Recording information: Wild Studios, St. Zenon, Quebec, Canada.
Photographer: Jeff Rothney.
When Anvil decided to call this 2004 release Back to Basics, they weren't just being rhetorical. Some of Anvil's late-'90s releases found the veteran headbangers trying to change with the times and experiment with alternative metal, but 2001's Plenty of Power marked a stylistic return to the Anvil of the early '80s -- and the Canadians continue in that back-to-our-roots vein on Back to Basics. By getting away from alt-metal trends, Anvil risks being accused of having a dated sound. But what is dated to some is classic to others, and admirers of Anvil's early albums will crave the melodic yet hard-hitting attack of tunes like "The Chainsaw," "Bottom Feeder" and "Fuel for the Fire." This album isn't the least bit groundbreaking by 2004 standards -- Back to Basics doesn't pretend to go after fans of Korn, Mushroomhead, Sevendust or Nothingface -- but that doesn't make the disc any less appealing. Stylistically, Back to Basics is best described as power metal with hints of very early speed metal at times; Judas Priest and Ronnie James Dio are influences, and so is Mot?rhead (which was arguably the first thrash metal/speed metal band). One can think of Back to Basics as Anvil's 26th anniversary CD; the band was formed in 1978, and this release demonstrates that Anvil can still be exciting after more than a quarter of a century. Back to Basics falls short of essential and isn't quite in a class with Anvil's best early-'80s output, but it's a decent, respectable outing that the group's longtime followers will appreciate. (Note: the initial pressing of Back to Basics contained a bonus DVD titled Live at Wacken 1998). ~ Alex Henderson