Friday, January 13, 2017

LET THEM EAT METAL #6: Metal on Metal by Anvil (How aboot some Canadian speed metal, eh?)

In the days of yore, when pop music meant something, it was filled with nourishing musical ideas and showed the tides of progress.  But then something happened, the ability for it to fill our soul has nearly vanished, and the masses are starved on good music.  There’s the occasional quality track that stays good after multiple spins, but it has gotten to the moment where even good pop music gets stale.  We live in a white-bread world in mainstream music.  However, there’s salvation from the drek that the masses need to know about.  In the words of Marie Antoinette, or more accurately The Rods quoting her: “LET THEM EAT METAL!”

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and show the sign of victory.

This series is dedicated to the best that heavy metal can offer.  As you will read, I will take you on a journey though the annals of heavy metal’s storied history from its beginning in early 70s, its crystallization in the late 70s and early 80s, its breakthrough into mainstream conscience in the early to mid-80s, its maturation in the late 80s and 90s, its dominance (sort of) in the 2000s and even today, and the rare moments that very few talk about unless in the company of like-minded fans.  Not in that order, but I’ll be looking at the footnotes oh metal history in the order I desire.  In short, this series is about metal, plain and simple.

I might have gotten a little too European last week with Accept.  I mean, you have one of the greatest speed metal bands of all time coming from Germany, and they released an album that I’m sure had a massive influence on heavy metal in the 80s.  But with Balls to the Wall, you kind of understood that if you knew anything about metal.  But today, I discuss an album which, until less than a decade ago, did not have as much of an impact on the metal mainstream in the 80s.  However, it was a massive influence on the underground, and it helped with the development of a style of heavy metal that would be known as thrash metal.  Said album, and the band in general, is an album so fast, so loud, so aggressive, and so metal that it came from the Great White North, a place where I’m sure most of you want to move to in the next few weeks.  That band is Anvil.

Starting in the late 70s by high scholl friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner (who is not even related to the director of the same name) in Toronto, Anvil had big dreams of rock n’ roll stardom, blackjack and hookers.  They would get to work on making a name for themselves while playing, touring, and writing songs.  During the early 80s, they released their first album Hard ‘n’ Heavy in 1981, which was recorded when they were called Lips.  After that, and a deal with independent label Attic Records (who you may not know of unless you’re Canadian), they released the album, and today’s topic, Metal on Metal in 1982, with production by acclaimed and legendary producer Chris Tsangarides (you’ll recognize his production techniques from Judas Priest’s 1990 metal masterpiece Painkiller).  After that, which is something I rarely have done until now, they did not have a very successful music career.

Sure, they released more music between 1982 and 2008, when the documentary about their life and music came out, but they were swamped by the glam metal boom from Los Angeles and the combined assault of thrash metal from San Francisco and New York City.  However, their style, which can be the musical equivalent of “Why not both,” was not as appealing unless you were A) a power metal affectionado, B) European, C) Japanese, or D) all of the above.  Yeah, there are one of many metal bands who came out in the 80s who never saw success, but where their peers have fallen off and did other things, they kept trying to have a music career, despite many, many setbacks.  Such as these include mismanagement, scheduling, issues with gear, marketing, lineup changes, not playing for the mainstream, which included glam metal, thrash metal, funk metal, grunge, alternative rock, alternative metal, nu metal, post-grunge, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, metalcore, deathcore, djent, indie rock, indie pop, indie folk, and so on.  Hell, these Toronto boys are usually compared to fictional band Spinal Tap, a band that is seen as an affectionate joke, but these guys, while they have a sense of humor, are no joke.  If that may cause some issues, then it means that even when they say some things or write songs that are considered dumb, those songs come from honest, hard-working, and passionate kanucks.  And today, I go track-by-track to show you what is considered their creative peak in the 80s, and a reminder that bad luck doesn’t mean bad music.

      1.    Metal on Metal:
It’s saying something when Amy’s hammer EMBODIES this track.
When to get to how this song starts, you realize that this band has something special, or the Spinal Tap comparisons end up truer than ever (though you can compare EVERY heavy metal band from the 80s to Spinal Tap).  With it’s opening pounding on the anvil of time by the hammer of creation, with the image to the right showing what it could be, you get into the iconic opening riff, which ends up being the bedrock of this mid-tempo headbanger.  Then the drums kick in with the bass, and you there’s a likelihood of a massive grin hitting you’re face.  Then Lips comes in with his vocal performance, which is youthful, exuberant, and excited about trying to make the cut.  The song itself is about how awesome metal is.  Yeah, that’s it, it’s about heavy metal music as an attitude, a style, a lifestyle, a faction of the rock scene, a mentality, and so on.  While that may be seen as a flaw, it’s something else when you realize that this is the way the album starts: an ode to how awesome metal is.  What passes for a chorus would be “Keep On Rockin’/Keep On Rockin’/To this metal tonight/Keep on pounding/Keep on pounding/Join the heavy metal fight.”  It’s not much, but it does its job, but the title is repeated enough that “Metal On Metal” becomes a battle-cry.  Plus the guitar solo is tasteful, energetic, long, and loaded with enough guitar pyrotechnics that you can air guitar to it properly.  In short, this is a heavy metal battle cry, one of many that have been written in the 80s, and arguably the best.
      2.    Mothra:
So now that we know the band’s mental youth, we get into their love of Kaiju movies.  Based on the giant Japanese moth monster of the same name, Mothra is a song that is as equally big, thunderous, destructive, and intense.  With its pounding drums, intense guitar riffs, thick bass, and Lips’ vocal performance, this song could easily be the official theme song to the iconic Gojira rival.

Okay I’ll go into detail in this one.
Starting with a massive riff that starts with a palm-muted, power chord-driven riff that includes two chords being played downwards then upwards (expect that melody to be repeated).  Then you get the pounding bass and drums that you’d expect from this band, and you realize that Robb Reiner is a pretty damn good drummer.  Also a good musician is singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow, who both provides some powerful metal vocals and some slaying guitar work (including the lead and rhythm guitars).  And yes, Dave Allison on guitar as well and Ian Dickson on bass, who both add to the musical intensity.  You also get some good guitar solos.  As for the song itself, I’ve already mentioned that this is about the insectoid kaiju of the same name, and how it goes on a rampage driven by a vendetta towards the listener.  This is despite Mothra being known for her heroic roles in the movies she stars in with Godzilla, but a Wikipedia summary read can tell you that she has a “slightly” more antagonistic role in her debut movie.  But if there’s an aspect that this song that’s interesting about the subject manner, it’s that we get a song that’s slightly a tribute to her more monstrous side.  In spite of that, it’s a pretty banging song, and I do feel that this song can be a great tribute to the titular moth kaiju.  But I’m sure that Anvil might have given San Francisco the thrash edge as kaiju fans for writing a metal song about one of the more kawaii Toho monsters.
Don't let the kawaii humanization fool you, she can wreck your speakers
      3.    Stop Me:
So we go from heavy metal and kawaii kaiju to masculine libido.  Sounds about right for these Canadians.  Hell, I’m sure it’s a reason why geeks would want to move to Canada thanks to who’s president (despite the reasons for them not to move up north *cough*Nickelback*cough*Theory Of A Deadman*cough*Drake*cough*Justin Bieber*cough*Leonard Cohen is dead*cough*Tragically Hip are no more*cough*horse meat*cough* man, I’ve been hit with a nasty cold).  But yeah, this is quite the metal ballad, eh?
Starting with a clean/acoustic intro that includes drums and bass kicking in after a few measures, then the electric guitars come in later.  After that, all acoustics are phased out by a brief guitar solo that segues into the vocals, which deal with Lips being the kind of lover that comes from the Great White North, one that will mess around with a girl that’s absolutely obsessed with him (I’ve already made a reference to Amy Rose, and everyone gets one).  She’s so obsessed that she wants to kiss him, then get to other, more lewd activites (and that’s all I have to say about that).  Then he realizes that this chick that wants to give him a good time is actually pretty hot.  I’m not sure if I’m understanding the reality, or this was exclusive to the 80s, but I’m sure that obsessive fangirls are nowhere as attractive as they used to, but I’m also sure that there are some really cute ones (just cute, mind you).  After that, he goes on to the next show, much to the sorrow of the girl that he probably just got in bed with, or just kissed.  But to prevent further heartbreak, let’s get to the instrumentation, preferring a more mid-tempo, mainstream focused riff, bassline, and drum performance.  Plus Lips sings in a lower pitch, one that says alpha-male with experience and enough knowledge that this will end in tears.  Plus there’s a lot of tasty guitar licks here, all of them appetizers to a very tasty guitar solo that adds to the sensual energy.  Final thoughts, this is quite the sexy track, despite the lyrics knowing more than I do.  But I’m not sure who deserves a boot to the head first, Lips or the girl?  Or even me?
I got it this time for obvious reasons.
And Another for Jenny and the Wimp!

      4.    March of the Crabs:
Don’t expect any lyrics about crap people, Krabby Patties, Ash catching a Krabby, or Jamaican crabs singing to mermaids here.  This is an instrumental.  Before you get all crabby due to a lack of lyrics, let it be known that this song slays.  All the intro riffs before the main riff are all awesome.  With its aggressive main riff that includes a downward scale run, then an upward scale run, then that downward scale run again, then the pounding of chords that echo the drum work, you get a metal masterpiece.  Plus that drum work is pure double-bass, proto-thrash, high octane speed metal mastery from Robb Reiner (must resist Princess Bride line-quoting) is pure bliss.  And you have the bass managing to keep up.  You also have some serious guitar soloing throughout this song, all of which showcases Lips’ and Dave Allison’s guitar techniques, technicality, and talents (there’s a pattern here).  Each guitar solo and lick getting crazier, more impressive, and much more aggressive.  In short, if you can’t stand Canadian speed metal due to the vocals, this is for you.
      5.    Jackhammer:
To end the first side, we get a song that’s about…sex?  But unlike most other sex jams that I’m sure you’ll prefer, this song’s tempo, approach, and mentality is more like a horny teenager rather than an experienced ladies’ man.  Yeah, the song’s about going absolutely crazy with this one cute girl, mainly, in the most clean way I can say this possible, imitating a work tool with her (if you’re in the know, you already figured out).  To match this, the drum intro is aggressive, but hints to wild lust, the guitar riff is basic and Motörhead-influenced, and the bass is there.  Then you get Lips’ vocal delivery with screams excited, and this leads to a very Thin Lizzy-inspired approach to the singing and riffing.  Throughout, the song’s energy is consistently fast and, well, like a jackhammer.  Matching the jackhammer riffs and jackhammer-style love making is a furious guitar solo that probably is the most blatant metaphor for, well, firing the love gun.  After that, we get the final verse, where Lips is tired and no longer wants to see her, probably to avoid having to deal with custody if he forgot to wear protection.  Overall, this is a very dirty song from a dirty band with dirty thoughts and dirty associations for construction tools.  Before I get to the next side, I need a hot shower.
      6.    Heat Sink:
Another song aboot lovemaking, eh?  Yes, from the title, you’d be unsure what this side 2 opener would be enough, but when you think in a more sensual way, it starts to make more sense.  Seriously, there’s enough spicy, melting, gooey double ententres that it would melt Canadian snow year round, turning the icy, northern landscape into a slightly more socialist version of the American South and/or Midwest (what, with all the flannel they wear, beer they chug, wildlife they connect to and hunt, and other redneck and hillbilly activities that Canadians are likely to perform on a daily basis).  To match, we get a hot, bluesy guitar riff with sliding chords (think Ted Nugent, if he was Canadian, eh?), pounding drums, thick bass, and Lips vocal assault.  There’s some more traditional metal riffs played here, but they only add to the aggression rather than the hotter aspects.  There’s also a catchy chorus here.  Plus, there’s a slightly bluesier guitar solo with some metal elements here, but that adds to the dirty sexuality here.  Overall, there’s a lot of elements from the blues here, both in the guitar parts and vocal delivery.  While Ted Nugent was my first comparison, there’s a lot this song has in common with Aerosmith as well, even more so (I hope, mentioning the Motor City Madman in this day and age is a bad idea).  It’s not great, but I prefer it over Jackhammer.
      7.    Tag Team:
But it seems that these horny Canucks need to take a break from songs inspired by porn and sing about something else.  How about professional wrestling?  We did get a lot of Canadian wrestlers in the WWE.  Plus, there’s a lot of well-known tag teams that would go with this theme, such as:
That theme is amazing.
But analyzing lyrics like this, there’s also a bent towards female tag team wrestling teams.  I’m not sure if I remember any of that king, so I might have had to do minimal research for this part.  But a Wikipedia search afterwards, I come up with the Glamour Girls:
Yes, this isn't my best work, but so is this blog entry.  Speaking of The Glamour Girls, I’m also sure that this is an ode to two girls wrestling each other in THAT sense (Yay, more innuendo).  Despite the lewder context, this is a pretty great song, and I’m also glad that this appeared in Brütal Legend (though they used this song in a way that was less sexy).  This mid-tempo rocker with an off-kilter riff is the kind of song that works in the context of songs about wrestling.  The bass and drums manage to keep the rhythm down on the mat.  Plus, there’s a bunch of awesome guitar licks punctuated by a great guitar solo.  Plus, you have Lips delivering a great vocal performance.  This is a song good enough to bring to the mat for the title fight.

As for Brütal Legend, I wonder if anyone ever did this with the scene where Lars threatens to kill Lionwhyte?

      8.    Scenery:
As for this song, it’s still about women, but this is nowhere as sex-crazed as the last few tracks.  Instead, this is about a woman who Lips doesn’t have a strong opinion of.  Apparently, he considers her window dressing rather than a human being, and her actions manage to alienate him in ways that causes him to be even less interested in her.  You could make the argument that he’s probably interested in her in some way if he notices her presence, but the song affirms that he’s not into her.  But at the same time, I get the assumption that he’s acting like this to her:
I mean if he knows she’s there and acts mean to her, I could see Lips as a male tsundere, eh?  But to match Lips channeling his inner Rie Kugimiya, we get an aggressive, but mid-tempo and thus sweet musical attack, with chugging guitar lines, pounding drums, thumping bass, and a guitar line that I’m sure is going to be stuck in your head as badly as the chorus for “Caramelldansen.”  As for that guitar line, it’s both in a lower register to match the heavy metal energy of this rocker, and then we also get a higher-pitched version as if this band has two guitarists.  Like that’s ever a rarity in metal?  Plus, you get another guitar solo that adds to the musical rage here with enough pinch harmonics and bends to scream:
Seriously, the double-kick drums at the end aren’t enough for this song to avoid obvious tsundere jokes.  Overall, I’d consider this probably one of the few heavy metal tsundere anthems that I’ve heard in my lifetime, and I’m not sure if I’ve even dug deep enough on this lyrical subject in metal.  It’s rare that I hear a male metal singer act like Taiga.
      9.    Tease Me, Please Me:
I’m not sure why, but at some point, the band thought that it would be a good idea to make a song that’s explicitly about sex.  But for a sex jam, this is more of the excited, wild animal variety rather than a smooth R&B jam.  Especially with the main riff and the fast beat.  Plus with its title, it can’t be about anything else except sex (unless there’s some Lady Gaga esque metaphor here).  But before we end, let’s dig deeper into this Canadian quasi-hair metal song.  What I mean by quasi-hair metal is heavy metal that would not be considered classic hair metal, like Motley Crue, Poison, Ratt, Winger, Warrant, White Lion, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Dokken, Skid Row, Keel, or even Helix, due to being more in common musically with speed metal, thrash metal, power metal, or traditional heavy metal in general, and the lyrics are loaded with sexual energy.  And that’s the song in a nutshell lyrically, so let’s get to the music.  The riff, which I’ve alluded to, is fast, aggressive, loaded with elements of punk and blues alongside classic metal, mean, and loaded with machismo.  The drums are furious and thunderous.  The bass is thick and thumping like a heart during adult fun time.  The vocals are sly, crooning, sexy, sleazy, and angry, due to being tired with the girl he’s after not giving in to his charm.  Plus there’s a lot of sleazy, bluesy guitar licks and lines that lead to one crazy, bluesy, and sleazy guitar solo.  Overall, this is one hot song with some lyrics that say “enough with the chit chat, let’s get it on like in the Marvin Gaye song.”  I’m sure that, thanks to this album, the representation of Canada in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged is starting to make more sense (outside of the Salvation Army joke).

But is there anything else beyond songs dedicated to someone like her?

      10.  666:
A song that’s about Satan rather than making Mario jealous?
So where Iron Maiden made a song with the title being what this number is, Anvil decided to just call this song that number.  As a result, we get a fast, intense, aggressive, and almost evil song dedicated to the devil.  And apparently the band’s commercial viability ended here in the 80s.
After an atmospheric intro with wind blowing, a few synths, cymbal bashing and some guitar chords, we get into the opening riff, which is a fast, loud, and aggressive riff that leads into a brief guitar lick.  All anchoring this is a proto-thrash beat from the bass and drums, going for a more double-kick approach.  Then we get Lips howling about darkness, evil, and all that fun stuff while the rest of the band provides that proto-thrash beat and riffing.  And while you are slinging your head around during this neck-breaker, there are also several moments when the songs slows down enough for some massive chords.  As for the chorus, it’s just the titular number said in probably some of the hammiest ways Lips could say them.  Each time with the instruments having a massive slam before each syllable is shouted.  As for the guitar solo, I’m sure this is where Kirk Hammett got several of his ideas while not incorporating what Joe Satriani taught him, plus it adds to the youthful energy of the song.  Finally, we get the final chorus which includes more speed metal riffing, hammy vocals saying “six” then a guttural bark of the number of the beast itself.  And that’s how the song ends.  In short, this is an excellent way to end the album, considering all the Canadian bacon and cheddar that we devoured earlier.

So how was Metal On Metal in general?  What was my opinion on all the smut between the band’s odes to metal, kaiju, and darkness?  For the latter, it ties with the former, but I think that this is some fine slab of heavy metal tunes, eh?  I can see why this was a massive influence on the thrash metal scene in the States while this almost lost traction with audiences until VH1 aired the documentary about this awesome band.  This is a no-holds, no BS, straightforward speed metal album that’s about being metal while dealing with sort-of adolescent matters like women, nerdy interests, the metal subculture, dark themes, and being a stud.  It’s a great metal album that would have been a surefire metal classic if it wasn’t for Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All the next year being a massive breakthrough in what would be considered underground metal.  Hell, with how I bashed 5FDP for their mainstream leanings on my Worst Rock of 2016 list, you’d assume that I have sleazy metal when I really don’t, it’s just I don’t like BAD sleazy metal, and this is GOOD sleazy metal.  It’s a seriously underrated metal classic in the context of how the mainstream understands metal and a definite classic in the underground scene.  I think that this band got hammered by bad luck when they were going strong at this moment in time, and I relate, because this entry came way too late compared to how I’ve been releasing these.  But on the bright side, I’m glad Anvil has gotten more recognition outside of their homeland, and I feel that they are an example of the fact that you’re never too old or conform to trends to do what you love.  You can keep on doing it while having a nice life with family, friends, and your bandmates.  In short, this is a great time capsule of what metal was like between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and the rise of thrash and glam metal afterwards.  And Anvil are the perfect example of the following phrase when it came to both subgenres of heavy metal:
Obvious meme is obvious
Definitely a must-own if you’re interested in Canadian Heavy Metal, and one if you’re planning to move to Canada if you dislike Trump (due to Canadian laws involving music on terrestrial radio, you’ll need this album and anything by Rush).  Plus, the production is excellent with its clarity and rawness, the guitar work is fantastic for this kind of metal, the drums are unbelievably good, Lips is a flawed singer, but he fits with this music, and the bass is pretty groovy.  In short, if you’re a fan of traditional metal, this is a must own, but if you prefer your metal socially relevant, blacker than coffee, flamboyant, fantastical, technical to the point of being based on classical and/or jazz music, or even being down-tuned, rhythmic, angsty, and incorporating hip hop and electronica influences, this is a fun album to listen to, and a good example of how metal sounded thanks to the influences of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Accept.  For me, I find that this album’s greatest moments are at the beginning and end (“Metal on Metal,” “Mothra,” and “666”) with “March of the Crabs” being up there, while “Jackhammer” is probably the weakest song here with “Heat Sink” only saved by the comparisons to Aerosmith.  But regardless, this is an album that I enjoy listenting to.

Final Rating: 8/10 (A great intro into the classic Canadian metal scene, barring the amount of lust on display)

Next Time on Let Them Eat Meat: Paranoid by Black Sabbath

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and Eat Metal.

All used references are done under the rules of fair use and are owned by their original creators.

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