On their 18th release, Canadian metal veterans Anvil live up to their name. Title track “This Is Thirteen” is a chunky, iron block on which to lay your head for a steady, heavy-handed pummeling. The group's cofounder, guitarist-vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow, howls, “Tarot cards and tea leaves/ a crystal ball...” (Hey, it worked for Ronnie James Dio...) “Burning Bridges” is another lumbering affair with an inflammatory chord structure that slowly builds to ignition.
Anvil's attempts at speed metal are inconsistent, and the problem isn't drummer Robb Reiner. After 30 years with the band, Reiner is spry and inspired, thrashing up a maelstrom with his double-bass drums. But, neither are the failings due to the riffs Lips and bassist Glen Five grind out. The two infuse the best cuts with old-school metal joy. “Ready to Fight,” for example, sounds like a hopped up Ted Nugent number. “Shoulda Woulda Coulda” coulda been a Motorhead outtake.
The album's Achilles' heel is that all 14 tracks contain choruses that replicate the song titles shout-sung over and over again. Cases in point, “Flying Blind,” “Room #9,” and “Axe to Grind.” Notice the rhyme scheme? Same tempos, too. And they come at you consecutively in tracks five through seven.
This Is Thirteen is best enjoyed by metal masochists who smash up the track list into small doses, the songs taken with a taste for cheese. Side effects may include time travel to the ’80s, headaches and neck pain induced by sporadic head banging, and begrudging respect for three guys who continue to follow their dream despite commercial and critical indifference.
Anvil performs Wednesday, February 3, at House of Blues downtown.
- Album title: This Is Thirteen (2009 reissue)
- Artist: Anvil
- Label: VH1 Classic Records
- Songs: (1) This Is Thirteen (2) Bombs Away (3) Burning Bridges (4) Ready to Fight (5) Flying Blind (6) Room #9 (7) Axe to Grind (8) Feed the Greed (9) Big Business (10) Shoulda Woulda Coulda (11) Worry (12) Game Over (13) Thumb Hang