Upon first glance, the self-titled record from Finland’s Anvil Strykez appears to be an awesome speed metal record in the vein of Scanner or Assault (CAN). After all, it’s got that retro 80s, yet somehow futuristic album cover. The music on this disc certainly fits that theme, but it is a far cry from speed metal. My limited research shows that this falls into the genre of synthwave, which appears to be very similar to a lot of 80s video game and action-movie music (bear with me on this review; I rarely delve outside of metal).
Much to my surprise, the result is astounding. The fittingly titled “Neon Streets” kicks things off and is by far the catchiest and most brilliant song. Like much of the record, it is an upbeat tune, driven by a disco drumbeat. There are several “four on the floor” beats all throughout the album, and they keep the energy high throughout the record. This particular track has some brilliant synthesizer melodies (but there is no shortage of catchy leads).
“Anvil Strykez” is a record where the keyboards and synthesizers do most of the work, but the guitar usage is excellent. There are many tracks with more subtle usage of the instrument, allowing the synths to remain the focus while the guitars add a bit of heaviness and diversity to the music. Of course, since Anvil Strykez appears to come from the metal world (this record was released on Hells Headbangers after all!), there are some guitar solos, and while not the flashiest ones, they complement the robotic atmosphere. One slight exception is “Metropolis”, which features some killer shredding at the end.
Another way in which Anvil Strykez achieves their post-modern vision is with the usage of samples. A song like “Exterminators” features some quieter spoken sections. They never overtake the rest of the music, which is why they’re so effective. The focus remains on the constant, pulsating thumping with the samples adding a little flare. "High Speed Cyborgs" takes this a step further, by masking a robot voice atop the lyrics.
Aside from these moments, this is not a totally instrumental record. “Metropolis” features plenty of singing. Often times a one-man project will not have a particularly great singer, simply because it’s difficult to play every instrument and sing at a respectable level. This is true of Anvil Strykez as well, but unsurprisingly, this doesn’t hurt the band at all. The band’s mainman has only a limited range, and isn’t particularly expressive, but he sounds so authentic. This is one of those instances where passion and creativity transcend talent, resulting in an irresistible song.
Despite the album closing with an epic (“Voyager and the Birth of Time” exceeds 11 minutes), the record mostly feels like one consistent journey. Each song does have its own unique theme to it, but as an admittedly amateur listener of this style of music, only a couple of songs stand above the rest and are worthy of individual listens. For the remainder of the album, it is best enjoyed when running through the entire record. The good news is that this album has made a believer out of me, someone who listens almost exclusively to metal. That is a serious testament to the power of Anvil Strykez and synthwave!
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4.1/5 or 82%.
Written by Scott