Anvil! The Story of Anvil! is the most entertaining behind the scenes look at a heavy metal band since This is Spinal Tap, which is saying a lot. In fact, the two movies are so similar, one could easily assume Anvil is as fictitious as Spinal Tap. But it’s not. Funny, heartbreaking, inspirational and insightful, Anvil! The Story of Anvil! is a true, uncompromising look at a shot of near-stardom. My review after the jump:
The band, comprised of Robb Reiner (ironically sharing the same name – but different spelling – of the director of Spinal Tap) who performs drums and Steve Kudlow (aka “Lips”), who plays lead guitar and sings lyrics, was once upon a time – the 1980s, too be more specific – on the verge of heavy metal rock band greatness. Exactly when groups like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer were crushing the airwaves on the headbanging music scene.
The heart of the movie lies in the relationship between Reiner and Kudlow. And their association is as complicated, intricate and volatile as a stormy marriage. Promoting their thirteenth album, the pair embarks on a tour of Europe under the auspices of a wildly inept manager. What makes this so heartbreaking to watch is the passion and devotion Reiner and Kudlow have for their art, as they make every attempt to be heard in a world that doesn’t really care too much to listen (not to mention the string of mishaps that manage to screw up their tour). It’s abundantly clear Anvil isn’t doing it for the money, but for the simple joy and pleasure of the music itself.
The movie is loaded with priceless tidbits – Kudlow’s birthday party, replete with the words “Happy Fucking 50th” artfully inscribed in frosting across the top of the cake, the band performing in a half-empty bar in Munich, with a single avid (seated) fan, headbanging all by himself, and a sample of the band’s first song, entitled “Thumb Hang,” which is about torture techniques used during the Spanish Inquisition, just to name a few.
But the documentary is far more than just another band’s attempt at finally capturing the limelight. The director, Sasha Gervasi, is also conscientious enough to put the band in perspective. Included in his film are interviews with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Motorhead’s lead singer, Lemmy Kilmister, all of whom show a surprising degree of respect and reverence for the band that never quite achieved the level of success that theirs did. It’s these moments interspersed with the personal interactions between Reiner and Kudlow that turn Anvil! The Story of Anvil! into such a standout documentary. The film neither glorifies nor mocks its subjects. It simply depicts them. And then, after showing you who they are from the inside out, dares you not to root for these guys.
The extras are replete with everything an Anvil! fan could hope for. The commentary by Gervasi, Kudlow and Reiner is almost as entertaining as the movie itself, as the guys prove to be just as lively and down-to-earth when talking about the making of the picture. The deleted scenes are also engaging, offering up a few extra tidbits (more on Lips’ catering gig!). And finally, perhaps the most insightful supplemental on the bonus features is Lars Ulrich’s extended interview, which further impresses upon the audience the tremendous influence and inspiration Anvil provided for some of the most gargantuan bands of their time.