By this time however Squirrely and bassist Ian ‘Dix’ Dickson were beginning to lose interest in the band so Lips and Robb were steering the Anvil ship on their own. Problem was the ship had set course for the relative obscurity of the metal wilderness and there was little they could do to stop it. So I think that’s why the material on this album doesn’t have the same sparkle as its predecessor. To add to its woes ‘Pound For Pound’ doesn’t benefit from the same production values either. It’s definitely a more metal sound but what you’re faced with is a wall of guitars and drums with Lips vocals too far down in the mix. ‘Pound For Pound’ isn’t a bad album, far from it. It restored some credibility with their hardcore following and, considering the turmoil the band was in at the time, it was probably the best they could come up with under the circumstances.

It was to be another four years before Anvil’s next studio album ‘Worth The Weight’ was released in 1992. Those four years had been difficult what with Robb losing his father to cancer and the breakup of Lips’ marriage. They say that pain and suffering brings the best out of an artist. This is certainly true of ‘Worth The Weight’ as they returned with their most consistent set since ‘Metal On Metal’. They were also buoyed by the addition of US based shredder Sebastian Marino who had been brought in as a replacement for Squirrely. For the first and only time in the bands recording history this gave Anvil a dual lead guitar attack and Marino’s schooled approach proved to be a perfect foil to the self taught feel of Lips. The band were back to their speed metal best as they blast through gems like ‘Infanticide’; ‘Bushpig’ and ‘Pow Wow’ with renewed vigour and self belief. ‘Worth The Weight’ was - and still remains - a firm fan favourite and is certainly the pick of these reissues...

Alister Strachan

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