In the wake of the movie that resurrected the seemingly doomed career of Canadian metallists Anvil, there’s a sense of inevitability about the way in which their back catalogue is being exhumed. Quick buck cash-in, or genuine opportunity for new fans to enjoy the music of what were once seen as barren years? That’s your call.
Either way, these two double-disc releases showcase four albums from a period when the band was on its knees and the Anvil fan club convention was held in a half-empty phone box. This is a band light years from its “Metal On Metal” heyday or its unlikely box office-inspired rebirth.
Presented chronologically, the four featured albums – “Plugged In Permanent,” “Absolutely No Alternative,” “Speed Of Sound” and “Plenty Of Power” – cover the period from 1996 to 2001, confirming just how prolific Anvil remained even when the rest of the world didn’t give a toss. As anyone who’s seen the documentary would surely testify, this is a band making music for no other reason than the love of doing it.
Anvil’s passion for their brand of thrash-tinged trad metal is clear throughout all four albums and if medals are ever awarded for perseverance, Lips and Robb are destined to be champions. But what these four albums also pinpoint is exactly why Anvil fell off the radar in the first place; the quantity of material is admirable but there are too many lapses in quality for any of these albums to be deemed essential.
Much is made of how Anvil inspired the likes of Metallica, only to get left behind as Lars and co conquered the world, but the harsh fact is that for a decade after the black album, Anvil was churning out schoolyard tosh like “Show Me Your Tits,” seemingly unwilling to move with the times and unable to grasp that metal’s huge audience was demanding a little more sophistication. Yes, Anvil got left behind, but there was a reason for it.
Still, there is plenty of frantic fervour on show over these 41 tracks and in terms of value for money, there is little to fault. Collectors and those needing an insight into Anvil’s wilderness years will find much to enjoy across these four discs; but for the rest of us, these albums are perhaps destined to remain in bargain bin oblivion.