Keep on Pounding
The Making of Anvil’s Metal on Metal
Anvil landed on the metal scene in the early ’80s with a resounding impact. There was a metal zeitgeist moment happening around the world—in Japan, Europe, the U.K., North America—and they inserted themselves into it with authority. The Canadian quartet, originally called Lips, released a debut effort, Hard ‘n’ Heavy, under their original moniker before signing to Attic Records, adopting—ahem—a heavier name and reissuing said debut in 1981. That first album quickly found favor with the U.K. press that was fawning over the burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement at the time.
Anvil fit right into the NWOBHM narrative musically with their hyper-charged, OTT approach, and were welcomed into the fold like long-lost second cousins twice removed from across the Atlantic. Attic had already issued/licensed early efforts by Motörhead, Riot and Judas Priest; they clearly understood at the time that Anvil had a better shot at success outside of the band’s Toronto hometown; and they promoted them accordingly. Kerrang!, the metal magazine of record in the U.K., championed Anvil in England like conquering heroes, so when the band followed up their promising (but uneven) debut with 1982’s Metal on Metal, the response was overwhelming—cover stories, features, glowing reviews, full-page photos.
And as the primary tastemakers of the aforementioned metal zeitgeist, English magazines like Kerrang! and Sounds were largely responsible for putting Anvil on the radar of American metal fans. Though based just across the border from the U.S., Anvil didn’t make inroads there until Metal on Metal’s hype caught the attention of a young generation of metalheads—like Lars Ulrich, Slash and Scott Ian, among others—who were seeking out the harder, heavier, faster new sounds. Metal on Metal delivered on all counts. Forty-one years later, no one would call it a thrash or speed metal album, but the seeds of that sound were being sown here.
Anvil’s career arc has been well documented via 2008’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil documentary (and its subsequent 2022 re-release), and let’s just say that the promise of Metal on Metal didn’t carry the band forward to an especially fruitful career. The lineup of vocalist/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow, drummer Robb Reiner, guitarist/vocalist Dave “Squirrely” Allison and bassist Ian “Dix” Dickson only lasted another six years, with Kudlow and Reiner continuing to carry the torch to this day. But 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.
Need more classic Anvil? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on Metal on Metal, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.