Anvil has been on a rock 'n' roll journey for the past three decades, but it has become a very public rocket ride into the musical and pop culture stratosphere only recently.
And that's their dedication to their music. Ever since the award-winning documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil propelled the Canadian band from their respectable, hard-earned status as a band revered by the likes of Metallica, Motorhead and Guns N' Roses, Anvil founding members, vocalist/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, have made sure that one thing remains constant.
Rather than shy away from the publicity, the attention and the casual fans that are a product of this rock doc, Anvil, rounded out by bassist Glenn Five, are embracing it. "We are going after it with a vengeance," Kudlow declared. "That's how we think about life in general. Enjoy every minute, like you are winning the Cup!" While most bands that have been around as long as Anvil may be on their last legs, there's a renewed vim and vigor surrounding Anvil. That type of renewal is not common to a band with three decades of history, but Anvil have done the necessary legwork work to allow their band to be one of the most relevant heavy metal bands in existence, even as they enjoy a new and much-deserved measure of success. It's as though they truly have arrived with Juggernaut of Justice, their fourteenth studio album to be released via The End Records on May 10th.
"I worked in a feverish way and with a different attitude," Kudlow said about his approach to Juggernaut. "It was, 'This has to be the best album we've ever done. It's a bigger world stage that stepped things up, from the movie.' We were looking for that musical justice."
Despite all eyeballs being on Anvil, the band remains unassuming and business-as-usual, despite the hype. Even if the film never happened, Anvil would still be still be doing Anvil. "It's still fun, F-U-N," Reiner laughed. "Rock 'n' roll is the best religion in the world. That?s why we still do it. Why stop?"
Since 2009, the band played almost every major European festival, landed opening slots on two US and one Canadian AC/DC shows that summer, one of which was performed in front of 55,000 screaming fans at Giants Stadium. Anvil also embarked on their first headline tour of America in 10 years, and headlined the main stage of Germany's Wacken, performing in front of 80,000 rabid metalheads. They ended up performing before 300,00 people that year. "We won the battle. If it was a battle, we showed the world that we are a real band, good musicians and the real deal," Reiner said, summing up the experience. "People had curiosity, going, 'Are these guys any good?? After the movie, they thought, 'How good are they?? We won them over everywhere. We made tens of thousands of new fans."
The band proves it has the goods with Juggernaut of Justice, which was recorded at Dave Grohl's studio in LA, as the Nirvana/Foo Fighters guru is a friend and fan. Producer Bob Marlette (Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson) manned the boards for an album that sounds like classic Anvil and is true-to-form. Reiner even went as far as to call it the best in the band's 33-year history, declaring that "Lips sounds 20 years younger and it's fresh, clean, beautiful songs and playing that has the energy of 25-year-old kids."
He's not kidding. The album is forceful enough to shift tectonic plates and generates a thrash attack that will have heavy music fans banging their heads so furiously that they burst blood vessels in their necks and purchase stock in Icy Hot.
Anvil credit Marlette for "capturing the magic," which isn't simple to do. "You can't work at that," Reiner astutely pointed out. "It just happens. Either it is or it isn't. The record reeks of that positivity and there is so much freshness saturating it."
Juggernaut of Justice cycles through many moods and tempos. "Swing Thing" is the band's ambitious metal-jazz track, while "Fukeneh!" is an anthem that is concert hall ready. "Paranormal" is what Reiner refers to as "the ballad," thanks to its heavy, soulful, Sabbathian vibe. "It's a powerful, evil song and that energy is very new for Anvil," the drummer said. Speed metal thrashers like "When Hell Breaks Loose" and "Running" also live on Juggernaut of Justice, while ?New Orleans Voodoo" is, according to Reiner, "a downtime pounder." Overall, Kudlow and Reiner are adamant that there is no doom 'n' gloom present on Juggernaut. It's heavy and positive, which isn't common in a lot of hard rock music.
Anvil have a lot to be positive about and it shows. Kudlow admitted that he wrote lyrics and melodies and applied them to the music in the studio, creating the music right there as he went. Instead of being pre-determined, he composed on the spot, without hesitation. "Those are the greatest moments you will capture, because of the discovery process," he said. "When you do that with the vocals, you leave that door open." Kudlow didn't care about starting from scratch and not being locked into stuff he had never previously sung; this unconventional, off-the-cuff approach infuses Juggernaut with its genuine, uncompromised feel. Kudlow also played on guitars "that were not comfortable for me," thanks to the extraordinarily thick strings he used. "It hurt to play them and they made me play differently." That?s another reason why Anvil continues to evolve: 30 years deep, they are still trying new things, growing and expanding. It's this type of fearlessness that will keep heads turning their way.
Kudlow has an interesting theory as to why now is the right time for Anvil to reach this level of acknowledgement after trudging it out for nearly three dozen years. "We got known from a movie, not from our musical integrity in a certain sense," the singer said. "In the vast sense, in the initial sense, it actually was our music because the guy who made the movie was a fan. For the most part, people were introduced to the band from the movie. It was an incredible ride the movie took us on. How did that affect our music and in a positive way? This album is more connected to the movie than the movie connected to the album. It's about not giving up and staying true to yourself."
That's why Anvil connected with the likes of Lars Ulrich and Lemmy Kilmister and their film director and their throng of diehard fans. But it's also why metal fans who have not yet been exposed to the band will check them out and stick with the band for the long haul. Because Anvil could very well have 30 more years ahead of them. Like Reiner said earlier, you can't capture magic unless it's real. And Anvil is as real as it gets.