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Sunday 6 March 2016

Reviews: Monster Truck, Anvil, Ancient Spell (Reviews By Paul)

Monster Truck: Sittin’ Heavy (Mascot Records)

2013’s stonking debut Ferocity saw Canadians Monster Truck crash into our world with all the subtlety of well, a monster truck rally. A blistering collection of foot stomping good time boogie rockers with a large serving of fun, Ferocity was welcomed by MoM towers and obtained an 8 rating back in June 2013 with the Ed declaring ‘one of the best southern bands I've heard for ages’. They were bloody excellent live at Bristol’s Exchange later that year too. Two and a half years later and the Truck are back with another slab of heavy rock. Sittin’ Heavy maintains the direction that the band were heading. A really fine honest effort, with the extra touring adding a sharpness to the songs. Opener Why Are You Not Rocking? sets the tone, fuzzy dirty guitars courtesy of Jeremy Widerman, solid drumming from Steve Kiely, Brandon Bliss’ excellent keyboards and the superb vocal of bassist Jon Harvey.

There is rarely a let up in pace throughout, with first single Don't Tell Me How To Live maintaining and increasing momentum. With a sound that mixes the harder bits of Black Stone Cherry, Massive and more than a nod to Clutch and Lionize, it's unsurprising that tunes such as She's A Witch are catchy as hell. It's not all heads down party mind, with the atmospheric calm of Black Forest (first time I've ever seen an ode to 70s dessert) slowing things down before the toe tapping of Another Man’s Shoes picks up the speedometer again. This track contains some excellent southern laced keyboards which ebb and flow throughout. Things Get Better has a toe dipped in the River Mersey with its Beatles style riff whilst the honesty of sing-a-long tune The Enforcer and the haunting and emotive To The Flame once again demonstrate a depth that might not have been so evident on Ferocity. Sittin’ Heavy is a fine follow up to Ferocity and I am looking forward to their Sunday set at Download immensely. 8/10

Anvil: Anvil Is Anvil (SPV)

Where the hell do you start with Toronto nutters Anvil? Formed in 1978, nearly men in the early 1980s, kept alive by the bizarre tastes of the German metal fraternity during the 1990s, reborn after the hilarious yet upsetting rockumentary in 2008 and yes, still using that fucking dildo to solo with when playing live! It would be fair to say that with the exception of Metal On Metal, a true metal anthem, Anvil has always been a mid-table league one team. Solid, with the occasional foray towards the higher levels, but usually drawing a few thousand and rarely creating a stir. Ignoring all trends and changes, Anvil’s sound is distinctive, resilient and totally insulated against any change. Anvil Is Anvil is probably the most appropriate title ever written. Anvil Is Anvil is album number 16 for the band that with the exception of bass player has reminded consistent from day 1. There is much to applaud about a band that has stuck to its guns, no matter what. Lemmy would approve (indeed there is a well travelled rumour that Lips was approached to replace Fast Eddie in Motörhead but that he turned it down). So what about the most important thing in all this. Oh yeah, the music. Well, let's be fair. Lips, that's Steve Kudlow to you and his drum partner Rob Reiner know how to write a meat and two veg no frills metal track. Runaway Train, Up, Down, Sideways, Ambushed and It’s Your Move are all meaty hooked no-nonsense rockers which contain the most excellent drumming from maybe the most underrated drummer in metal. Reiner doesn't let up throughout the album, double bass pedals constantly battering away. Meanwhile newish bassist Chris Robertson delivers some deadly bass lines which fire in low.

Anvil don't shy away from a bit of social commentary either; Die For A Lie goes in hard on religion whilst Gun Control is a poignant and relevant social commentary about their American cousins addiction to their right to bear arms. As usual with Anvil, Lips’ guitar work is great, face melting solos and huge riffs add the heavy to heavy metal. And there is always a couple of totally dire tracks. Opener Daggers And Rum has a chorus that rhymes “scurvy scum” with ”Daggers and Rum”, ridiculous lyrics and Zombie Apocalypse is just dreadful. Heavy metal by numbers. But set aside some minor gripes and Anvil is Anvil is actually a perfectly listenable release and one which you can't help but grow to enjoy, even if it is only because in the background you have two guys who have literally sold their souls to Rock ‘n’ Roll, as documented in the final two tracks, Never Going To Stop and You Don't Know What It's Like. A true homage to their dedication and commitment to a genre which is cruel and merciless. I've seen Anvil live several times and they do entertain to a point.  With this release, their world is unlikely to change but supported by an excellent production Anvil is Anvil maintains their relentless output and contains some incredible drumming. God bless ‘em. 8/10

Ancient Spell: Forever In Hell (Minotauro Records)

Los Angeles, California is not a part of the USA readily associated with the heavy doom rock of bands like Ancient Spell. Formed in 2012, Forever In Hell is their second release, following 2013’s self-titled debut. Unfortunately, the production on this is unbelievably poor, muffled and distorted to the point where I thought it was recorded in the bathroom on a submarine whilst the recording equipment was still on the shore. Struggling through the mix, Ancient Spell did little for me. Whilst the music was solid, with lots of meaty riffs, the vocals of Donnie Marhefka leave a lot to be desired. There is screaming and growling a plenty in metal, and to the outsider there is probably little difference between the guttural delivery of Bolt Thrower’s Karl Willet’s and Bloodbath's Nick Holmes. However, if the vocals take away from the crushing power of the music, then all is lost and I’m afraid that’s what’s happened on Forever In Hell. Despite the poor (and I mean rubbish) sound, underneath it all Ancient Spell have a decent 70s heavy rock sound which is just destroyed every time Marhefka opens his mouth. Beyond The Gates is probably the best example of this, with a brooding atmospheric track promising much and then being trashed by such poor delivery. Disappointing. 4/10

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