Past & Present: Live In Concert

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In 1989, at the very height of their popularity, Canadian metal act Anvil released Past & Present: Live in Concert. While it's true that they had no way of knowing their best years were behind them, Anvil presented material from their early records with all the intensity of a young band looking to conquer the world, and they had a right to: they had begun recording with 1982's self-released Hard 'n' Heavy before moving over first to Attic Records and then to Metal Blade. Metal on Metal, the band's definitive album, was obviously influenced by classic metal from AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Motörhead. Their musicianship was top-notch -- drummer Robb Reiner (one of the greatest kit men metal has ever produced) created the roiling double bass drum technique that became the standard in the genre. Guitarist and vocalist Steve "Lips" Kudlow, who created riffs not from bar chords but from double-string patterns, also understood the art of live performing in the same way Rob Halford did: He appeared on-stage in bondage gear, sang borderline pornographic lyrics, and sometimes played his axe with a vibrator. This was a band whose first albums influenced Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax (the latter began as an Anvil covers outfit). As a live album, Past & Present is near perfect. It moves through material from three of the band's first five albums and sums up the '80s. There are five tracks from Metal on Metal, three from Forged in Fire, one from Strength of Steel, and two from Pound for Pound. Only their debut and 1985's Backwaxed are not represented here. Kudlow's live vocals are stunning: he can growl (pre-black and death metal styles) or reach operatic heights. His guitar solos are tight, clean, and to the point without the influence of Eddie Van Halen. Reiner's pummeling drums and supporting rhythm guitar from Dave Allison are what make it all happen, though (Check "Blood on the Ice" and the medley of "March of the Crabs/Jackhammer" for proof. There are three medleys that close out this astonishing set.) This is, for all intents and practical purposes, Anvil's greatest-hits -- or misses depending on your point of view -- album. It stands the test of time beautifully in the 21st century. [In 2010, Roadrunner issued 2000 copies of a numbered, limited edition, remastered version of Past & Present.]

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