When the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil hit film festivals and theaters last year, the tale of the luckless but persistent Canadian metal band captured peoples' imaginations. There were inevitable comparisons to Spinal Tap, but the music on This Is Thirteen, the album whose creation was shown in the film, demonstrates there was nothing parodic about this band and that it was indeed just bad luck that kept it from being as successful as some of its peers and former co-headliners. The album's 13 tracks, plus the bonus track "Thumb Hang," explode with aggressive metal power: galloping riffs, thundering drums, squealing guitar leads, thick unison harmonies and band founder Steve "Lips" Kudlow's confident and occasionally virtuoso lead vocals, all shown off to good effect by the work of veteran metal producer Chris Tsangarides.
Sure, if you listened to a lot of '80s metal, you've heard most of the musical moves here — but if you loved them then, you'll love them now. "Burning Bridges" has stampede momentum, picking up speed and density in a flurry of notes before trailing off. "Game Over" and "Should A Could A Would A" are classic metal stompers driven by chugging riffs, while "Flying Blind" flies on an epic melody, layered vocals and sweeping riffs with stop-and-start accents. "Big Business" and "Thumb Hang" change things up with slower pacing and, in the case of the latter, an intense, lumbering heaviness. These guys aren't reinventing the wheel, but they demonstrate that, after 30 years, they drive the vehicle like pros. — Anastasia Pantsios