Rockin’ All Over the World: The Anvil Story
October 3rd 2009
Being in a rock band or being enthralled to the power of rock is a certain vocation. And a heavy metal band or follower is even more a kind of calling.
Step forward the heavy metal band Anvil, subjects of the film, Anvil: The Story of Anvil which I just watched this week. Anvil are originally from Toronto, Canada, and nearly broke through in the early 1980s, only to slip away into obscurity. This film was shot by a roadie, and has obvious Spinal Tapesque overtones.
How could it be anything else, as they face one setback after another, showing how hopeless their case is. We see them get the break of a possible European tour, only for this to become a series of humiliations, such as playing to non-existent crowds in Czech beer halls and a Romanian rock festival with no crowd.
The film rises above cliché and irony and shows us the two main Anvil personnel, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, lead singer, and Robb Reiner, drummer, who met at school and are now in their 50s, as rounded, compassionate human beings with some insight into their plight. There is a real bond between these two guys, yes with some ‘issues’, but mostly love, and they still have some desire to dream and follow the rock ‘n’ roll odyssey.
I found the entire film affirming and heart-warming, and also fascinating in that it slowly began to work out for them. The band got in touch with ace producer Chris Tsangarides, who had worked with them in their near-heyday, along with Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy, and together they work on a comeback album. Around the same time they also play a Japanese rock festival to a rapturous audience.
The entire film is a really shot in the arm compared to the famous Metallica’s film ‘Some Kind of Monster’, which inadvertently lives up to the name on the tin. This is a psychobabble fest, when the band record an album over about two years with a full-time therapist on the paybill and decide to film it. Sort of ‘Let It Be’ meets some therapy culture talk.
It is as much a car crash as‘Let It Be’. The Metallica guys, all multi-millionaires, turn out to be complete saddos, alienated from themselves and each other. They can’t hug or bond or express any kind of positive emotion for each other. They seem to have little understanding of the idiocies and pressures of being a rock star. For example, they show little grasp that as metal musicians they are worshipped by fans as being close to god figures, and that there might be a relationship between these roles and the fragile, insecure figures they actually are!
You might have thought their therapist might have aided them exploring these and other issues, but Phil Towle, turns out to be a therapist who is legally barred from actually calling himself a therapist.
The Anvil guys seem the more happy, hopeful, grounded guys, whereas Metallica seem to be living some rock ‘n’ roll alienated set of clichés to breaking point. The Metallica film ended with them firing the therapist and finishing the album. The Anvil story had a more uplifting ending – which came after the film as a result of its making. The film became a major success, and as a result people remembered Anvil and as we speak they are preparing to tour with Saxon and AC/DC. Let it rock !