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Anvil - "This is Thirteen (reissue)" (CD)

Anvil - "This is Thirteen (reissue)" CD cover image

"This is Thirteen (reissue)" track listing:

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. Should' A Would' A Could' A
11. Worry
12. Game Over
13. American Refugee
14. Thumb Hang (Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on September 29, 2009

"Overall, I like this disc. It's fun classic metal even when the lyrics get dopey (which is often). "

Like most metalheads I know, I'd made plans to see "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" when it came to my area. I'm a sucker for rock-docs and VH-1's "Behind The Music," and figured that if nothing else, the film would be a kind of real life take on "Spinal Tap."

But, when I heard that I might be getting this CD to review, I decided to hold off on watching the movie so I could pay attention to the music alone. That way, I wouldn't have too much of the emotional baggage from the film getting in the way. After all, I like a good "hard-luck-kid-makes-good" story.

Canada's Anvil, after all, was forged of the same 1970s vintage steel as Iron Maiden and Motorhead. On "This Is Thirteen," you can hear Anvil paying tribute to the sound that birthed it all, the almighty Black Sabbath, on the title track. Sure, Anvil drummer Robb Reiner can describe the sound of this track as "classic Anvil," but that sound owes a lot to what Tony Iommi bashed out in Birmingham. This song's heavy, sludgy, and slow, with singer/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow singing of "tarot cards and tea leaves." Kudlow's solo starts out rough, but eventually turns into something good.

Things speed up with "Bombs Away," which reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden instrumentally. Bassist Glenn Five wrote the lyrics that could describe everything from World War II's Dresden bombing to Baghdad in 1991 or 2003. He also has a great bass part that's prominent in the mix.

After that though, the album's quality starts to vary pretty wildly. "Burning Bridges" is plodding and slow with an overly-busy drum part. "Ready To Fight" is a fun little bopper with a good solo. Kudlow says "Flying Blind" reminds him of Green Day. Imagine a Green Day song married to Iron Maiden's "Aces High" and you'll get an idea of what this song's like. The chorus doesn't match the verses well, but it's still fun.

The album's best track is the Motorhead-ish "Feed The Greed," which has a great punk-metal riff. The lyrics about seeking "another day, another dollar, another scam" are delivered with just the right amount of snarl.

"Big Business" has a cool bluesy riff with a tambourine doubling as the sound of rattling pocket change.

Kudlow may be the lead vocalist and guitar player, but Reiner's drumming often plays a starring role on the album, especially on the fun "Should' A Would' A Could' A," which opens with machine-gun snare. The lyrics are delightfully dumb ("Life is like a card game/A good hand makes you win ..."), but the fun spirit will win over all but the most callous metalheads.

On the other hand, the band slips completely into "Spinal Tap" territory with "Worry," which talks about worrying "from the morning until the night/Anticipation on my nails I bite" over an overblown riff.

"Game Over" continues that downward trend, with lyrics that would've been cheesy in the "Pac-Man" era. Still, Reiner, Kudlow and Five put their all into the breakneck-speed music, and I like the solo quite a bit.

"This Is Thirteen" — as originally issued — ends on a great note though, with "American Refugee," which talks a bit of the difficulties of Americans traveling abroad in the Bush era. The lyrics are clever, the simple riff is a winner, and the solo will rock your stars and stripes off.

When VH-1 Classic Records re-released the album in the wake of "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil," a re-recording of "Thumb Hang" was attached to the CD (new versions of Anvil's "Metal On Metal" and "666" were added to the vinyl version). "Thumb Hang" plods along until halfway through, when things speed up and the track gets a lot more interesting.

Overall, I like this disc. It's fun classic metal even when the lyrics get dopey (which is often). That said, the production gets a little wonky in places, with Kudlow's vocals getting covered up quite a bit in places.

Anvil's "This Is Thirteen" is an enjoyable throwback to the early Maiden and Motorhead era that put a smile on my face whether I was laughing with the band or at them. Now, I'm even more excited to see the movie and find out what all the fuss is about.

Highs: The Motorhead-ish "Feed The Greed," "Bombs Away," and "American Refugee" are the album's best tracks.

Lows: "Worry" and "Game Over" head into Spinal Tap territory lyrically — and I don't think it's intentional.

Bottom line: A fun disc by an overlooked classic metal act that's enjoying a new day in the sun.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)