Released: 2004, Screaming Ferret Wreckords
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
I suppose I have been out of the Anvil loop, so to speak, as I was unaware they were even still releasing albums (sorry EvilG). The last time I heard from Anvil was on 1988’s POUND FOR POUND, but they have actually been steadily releasing CDs in Europe all along. Screaming Ferret Wreckords has optioned Anvil's latest offering (as well as re-releasing their entire back catalogue later this year) called BACK TO BASICS for North American release. That's good, right? After all, this is the band who wrote “Metal on Metal,” the one Anvil song that everyone knows and most Canadian metalheads will remember the hilariously bad video for “Mad Dog” airing on the Power Hour, but, oh, how the mighty have fallen. Now Anvil was never known for their technical proficiency or groundbreaking lyrics but BACK TO BASICS is truly a sad state of affairs no matter how you look at it. Lips’ voice is shot and the music is about as complex as a third-rate AC/DC song. METAL ON METAL and FORGED IN FIRE are still classic albums but they were released in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and BACK TO BASICS isn’t even the same ballpark. BACK TO BASICS is not all bad, but when it stinks, get your noseplugs ready.
“Fuel For The Fire” features one of the simplest riffs I have ever heard and sounds like something a 14-year old would strum away at while trying master his chords. The song is in the classic Anvil vein and Lips’s solo is pretty good, but the verses are just too elementary for a band that has been around for almost 25 years. The dirty riff of “Keep It Up” follows a silly ode to Viagra (are the guys THAT old?!?) and is testament to how bad Lips’ voice is these days. The off-key vocals sound like they recorded for a studio demo and then never replaced with overdubs to fix the parts that he messed up. “Song of Pain” is the best track here and actually seems to be written by a competent band. Rather than cheapening out on their guitar parts, Lips and Ivan Hurd have constructed a ballad (well, as much of a ballad as Anvil can write) that contains some memorable riffs that make you remember what made this band so good back in the day. “The Chainsaw” continues this trend with some downtuned punk-ish riffs that would not be out of sorts on a Motorhead record. Unfortunately, this is where it all goes bad with “Can’t Catch Me” and “Bottom Feeder” being almost painful to listen to. “Cruel World” is another stab at a ballad and believe me when I say that Lips’ voice is not meant to croon. “Fast Driver” has a great opening and fortunately ends things on a good note. The snappy pacing and groovy bass line by Glenn Five left a better taste in my mouth than the previous tracks did.
Horrendous production and a band that has clearly left their glory days far behind them mar this CD. “You Get What You Pay For” is a rather fitting title for a song on a CD this bad, isn’t it? I was incredibly disappointed with BACK TO BASICS and, like a watching a beloved childhood episode of DUKES OF HAZZARD as an adult, I wish I could have left Anvil as a good memory than see what has become of this once excellent Canadian band.
**A bonus DVD comes packaged with BACK TO BASICS which features the band performing live at Wacken Open Air in 1998. The nine-song set, heavy with tracks from 1996’s PLUGGED IN PERMANENT and the following year’s cleverly-titled ABSOLUTELY NO ALTERNATIVE, is a good selling point but seeing Lips’ bald spot as he headbangs during “Metal on Metal” and the classic “Mothra” definitely made me feel old :(...
KILLER KUTS: “Fuel For The Fire,” “Song of Pain,” “The Chainsaw”