Steve “Lips” Kudlow is an optimistic guy. This despite his band Anvil being handed the proverbial shit sandwich, while their metal contemporaries—bands like Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake—went on to sell millions of records worldwide. Life ain’t fair, I tell you.
Anvil made its name in the early ’80s with its definitive album Metal On Metal, while the band toured all over wearing fetish gear and playing their guitars with vibrators. So why was Anvil left in the dust? “Sometimes life deals you a tough deck,” says Slash, one of a handful of metalheads (including Slayer’s Tom Araya) who gives the Canadian band its props in the opening sequence of Anvil! The Story of Anvil.
Kudlow and his partner in crime Robb Reiner have been working day jobs (like most musicians) while keeping Anvil going … and by going I mean quietly releasing records and playing to drunken lunkheads at Ontario dive bars. The band soon finds itself in Europe after a fan books them a tour. What follows is a series of mishaps that brings to mind … well, This Is Spinal Tap. The members of Anvil get lost in Prague, stiffed money from a venue (also in Prague), and play a 10,000-seat arena to only a couple hundred diehards. And even then, Kudlow offers: “Things went drastically wrong, but at least there was a tour for it to go wrong on.”
Director Sacha Gervasi (who was a roadie with the band back in the day) walks a fine line between spoofery and heartfelt docudrama—early on. As the reel winds down, and we get to know these likable (lovable?) headbangers, Anvil! reveals itself as the latter. They’re just a couple of guys with big dreams like everyone else. They have loving families. Above all else—we see that playing music makes them truly happy, famous or not.
I overheard someone say after the movie that they wanted to buy Anvil’s album just to show support for Kudlow and Reiner. If Anvil! The Story of Anvil affected everybody who came out of the theater that way, I could see it being a big year for the band … then again Anvil’s forthcoming album has the ridiculous title Juggernaut of Justice. Which explains a lot.
Photo by Brent J. Craig