Still going strong? Well, that's certainly subjective.
ANVIL's umpteenth album opens with two tracks of pure and total greatness. They've got the power, dynamics, passion and drive that ANVIL used to fill entire albums with. They rush out of the starting gate in a torrent, screaming "ANVIL is fucking back!" "Race Against Time" and "In Hell" do it the way ANVIL hasn't done it since 1988's Pound For Pound. Then it's back to forgettable, uninspired fluff'n'filler for the album's remaining eight tracks. Like Plugged In Permanent, Speed Of Sound, Absolutely No Alternative and most other post-'80s ANVIL albums, you get great drumming, mean guitars and occasionally killer vocals, but if the songs themselves are built on riffs and ideas that aren't worth a damn, you're going to fell pretty ripped off (and bored).
The prime offenders: "Holy Wood", which stomps clumsily into its successor, "Still Going Strong", a song whose riffs are about as lame as the lyrics. "Don't Ask Me" features some great vocals from Lips, reaching to all facets of his still-intact range. Unfortunately, the skeleton is strong where the meat and muscle is not, its main riff so impossibly generic that AC/DC or even ROSE TATTOO wouldn't touch it. Other than the utterly unnecessary four-minute drum solo that is the centerpiece of the instrumental "White Rhino" and the shameful rip of URIAH HEEP's "Easy Livin'" in "Sativa", there ain't a damn thing to remark about in the album's latter half. But those first two…daaaamn. "Race Against Time" opens things up with a muted guitar intro similar to 1983's epic "Free As The Wind". It heads into a less emotional and more fantasy-oriented metal trip than that classic song, overflowing with exciting riff change-ups, well-thought-out arrangements and that familiar Lips/Robb Reiner vocal/drum chemistry. "In Hell" slows the hectic pace to a dark crawl. If they were going for the massively heavy vibe of "Forged In Fire" here, they attain it beautifully. Lips' shrill high-pitched cries rear their head here, and without sounding like insipid retread, "In Hell" manages to capture the essence of ANVIL's best and heaviest work throughout its 4:20 duration (could that running-time be a purposeful nod to their fixation with weed?). There's even an unusual diffusion-and-return at the song's three-minute mark that shows there are at least a few interesting ideas left in the Canadian beast yet.
But then it's all downhill after that, and we're left to drown in a mediocre assemblage of sub-par ANVIL songs. Even the typically incredible production work of Pierre Rémillard is missing. That said, he didn't have much to work with, as the songwriting doesn't favor his trademark mixture of dynamics, punch and clarity. So what will the next album be called? Full Of Filler?