"The cold, hard truth is that, for all the hard luck stories, they simply aren't that great as a band": Metal On Metal by Anvil - Album Of The Week Club review

An object of both affection and derision, Canada's Anvil made the NWOBHM-friendly Metal On Metal in 1982: It gave them an international audience and their most iconic song

Anvil: Metal On Metal cover art
(Image: © Attic Records Canada)

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Anvil: Metal On Metal

Anvil: Metal On Metal cover art

(Image credit: Attic Records Canada)

Metal on Metal
Stop Me
March of the Crabs
Heat Sink
Tag Team
Tease Me, Please Me

Decades before they became documentary stars, larger-than-life Canadians Anvil were the headbangingest band on the block, and their pounding signature song was one of the great heavy metal anthems about playing heavy metal. It was also the title track of their second album, released in 1982. 

The Canadian trio, consisting of Steve "Lips" Kudlow (vocals/guitar), Robb Reiner (drums), and Dave Allison (bass), burst onto the scene with their debut album Hard 'N' Heavy in 1981, but Metal On Metal made their name. The album blended elements of traditional heavy metal with the kind of attack that would inform speed and thrash metal. 

Despite the critical acclaim – enough for the band to be flown in to play the UK's Monsters Of Rock festival in 1982 and Reading Festival the following year, where Lips won hearts and minds by playing his guitar with a vibrator – the album failed to gain widespread recognition, and commercial success proved elusive. Of course, both Anvil and Metal On Metal would rise again, with the release of the much-loved 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil prompting renewed interest in the band.

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Other albums released in April 1982

  • All Four One - The Motels
  • D.E. 7th - Dave Edmunds
  • Broadsword and the Beast - Jethro Tull
  • Jump Up! - Elton John
  • American Fool - John Cougar
  • 1+9+8+2 - Status Quo
  • Diver Down - Van Halen
  • Tug of War - Paul McCartney
  • Iron Fist - Motörhead
  • Jinx - Rory Gallagher
  • The Single Factor - Camel
  • V Deep - The Boomtown Rats
  • Abominog - Uriah Hee
  • Circus Animals - Cold Chisel
  • Extraterrestrial Live - Blue Öyster Cult
  • Four Cuts EP - Diamond Head
  • The Slide Area - Ry Cooder
  • Straight Between the Eyes - Rainbow
  • Time and Tide - Split Enz
  • White Eagle - Tangerine Dream


What they said...

"Metal On Metal helped create thrash and speed metal not so much through vicious aggression, but rather through its endearingly over the top excitement. It isn't the kind of classic that redefined its form; instead, it upped the ante for an already existing M.O., setting new standards for heaviness that – unfortunately for the band – were eclipsed in fairly short order." (AllMusic)

"Although the term ‘thrash metal’ may not have yet been coined in 1982, several albums appeared that would prove incredibly important to the genre’s birth – including the sophomore effort by this Canadian band. Case in point, the manic riffing provided by Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Dave Allison on March Of The Crabs and 666, while the title track remains a headbanger party anthem." (Guitar World)

"In spite of the travails of these long-suffering Canadian heshers, Metal On Metal remains unassailable, the foundation of not only the band’s decades-long career, but also a key influence on the thrash metal it inspired. Every aspect of it – from the band’s name to the cover image to the songs herein – screams metal, leaving little doubt that Anvil’s second album clearly belongs in our Hall of Fame." (Decibel)


What you said...

Greg Schwepe: My only previous exposure to Anvil before this week’s selection was the documentary put out about them a few years ago. Hey, everybody likes an underdog and these guys just really wanted to rock. After watching the movie I was talking to another music nut at work and he thought the same thing as me; “I liked the movie, nice guys and all, but their songs suck.” And that was the last I had heard any Anvil. I didn’t really think they “should have been the next big thing.”

So, the bar was pretty low for me when I started to listen to Metal On Metal. And as happened a lot with many albums in the Classic Rock Album of The Week Club; sometimes you get surprised. Liked this one a lot better than I thought. And hey, for the most part, any hard rock/heavy metal with a chugging guitar and some decent vocals and production… I’ll give it a listen. Because at the end of the day I like loud no-brainer stuff I can crank out the sunroof of my car in the summer.

The title track leads off and keeps my attention because there’s something that sounds like a Black Sabbath riff I like. Mothra comes next and I’m already starting to eat my words; “Maybe these guys aren’t that bad after all…” Well, Stop Me gets me back on the “not really that good” bandwagon. But the instrumental “March Of The Crabs” gets their impending rating moved up a few notches. The buzz saw riff scored them some points. Am guessing the title is not about crustaceans they observed at the beach, but what maybe some groupies gave them. Who knows?

You could almost call this “Stereotypical Metal” due to the subject matter, song titles, etc. But anything that gets me increase the volume is not a bad thing. I would call this “Fun Metal”, because it’s the stuff to listen to when you are having fun, partying, and just want to bang your head. As I’ve said before, we ain’t savin’ the rainforest here with some concept album. Take it for what it is. As a third label I could also call this “Run Metal.” As a runner this is the kind of stuff I need when doing a speed workout. Crank it up and let those riffing guitars get me through those miles. Again, take this for what it is.

Did Metal On Metal surprise me? Yes, it did! Do I think that they really should have hit it big? Um, no. 7 out of 10 for these Canadian underdogs.

Pete Delgado: They received the fame and fortune they deserved. 

Adam McCann: Stone cold heavy metal classic. Metal On Metal was massively influential, it opened the doors for a lot of bands playing faster and faster and it's some proper Maple Leaf Mayhem. In a just world Anvil would be massive.

Andrew Bramah: Anvil made some awesome classic songs but never really a completely classic album.

Gus Schultz: Love them or hate them, you have to admire their tenacity for doing what they love. This is a band that influenced many later metal bands and this album is likely why. Probably their best of a fairly large catalog and honestly the only one I own. Not the most highbrow when it comes to lyrics but the high energy of the album makes up for that. 

I had the opportunity to see them a few times in Toronto early in their career when they were called Lipps and their show was exactly as how you would imagine it to be. Nothing more than loud drunken fun and their energy and antics were amazing. I put this LP on a couple of weeks ago and was taken back to those days, it was very energising. That’s what I like about this LP it’s nothing deeper than good hard rocking fun, exactly what I think it was suppose to be. I can only imagine if Lips Kudrow accepted Lemmy’s invitation to play in Motörhead what would have happened. Guess we’ll never know.

Martin White: This was so much better than I expected it to be. Easily up there with the first two Iron Maiden albums in terms of quality.

Mike Canoe: Musically crude but in the right way - All manic go-for-broke energy that rarely stops to catch it's breath: title track, Mothra, and March Of The Crabs are all still faves.

Lyrically crude in the wrongest of ways. The majority of songs are at a level of misogyny that redefines vile. When a routine devil worship number like 666 is a nice change of pace, there might be a problem with the lyrics. Interesting historical footnote but I can't call it essential.

Gary Claydon: One of the things about the musical landscape of the late 70s/early 80s - in the UK at least - was the whole DIY approach (though I'm sure it similarly evolved elsewhere).This actually originated with the London-centric pub rock scene of the early 70s but was taken to a different level by the advent of punk and new wave. 

This led to the 'anybody can be in a band and any band can play gigs and release records' attitude which resulted in a joyously diverse musical landscape, arguably the most exciting, interesting and innovative period in UK musical history and the rise of independent labels and venues. 

From a heavy metal perspective, these were the NWOBHM years and bands like Anvil, although obviously not a NWOBHM band, nevertheless briefly fit with the whole zeitgeist. Without that 'fuck it, let's make a record' thing, I'm not sure Anvil, or countless bands like them, would ever have existed and love 'em or loathe 'em, the (music) world would have been a whole lot duller without all those bands.

Philip Qvist: An okay album, without setting the world alight. The early 80s produced some of Rock's greatest albums, and although it isn't a bad one, this was not one of them. Good for a couple of spins but that's it.

John Davidson: I've discovered a new rock sub genre I'm going to call Scrap Metal.

It's what you get when you play the riffs Iron Maiden and Judas Priest discarded during their pub rock days because they were too generic and clichéd. At least when Bad News played this kind of stuff they were doing it for laughs.

To be fair March Of The Crabs isn't as bad as the rest of the album which highlights that the vocals are what really drag the thing down below mediocre.

Gary Claydon: The 1982 edition of Monsters of Rock at Donington Park doesn't go down as one of my favourites, for a variety of reasons. The weather, though, wasn't among them. After the mud of 1980 and the rain of '81, the warm August sunshine was very welcome. 

I'm not sure that the opening band were enjoying it too much, mind you, given that they spent much of their set dodging the traditional bottles of piss sent raining stage-ward by a largely unappreciative Donington crowd. The band in question were, of course, Anvil. 

Fast forward 40 years to a small dive-bar music venue in Huddersfield and I'm watching Anvil having a ball, playing an energetic set to an enthusiastic and very appreciative audience as part of a well received UK tour. Quite the contrast to their MOR appearance. Anvil's fans are known as pounders and the band will often describe their performances as a pounding (their Facebook page gig 'reviews' are brilliant, well worth reading) and a good old metal pounding sums up the Huddersfield gig very nicely.

It's worth pointing out that Anvil were fairly well received in the UK those 40-plus years ago, both by fans and the more metal-minded music journos. Like a few other North American bands of the time – such as Manowar, The Rods, Y&T, Riot, Coney Hatch – they were a good fit with the zeitgeist of that NWOBHM period. The debut album, Hard 'N' Heavy' had shown promise but it was their sophomore effort Metal On Metal that had them marked as a possible 'next big thing' in some quarters. 

Didn't quite work out like that though. It wasn't long before they drifted into relative obscurity. For a while, if they were mentioned at all, it was with a degree of derision, ridicule even, with a boringly predictable Spinal Tap comparison seemingly never far away. To their credit, Anvil persevered, recording albums, gigging wherever and whenever they could, all to little avail. Until the famous documentary. 

Surely, every heavy metal fan on the planet has seen 2008's Anvil! The Story of Anvil by now (and if you haven't seen it - WTF?). The result was a great deal of affection toward the band and, belatedly, some degree of respect, a reminder that they were half decent after all.

Chris Elliott: Some things improve with age - others are of their time and don't age well - others are just bad. This has zero saving graces. The only nice thing I can say is at least it's not Venom.

Alex Hayes: I'd never heard a single note of Anvil's music prior to this week. Of course, like many other people, I was aware of the existence of this 'cult' Canadian band, and the story of their never ending quest for fame and fortune, seemingly doomed from the outset. However, I'd never actually had the opportunity to check them out.

A couple of listens to Metal On Metal gave me a pretty good inkling as to why genuine long term success has always eluded Anvil. Slippery When Wet this isn't. I can't say that I disliked this album though. It's a little cliched and cheesy in nature, and very much of it's time, but it's also pretty well executed material, if you can get past those limitations. This was never gonna have the makings of a multi million seller, but neither is it a complete dud. Not at all.

I highly doubt that I'll return to Metal On Metal in the future. I won't be taking a deep dive into Anvil's discography either. This was a decent enough album though, and one that I'm happy to have become acquainted with. Very metal indeed, and a 6/10 from me.

Alexander Taylor: It's a blistering album, very much like Accept's Restless And Wild, and showcases Rob's incredible drumming. Sadly the band never made the jump to the big league, mainly due to image and a few duff albums, and going to a three man line up in 2007 hasn't helped either. Still a good night out on the pub circuit.

Chris Downie: Despite the renewed interest in them after the (admittedly interesting) documentary, the band's career only experienced a minor bump afterwards and it has to be asked why this is the case. Yes, Metal On Metal has its moments, which fit in well with the times in which it was unleashed, but the cold, hard truth is that, for all the hard luck stories, they simply aren't that great as a band. For all the early promise on this early release, subsequent albums saw little musical growth and obscurity beckoned as a result.

With the exception of the title track, March Of The Crabs and a few others, Anvil's best output is decent 80's power metal fare and no more; nothing that wasn't done better by the likes of Armored Saint, Metal Church and the criminally underrated Vicious Rumors, none of whom had the benefit of a cinematic sympathy vote in the form of a fan-made documentary.

Greg Post: Anvil's strongest album. Still play it regularly along with there first album. Their entire catalogue is good - kind of similar to Motorhead's catalogue. Every album you know what to expect and never disappointing. Anvil is Anvil. Good Canadian Rock Band. I wish the Leafs would use Fuken Eh! as their goal song - that would rock the building.


Final score: 7.20 (83 votes cast, total score 454)

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