By Martin Popoff
Canada’s fearsome threesome, ANVIL, churn and burn on through the storm of metal movements, offering... Hope In Hell? That in fact is the (droll) name of the searing and sizzling new album, an old school pounder that’s gotta be the best production ever knob-jobbed by Bob Marlette, who’s dialed in many a’ band bigger than Anvil. Seriously, guitars have rarely been this white-hot and drums this perfectly punchy.
It all adds to the visceral power trio vibe that likens vocalist and guitarist Lips and his drummer-in-crime Robb Reiner to THE WHO, from the concept of the human chemistry, through personality, through a live, wide-open vibe... I dunno, is Anvil The Who of... speed metal?
“I think you’re right,” says Lips. “I feel that, sometimes. That Robb is like a KEITH MOON, but in metal. And much more technical than Keith was—but just as insane (laughs).”
“I mean, we both love The Who, so that’s pretty ironic you said that,” reflects Robb. “But yeah, we’ve been a power trio for a while. In fact, we’ve been a power trio all along—we just had an extra guitar player as a cosmetic application.”
“To a great degree, the second guitar player, they didn’t take part,” seconds Lips. “In fact, it was brutal going through that, having to have a second guitarist in the recordings, because they could never play tight. It was just really difficult. So I did everything, because what would happen is that the second guitar player would come in and play a couple of solos, and I’m virtually pulling my hair out. Because it took ages to do something that would take me ten minutes, OK?”
“I always felt that the band should be a power trio, three guys, and we finally did do that,” says Robb. “It’s been for me the best band it’s been since the start.”
Helping make it so is the addition of bassist Sal Italiano, after the departure of the well-regarded Glen “5” Gyorffy. Sal will underscore the point as the band hits the road in support of the slamming new record, one chock full of anthems, and easily memorable ones at that, which, as Lips explains, is no fluke.
“I think it was about identifying our chorus lines,” figures Kudlow, possessor of one the most recognizable and purely powerful voices in the band’s chosen “speed metal” genre. “I think that’s what it’s about. From working with Bob Marlette, on the Juggernaut album, it really sparked up a way of going in to write songs. So we were looking to create really amazing arrangements that illustrate our hook lines. So that the hook is the most important part, so that you remember the song.”
As for Bob’s specific forte, Lips figures it’s his, “really great insight into music—on many levels, and with many different styles. He’s an extremely talented keyboard player, with an understanding of music on a level that guitar players or drummers or bass players can’t possibly have. He started to understand Anvil a lot more with Hope In Hell. The last album was an introduction for everybody, for him and us, for all that.”
“He’s not really a metal guy, in his personal tastes” says Robb, of Bob. “And that works really good for a metal band, for a guy who has another perspective. The last two records that we did with Bob... we were very, very impressed. They came out really, really good as far as the artistic componentry. Bob really brought it home, man, and the band did as well.”
“But we didn’t do anything too experimental,” continues Lips, speaking the truth about a record that manages a lusty thrash ethic, but at all of Anvil’s accomplished speeds, with few bands covering the slow and the pocket-rocketed mid-range as deftly as these Canuck vets. How about proud points of penmanship? “I don’t know, man (laughs), maybe ‘Shut The Fuck Up’. In a certain way it’s my favourite lyric, because it’s such an expression of emotion—and relatable. I think everybody thinks those things and never says it (laughs). People use it as an outlet. Maybe it’s to the parent who keeps coming into the bedroom and says, ‘Turn the stereo down.’ It’s angst at its highest point.”
Evidently one Rudy Sarzo found himself beat up by the record’s title track, one of the band’s trademark doomthrash marauders. “He was listening to ‘Hope In Hell’, which was all done—Lips was just finishing the vocals—and we played him the track, and as the track was playing, he looks over at me, and he just gives me this facial expression that said... he looks at me with his eyes wide open, and he goes, ‘Wow’ (laughs). He was completely like profoundly shocked. And when the track ended, he stated to everybody in the room, he said, ‘Hey, man, I never knew Anvil was this heavy.’ We thought that was funny.”
So that’s Rudy, but what, specifically, does Bob Marlette like about Anvil?
“That’s an interesting question,” ventures Lips. “He liked the idea that we didn’t work with metronomes. Yeah, there’s an abandonment of studio etiquette when you work with Anvil—that he loved. And he actually did talk about that. Our timing, the way that we play our songs, only we can do that. And he didn’t want to change it. He said, you know, ‘When you do the music, it’s supposed to be to a meter (laughs). It should be, or as close as possible, but your music is not constructed to do that.’”
“We have the Anvil vibe,” adds Robb. “We have these unique time chambers that only we own. Nobody else owns them. And he loves it. We steal and cheat time all the time.”
Examples, examples, we need examples!
“OK, well, between... in the end of the guitar solo in ‘Flying’, when that comes back into the verse, it’s not standard issue,” answers Lips. “It has a feel in the way that it does that. Count it (laughs). Listen to ‘Shut The Fuck Up’ and listen to the way that the choruses and stuff fit, the way that the song bands together. There’s interesting ways... it’s in our time, the way that we chug through a section. But it’s not one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four—it’s not like that. There’s a feel to it. You can’t explain it. And when other musicians actually have to play with Robb and I, they have to adjust. It’s not really standard issue. That’s just the way we play together. How else is it going to be? That’s the way it is. They have to adjust to it. I’ve been playing with Robb since I’m 13 years old, so what do I know? Get a different drummer, and I’m going to have problems.”