ANVIL CHORUS
"The Killing Sun"

(Rockadrome)

01. Deadly Weapons
02. Red Skies
03. Phase to Phase
04. Man Made Machines
05. After Time
06. Death of a Dream
07. Blue Flames
08. Tales
09. The Blade
10. European
11. Such Is Life
12. Once Again

RATING: 7.5/10

Rising from the same fertile northern California scene of the early 1980's that spawned everyone from METALLICA to Y&T to the embryonic, pre-Pacific Northwest METAL CHURCH, ANVIL CHORUS packed a lot of livin' into a short life. Though they never signed to a label and called it quits in 1985, their music circulated in tape trading circles and achieved notoriety through underground champions like Ron Quintana (who pens the liner notes on this release). Now, with this collection of newly-recorded classic tracks, the world outside the Bay Area can get a glimpse of the band that remains a cult favorite on their home turf.

But go into this with an open mind, because ANVIL CHORUS will probably confuse you a little. "Deadly Weapons" storms out of the gate with NWOBHM fervor, melodic but fired up and majestic, but things quickly turn toward a more AOR/commercial hard rock bent on songs like "Phase to Phase". This side of the ANVIL CHORUS sound, augmented by proggy keyboards and aided immensely by Aaron Zimpel's smooth, earnest vocals, provides a missing link between hard rock and the progressive pop of the 1980's — it's got more in common with, say, ALAN PARSONS PROJECT than with the cars-and-girls radio-metal fluff of the day. Make no mistake, there's still plenty of harder-edged stuff to sink your teeth into, and on songs like "Man Made Machines" the band finds a near-perfect balance between rock grit and hooky, prog-tinged catchiness.

The prog side of the band comes out stronger in the middle of the album, with songs like "After Time", "Death of a Dream" and the excellent, epic "Tales". A slicker, commercial but classy sound creeps in around "The Blade", and is in full force on "European" and "Such Is Life" — these more radio-friendly tracks sound the most dated, though in historical context they hold up pretty well. "The Killing Sun" documents a band growing up, playing to their melodic talents, and very consciously exploring the different possibilities in their sound, going against the prevailing tide in the underground scene of that time and creating a "thinking man's" brand of heavy melodic rock that anticipated the modern era of prog-metal by a good fifteen or twenty years.

While "The Killing Sun" understandably comes off as a little dated, it'll go down a storm among retro-minded 'heads looking for unheralded gems from a bygone creative era. And for those lucky enough to be in the know about ANVIL CHORUS from the beginning, it'll be sheer bliss to actually have a finished product in hand after all these years. They were ahead of their time, and perhaps too good for their own good, but the scene may finally be ready for what ANVIL CHORUS has to offer.

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