Anvil - Hope in Hell (SPV/Steamhammer)

More ups and downs than a speeding window cleaner...
Release Date: 
26 May 2013 - 11:30pm

Good God. Despite the heart-warming feel goodery of their now legendary rockumentary, I never epected the Anvil revival/second wind to make it to album number two; But it has, and I’ve been charged with the task of telling you all about it, so here goes.

On first listen, Hope in Hell is an absolute stinker. Terrible lyrics, hackneyed riffs,  in fact all the ingredients needed to justify throwing an album into oblivion. But, despite not being paid to churn out this drivel, I like to think of myself as a professional, so I made myself listen to Hope in Hell over, and over, and over again – and eventually I found some redeeming factors that might just be enough to recommend you go out and buy the thing. Just.

Things open up, reasonably enough, with the title track, which trots along at half pace without causing too many waves of revulsion. It’s got a nice solo from Lips. Track two, the crackling Eat Your Words, is much more like it, going close in fact to being classic Anvil. Silly, silly words of course, but great riffing and splendid high-paced drum work from Robb Reiner make this a real keeper, and one of the best things this band has put it’s name to in years.

However, all that good will is thrown away on the next track, Through with You. Inexplicably for a band of such venerable vintage, the band (and producer Bob Marlette – oh yes, he has to take his share of the blame for allowing this offal to make it to release) think that rewriting the riff to Smoke on the Water, adjusting it slightly and then passing it off as your own is good business – it’s not, and I never want to hear this infantile nonsense again. 

Astonishingly, next track, The Fight is Never Won, veers right back off into career-best territory again. This lack of quality control (or, at the very least, the inability to track an album intelligently) leaves you feeling bewildered to say the least. Lips' strained vocals aside, you’d think you were listening to two different bands here; Good Anvil stays with us on track five, Pay the Toll, which features some more searing guitarwork from Mr Kudrow and a telling contribution on Cowbelll from Reiner – and whilst Flying, which documents all the places the band has visited in their four decade long crusade- isn’t actually a shocker, it takes things back towards those feelings of despond again despite an uninhibited solo where Lips, um, flies all over the fretboard in exuberant style.

This exteme undulation carries on throughout the album with the good just about outweighing the bad in the final washup. So, you’re getting the picture, right? No? Let me help by painting this picture: Hope in Hell is like standing at the bar on a particularly choppy cross channel ferry passage – each drop of the good stuff leaves you feeling euphoric and warm inside – but there’s always the chance of getting covered in sick with every passing minute. Order the next round at your own risk…

 

Anvil walk out after hearing Mick Strong's thoughts on Hope in Hell...