Ever see the movie about the legendary metal band that gives unprecedented access into their personal lives? The one where a whole bunch of good ol’ fashion drama unfolds as they work on their latest album?
Nope. I’m not talking about Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster.
(left to right: Robb Reiner and Lips from the Canadien metal band, Anvil.)
Ever see the documentary about a group of highly influential musicians, who were discovered years after their heyday–a group of men that could still outplay artists half their age?
Uh-uh, not the Buena Vista Social Club.
How about the 1980s mockumentary that masterfully hits just about every rock and roll idiosyncrasy on the head?
No, not This Is Spinal Tap.
I’m actually talking about, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, think of it as all of the aforementioned movies rolled into one. First time director (but no stranger to film), Sacha Gervasi, documents the rise and fall–or I guess I should say, fade into oblivion–of Canadian metal band Anvil (Gervasi is not only a fan of the band, but used to be one of their roadies in the ’80s).
If you’ve never heard of Anvil, the first ten minutes of the film may lead you to believe that it’s some type of mockumentary–yes in the same vein as the one mentioned above. Metal legends, Lemmy, Slash, and Lars–almost deadpan to a fault–heap praise on the ferociously rockin’ band from the great white north. Slash laments, “Everyone ripped ’em off and left ’em for dead.” Wait a second, is this for real?
Anvil! The Story of Anvil begins with the group playing a stadium show–in the early 1980s–alongside Whitesnake, The Scorpions, and Bon Jovi, pointing out that all of these acts sold millions of albums worldwide–except one. Guess who?
Gervasi’s documentary then gives us an all access look into the lives of the band’s founding members: Lips, the group’s guitarist and frontman, and Robb Reiner (yes, just like the director of the mockumentary we keep talking about), the band’s drummer. In between Anvil gigs Lips delivers cafeteria food and Reiner works in construction; a far cry from the rock and roll dream of hot tubs and super models. It’s okay though, cause we’ve seen that story before, but how many times have we been given the perspective of a band that hasn’t made it?
If you’ve never heard of a band before (especially one that’s been together for over 30 years), there’s usually a good reason for it. Furthermore, if we didn’t care about a band a couple decades ago, why in the hell would we care about them now? In Anvil’s case, it’s simple: You want to cheer for them. In a documentary that could have easily been a snoozer, Lips (who you can’t help but love), makes you believe in his band and makes you want to champion his cause. After getting a glimpse into Anvil’s headbanger’s-approved live show, while Reiner points out that the band is still in prime playing and writing shape, you think that maybe Anvil does have a chance of obtaining rock glory. Once you believe, you’re hooked.
As with any great story, Anvil! makes you want to cheer, as well as slap yourself on the forehead, especially when one of their fans, a European lady named Tiziana, becomes their tour manager. Let’s just say she has good intentions. You also want to jump through the screen and shake the guys when they begin going door-to-door, shopping their latest album to record labels. With dreams of inking a deal that will bring them fame, fortune, and a guitar-shaped swimming pool, someone needs to wake them up from their 80s daydream and tell them that things don’t work like that anymore. Someone tell them that the recording industry is in disarray–for God’s sake, someone point them to the internet!
Fortunately for Anvil, it seems that things are finally working out for them. Though one of their fans turned out to be a horrible tour manager, another one happened to craft a critically applauded documentary, one that’s going to get them more attention than signing to a failing record label. It may also bring a smile to Lips and Reiner’s face to know that if they’re ever able to quit their day jobs, at least they’ll be someone to fill them (and I’m not talking about Whitesnake).