First Look at… Anvil’s Juggernaut of Justice
By Sean Palmerston; Photos by Albert Mansour
Canadian metal greats Anvil recently wrapped up recording of their upcoming new album Juggernaut of Justice, set for release on The End Records on May 10, 2011. As part of Canadian Music Week the band threw an intimate, invite only advanced listening party for the album at Toronto’s new Noble Street Studios. A handful of press outlets were given the chance to listen to the album in its entirety in the studio’s state of the art master control room and Hellbound was there to soak it all in, shoot some photos, shoot a couple of quick videos and enjoy a few tasty Steam Whistle beers as well. Special thanks to Paula Danylevich for the invite a few weeks back and for throwing this event together, and to Robb Reiner and Lips from the band for the cool chat afterward.With that said, here is our track -by-track exclusive run down on the record.
1) “Juggernaut Of Justice”
This is a great song to kick off the record with. Simple but heavy guitar riff kicks in after a four count cowbell hit by Robb. The first thing you notice about the vocals is how concise they are. While it sometimes sounded on This is Thirteen that Lips was having trouble singing the songs, this time he attacks the lyrics in a more direct manner that works better. The lyrics are less wordy, the riff is simple and the sound of that guitar is massive. Off to a good start.
2) “When Hell Breaks Loose”
There is an almost Motorhead like vibe to this song, with some tough lyrics like “fists will fly and settle this tonight”. Just after the main chorus there is a really neat ascending guitar scale run that heads right into the guitar solo. I honestly don’t remember the last time I heard (Anvil guitarist) Lips sound as inspired at his guitar solos. The chorus goes something along the lines of “When hell breaks loose / I am ready to kill / When hell breaks loose / you know I will.” Anvil circa 2011 is a leaner, meaner machine than it’s been in years. I like it.
3) “New Orleans Voodoo”
Song number three starts differently than the rest of the album so far, commencing with a slow bass and drum intro before the guitar comes in. The phrase “rituals to wake the dead” rears its head on more than one occasion. This is the first creepy song on the album. Nice to see them singing about more haunting, chilling stuff again and not the novelty of some of the mid-90s material. It is also way cool to have (Anvil drummer) Robb Reiner sitting on the edge of the big couch to my left, air-drumming along with his fills and playing air guitar to other parts in a way that you just know he knows this stuff inside-out.
4) “On Fire”
The beginning guitar intro to this song reminds me a lot of the Deep Purple classic “Burn” and its opening half-dozen bars. Cool double kick drumming too. More proof that Robb Reiner is still one of, if not arguably the best metal drummer Canada has ever produced. “The music flows so free / the song’s inside of me” sings Lips early on before the chorus kicks in with “On Fire / I’m on fire/ I’ll never burn out / On Fire / I’m on fire/ I just have no doubts.” The first feel-good, positive song of the album, with more of that to come.
5) “Fuckin Eh”
Robb Reiner calls this one “the Canadian anthem” to all in earshot before it starts and he’s got a point. “I don’t stop for nothing/ I won’t stop ‘till I win the cup” is an early verse lyric. The guitar solo in this song has a nice melodic edge to it. It is a highly energetic ramped up solo that sounds like something Michael Schenker would have played on the classic 70s UFO albums. On my notes is written one word in description of this song: awesome. Destined to be a future live classic for years to come.
6) “Turn It Up”
Juggernaut of Justice is going to gown down as the catchiest, most concise Anvil album to date and songs like “Turn It Up” are the reason why. Almost every line of the song starts with the words, ”Turn It Up” and a few funny pro-metal lines like “Clench Your fists and pump the air” are thrown in their too. Second really optimistic track so far. Also probably the most straight up rock ‘n’ roll song on the album too.
7) “The Ride”
This track marks the first time in Anvil history that bassist Glenn Five handles the lead vocals on a song. Another upbeat track, this one really highlights how tight the trio are. The performance is great. I notice halfway through the song that I am the only person in the room jotting down notes on the album. About ten seconds later I realize that they only person writing is getting glances across the room from Anvil guitarist Lips. I cannot help but wonder exactly what he’s wondering? Probably something along the likes of “so, what the fuck are you writing about my band over there anyway, huh?” I don’t think he’ll be too upset. How could he with the album they’ve put together.
8 ) “Not Afraid”
There is a real sense of knowing their place and standing tall in it to be found in the lyrics of this album. “Not afraid of getting caught/ Not afraid to take a shot”. The song has a really cool delayed guitar pattern leading into the solo. Speaking of which, when did Lips regain his confidence and fire as a lead guitar player again? Nice.
Another of the more philosophical lyrics on the album. You can really tell Lips has thought about his and the band’s place in the world, something he confirms with me later on after the session is over when we get a chance to speak informally one-to-one.
This tune kicks off with a speedy guitar riff intro, perhaps the most upbeat on the record, before Robb Reiner’s double kick drum enters the equation. Robb tells me after the whole session that the last four songs, from “Conspiracy” to the end, is his personal favourite section of the album after hundreds of listens.
The heaviest, doomiest song on the entire record. This song lurches forward on a heavy doom-laden riff and some just-on-the-beat pounding from Robbo. Anvil at their most Sabbath-y, but the song builds into a nice little cooker. “Feel the presence under your skin” sings Lips and the listener definitely does, as the song creeps right into your psyche. I personally cannot wait to play this song on Hellbound Radio in a few months.
12) “Swing Thing”
What a cool way to end the album, on an instrumental! Robb Reiner is channeling his inner Buddy Rich on this one, letting his sticks fly on the snare and doing a fucking great job letting loose. Great jazzy snare playing and, uh, horns! This may be the first Anvil song ever with a bunch of horns in it and it works oh so well in this context. There are a few breaks into almost progressive rock like territory instrumentally, similar to that first instrument break in King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”. It also sounds to me like bassist Glenn Five may be rocking a fretless bass here too, with a few audible bass twangs showing up in the mix at the right time. Superb and surprising instrumental.
So there you have it! A brief summary of the new album. While this was the first listen through I feel pretty comfortable in saying that Juggernaut of Justice is the best album Anvil has made since Metal On Metal. In fact, it may even one day be recognized as their best album ever. It has the massive production the band has always wanted, produced by Bob Marlette at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606, the band finally had the opportunity to not rush things, get the sounds they wanted and delivered an album that both Lips and Robb Reiner told me afterward even surpassed their own expectations. I can say that, after admittedly being somewhat skeptical going into this, I am really looking forward to May 10th when the album hits store shelves (hopefully on both CD and LP – how cool would this artwork look blown up to a full LP jacket size!). I think any discerning metal head will want to give this album a good once over.