Toronto’s speed/heavy metal gods Anvil might be getting older, but they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Just two years after their 16th album, the Canadian trio is back with yet another record. Anvil in the 2010s has been a mixed bag; aside from the brilliant “Juggernaut of Justice”, the band’s other albums have featured a handful of great songs mixed in alongside more average material, with only occasional flops. “Pounding The Pavement” is largely similar in this respect; it has some of the best Anvil songs in recent years, but also a little too much mediocrity.
After so many albums, one would think Anvil would feel boxed in by their sound, but truthfully, it is when they restrict themselves to their formula that they succeed. The moments of experimentation (like the random choral “ahhhh” on “Bitch in the Box” or the strange background vocals towards the end of “Rock That Shit”) are the more frustrating ones. On the other hand, when Anvil focuses on unleashing charging metal riffs, like in “Ego” they reach the heights of their late 90s/early 00s period (one which the band doesn’t seem particularly fond of, despite the overflow of great material from that era). There are a few tracks that aren’t particularly speedy like “Ego” is, but the riffs are such classic examples of great metal riffing that they get by regardless of tempo. In particular, “Doing What I Want” and “Smash Your Face” stand out as highlights.
Both of these songs are very reminiscent of 2001’s “Plenty of Power” record. That album had a special, somewhat mechanical guitar tone to it. While “Pounding The Pavement” doesn’t have an identical guitar sound, the style of riffing they use draws some parallels sonically. The other trip down memory lane on this album is the title track, which is essentially “March of the Crabs” rewritten. The notes themselves might be different, but the overall structure of the song is identical, and even the riffs tend to be constructed in a similar manner. This isn’t inherently bad; in fact, it’s a nice way to keep the record going, as it doesn’t totally ape the original.
The second half of the album doesn’t hold up quite as well as side 1. “Nanook of the North” is the only completely awful song, as it’s one of those plodding tunes with chanting that Anvil seems to enjoy writing far too often. The other tracks are largely unmemorable. “Let It Go” and “Black Smoke” are the highlights of these last few songs, but even these tracks are unlikely to compete with much of the band’s 80s, 90s, or early 00s material.
Perhaps the biggest problem that Anvil has from a songwriting perspective is that they seem to approach things as if they are a rock and roll band, when they’re actually a metal band. Motorhead had similar issues at times, and it’s why you get songs that feel totally out of place. Much like Lemmy and co., it’s clearly an issue relating to the era the band grew up in, as Anvil’s existence predates many of their peers of the 1980s. Regardless, when Anvil sets their mind to thrashing your brains out, they succeed at writing their strongest material.
Even if the band doesn’t write the catchiest hooks, Anvil have always excelled as skilled musicians. Lips and Robb often deliver incredible performances that continue to amaze after so many records. This is still definitely true of Lips on “Pounding The Pavement”. He incorporates guitar solos at nearly every opportunity, even at times when it makes singing difficult. By contrast, Robb’s drumming doesn’t stand out as much as it typically does on an Anvil record. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t feel as world-class as it often does. This might be a production issue, as a song like “Let It Go” is overflowing with great fills, but feels almost drowned out. There are likely other similar instances of this, but without a keen ear on the drums for 45 minutes straight, it is more difficult to discern. “Warming Up” is definitely the major exception however, as Robb crushes it throughout the whole track!
For a band in their 60s, Anvil is absolutely still going strong. “Pounding The Pavement” is not their best work, nor are they at a point in their career where they will have anything truly mindblowing left in them. But if you are a superfan of their music, it is nonetheless yet another album worth buying. Though I was initially warmer on “Anvil Is Anvil”, I imagine this record might hold up stronger in the long run, even if it’s not initially as immediately great. Either way, skipping this album is a mistake for anyone who needs more than the 4 or 5 truly essential Anvil records.
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“Doing What I Want”
“Smash Your Face”
“Let It Go”
3.8/5 or 76%.