Most rock documentaries focus on the rising young rock stars out to wreak havoc and make their fortune. Anvil! The Story of Anvil has a different take on a Canadian band that has put out 13 studio records and been active for over 30 years, and though they've inspired dozens of other bands, never quite made it themselves.
Anvil! is surprisingly sweet. Behind the dirty mouths and grungy lifestyle are real people, a friendship that has lasted the years, and a band determined to make it, despite the odds. Drummer Rob Reiner and guitarist/lead singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow met in the early '70s as high schoolers and forged a bond that would carry them through the ups and downs of the rock lifestyle. Anvil! The Story of Anvil focuses on the problems encountered while working on their 13th studio record, the lifelong friendship between the two, and what it means to believe in yourself when everyone else has given up.
After a brief history of the origins of the Canadian band we are led to their current lives, where each of the band members must work on the side in addition to their commitment to the band. We traipse with Anvil through Europe on an ill-managed tour that leaves the band energized at the thrill of playing festivals and simultaneously deflated at the lack of fans at many of the venues. Various metal legends such as Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister, and Slash from Guns N' Roses make appearances in the film, and over and over metal heads from major bands mention what an impact Anvil had on their own sound back in the early '80s. Anvil's album Metal on Metal is cited as a classic album that forever changed the face of metal and influenced the sound of everything that would come after. As Anvil struggles to make their 13th album, will the forces against them finally prevail, or will Anvil actually make good on their early promise?
The film is directed by longtime Anvil fan Sacha Gervasi, and a more interesting and intriguing person to direct this film could hardly have been produced. If we are to believe his Wikipedia page, Gervasi currently teaches screenwriting at UCLA, he wrote The Terminal, he fathered a child by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, he once worked for poet laureate Ted Hughes, he left the band Bush right before they made it huge -- the list of his rather strange accomplishments runs on and on. Gervasi was a major fan and roadie in the early years of Anvil and his love and intricate knowledge of the band is a boon to the film. If anything, more of Gervasi's presence in the film itself might have been beneficial, anecdotes or voice-over, but the film benefits as it is from his close relationship with the members.
The special features include one amazing long interview with Lars Ulrich, from Metallica, as he walks us through a history of the metal genre from top to bottom. Among other things, what it is that he loves about Anvil is that they are a perfect melding of wild antics and musical excellence. He rattles off band after band, with intricate knowledge of the scene and a clear steady understanding that would put even the most dedicated music historian in their place. The deleted scenes and commentary with director and both stars offer more insight into the ridiculously great Anvil.
For any fan of rock and roll, or for the metal-head in your life, this film is a staunch look at a band with a big heart, big dreams, and the strength to keep on believin' when everything seems to be against them. Anvil! The Story of Anvil is worth every minute.
Anvil! the Story of Anvil is available now.