Anvil! The Story of Anvil Review
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If you’ve ever seen any of those MTV documentaries on the history of rock, you know that it isn’t easy to make heavy metal musicians seem human. There’s just something about them that’s larger than life. Surreal. Everything they do seems like an act. Yet first-time director Sacha Gervasi manages to find the humanity—and the sometimes uncomfortable reality—of struggling metal band Anvil in Anvil! The Story of Anvil.

Back in the early ‘80s, as heavy metal music was growing in popularity, Canadian rockers Anvil emerged as one of the greatest metal groups around. Their 1982 album, Metal on Metal, is still seen as one of the most influential metal albums. And, by 1984, they were sharing the stage with acts like Scorpions and Whitesnake. And while those other bands went on to superstardom, Anvil seemed to disappear.

Now, more than 30 years since lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner first formed the band, they’re still together, still rocking, and still struggling to keep their dreams alive.

Directed by former Anvil roadie Gervasi, Anvil! is a heavy metal epic. It’s an honest, heartfelt, and often hilarious look at a group of guys who live to rock—but who work in food service to live. The film interviews friends, family members, diehard fans, and fellow rockers. It follows the band to their day jobs in Toronto, on a disastrous European tour, and throughout the process of recording their 2007 release, This is Thirteen.

The band members (Reiner and Kudlow, especially) spend much of the movie fighting and making up like a crazy, long-haired, dysfunctional family. They scream, they swear, and they even cry. Yet, through it all, they’re there for each other—just as they always have been, for more than three decades of euphoric ups and disheartening downs.

At times, Anvil! still seems pretty surreal—but sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. After all, somewhere out there (in Toronto), there really are a couple of rock legends who deliver school hot lunches or paint cityscapes or work as telemarketers during the day and rock out at night—and who save up their vacation time so they can play in half-empty bars in Prague. But while the film is often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also a heartbreaking story about of a couple of guys who, despite years of hard work and determination, never got the fame and fortune that they deserved.

Though I’ve never been a metal fan, watching Anvil! made me want to go out and buy copies of every last one of Anvil’s albums—just to support these likeable, hard-working guys. Their story is moving, and their enthusiasm is infectious. No matter what your style, if you’re a music fan (or a musician), this movie’s a must-see.

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