“Anvil: The Story of Anvil” Review
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Canada, Film, Music.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil isn’t simply a documentary about a group of balding, gray-haired rockers. The story follows an aging Canadian metal band as they continue to struggle to find success, but the spirit of hope is one that trumps any of the cinematic plot twists. The film documents a story of two friends, the band they made when they were kids, and their ongoing determination to make something of it. Possibly unintentional on the behalf of the director however, it becomes a film that sheds light on the power of the human spirit and how stubborn dedication to something you believe in can help overcome disaster.
The opening sequence of the film sheds light on the history of Anvil, with testimonials coming from the likes of Slash, Lemmy, Scott Ian of Anthrax and Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Anvil was a band that, in the early ’80s, was in line to help elevate the burgeoning thrash genre as it was becoming a popular niche within the metal world. As the band’s contemporaries found success however, poor management left Anvil on the outside looking in. Fast forward some 20 years and the documentary kicks off with lead guitarist and vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow working his banal day-job at a catering company.
The bulk of the film follows the band through Europe as they were given an opportunity to latch onto a series of modest gigs throughout the continent, and the subsequent trials and tribulations that followed. Through the darkest points in the tour however, the audience is given insight into how truly positive the band is: Kudlow continually glowing with childlike enthusiasm as the band plays to even the smallest of crowds in the most pitiful of hole-in-the-wall clubs. After the disaster of a tour comes to a close, the band goes back to their jobs in Toronto, and life goes on as normal. Remarking on how the tour fell apart, Kudlow says, “At least there was a tour for it to go wrong on… I’m grateful.” As refreshing as his perspective is, when realizing that it’s coming from someone who has been ignored by the same music industry he’s been dedicated to breaking into since he mid-’70, it is downright astonishing.
In carrying with the theme of the film, the disappointment wears off as the band decides to make one last great record. They reconciled with the producer Chris Tsangarides, who they worked with on one their most successful album, 1982’s Metal on Metal, and took off for the UK with money lent to them by Kudlow’s sister. Despite internal struggles, the band finished the album, This is Thirteen, and headed back overseas to try to sell the mastered record to a label. Again, after the let down of finding no takers in either the U.S. or Canada, the band was again renewed with energy when they were invited to perform at a genuine festival in Japan, where they end up taking the stage in front of their largest audience in decades.
The film closes with Kudlow reminiscing on his career, noting that the most valuable things that he’s taking away from his life are the experiences he’s had—the people he’s met and places he’s been to are more valuable than anything in the world. And therein lies the beauty behind the story: despite the drama and disappointments, life continues to deliver little spurts of hope that act as bait to keep going. It’s simply up to you whether or not you decide to stick it out for that next glimmer of hope. In the case of Kudlow and Reiner, their insistent optimism and effort seems to have finally paid off, and they deserve every bit of success they can make of their new found celebrity.