Anvil! The Story of Anvil

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Posted April 16, 2009 in Film

In 1982, Canadian metal band Anvil was poised to be break big. Their major debut, Metal on Metal, had heads banging across the globe and their peers—bands like Twisted Sister and Anthrax and Slayer—considered them idols. But while Dee Snider would go on to become an MTV darling, Anvil founders Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner never did. Maybe their album covers needed bikini slave girls next to the irons and fire, maybe their timing was fractionally off, maybe they were just unlucky. Documentarian Sacha Gervasi’s film catches up with them 35 years later, all of which the band has spent working shit jobs and releasing albums that nobody hears. Their hair is still wild and crimped, their metal still thrashing, their remaining fans Cut Loose and Mad Dog still loyal as hell. When Anvil gets a bolt-of-lightning offer to tour Europe, they beg their bosses for time off and hop on a plane. Their first concert is a hope-builder—a massive Swedish metal festival where old buddies like the Scorpions are psyched to see them. But just like every chance before, weeks later they’re playing to empty Hungarian clubs for promoters refusing to pay their fee (“At least there was a tour for it to go wrong,” sighs Lips.). Gervasi misses a few beats that would elevate this from enjoyable to resonant, but he’s the only filmmaker for the job: At 16, he toured with Anvil at the height of their career; a decade later, he rejected offers to play drums for the band-that-would-be-Bush and draft a screenplay for this book about some kid named Harry Potter. Missed opportunities are central here, but the film’s heart isn’t the absence of fame but the presence of incredible commitment. Lips and Robb’s devotion to the band and each other is synonymous; they fight and reconcile with the patter of a couple in counseling, much to the amusement of their wives, whose own support of their husbands’ dreams deserves a documentary of its own. (Amy Nicholson)

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