July 7th: Metal ’til I die

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142. Anvil: The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2008)

For a big chunk of watching this documentary about a failed Canadian metal band I thought it was a spoof itself. The whole plot of the film mirrors that of the legendary This is Spinal Tap so closely that I was certain that it had to be fictional. Despite the weight of evidence that it is a genuine story the doubts still linger, Anvil’s drummer is called Robb Reiner, This is Spinal Tap was directed by Rob Reiner. Isn’t that just a little bit weird?

Doubts of authenticity aside Anvil are about the most uplifting story in metal history. Robb Reiner and Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow were childhood friends who decided to play heavy metal, they were going to do it with or without success. Initially it looked like they might have the success that they craved, there’s footage of them playing alongside Scorpions and Bon Jovi in the early 80s. But unfortunately they fell by the wayside and no-one seems to know why. The film shows how they live now, their day jobs and their lives. It follows them on a fairly disastrous European tour and eventually to the recording of their thirteenth album ‘This is Thirteen’. All the way through what is uniformly displayed is the amazing self belief that these guys have, Lips especially. Every knock is greeted by his amazingly expressive face momentarily shaking before he attempts to see the bright side. He’s a stunning human being really. And his face has to be seen to be believed, it’s a stunning combination of ageing heavy metal fatigue and a puppy dog. You cannot fail to want him to succeed, such is his earnestness. There’s fights, tears, failure and tenuous success. It’s a vibrantly emotional film and, for a heavy metal fan such as myself, a testament to the enduring power of the music and to a lesser extent the ethos it is wrapped up with. I have to say, I think Anvil aren’t a particularly good band. If I’m honest I think they’re rubbish but that only enhances the appeal of the film.

The post-script to this film is the fairly stunning news that Anvil, through the power of cinema, have become popular again. They have apparently recently booked two support slots for the enormous AC/DC tour of North America, success indeed.