The core of Anvil consists of Robb Reiner and Steve "Lips" Kudlow, two Canadian Jews who met while in grade school. They formed a band in 1978 with two other members, and called themselves LIPS. They later released their first album in 1981and changed their name to Anvil. The band plays your typical head banging metal music, made famous by Metallica, Megadeath and Slayer. Anvil's second album, the awesomely titled Metal on Metal, opened the band to a whole new legion of fans and put them on the metal map, as far as the early 1980s were concerned.
And that's exactly where the film, Anvil!: The Story of Anvil begins, with the band playing the 1984 Super Rock Festival in Tokyo with the likes of Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. Steven "Lips" Kudlow, Anvil's lead singer and protagonist, if you will, of the documentary is rocking out in leather pants and bondage gear with his crispy metal hair flowing in the wind. The crowd is hysterical and loving every minute of the Canadian rocker's set. The band was legendary in the 1980s, yet their albums failed to sell and catch on like those albums by bands such as Quiet Riot, Motorhead and Guns 'N Roses. The documentary then picks up in present day Ontario, with Kudlow at his day job of delivering food for a children's catering company while still managing to rock out at a concert later that night. It's a stark contrast -- yet it is a contrast that shows us just how dedicated Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner are towards their music and towards the legacy of their band.
As we see the band tour through Europe, we get to witness the inner workings of a band. Travel is often messed up, gigs are too hard to find, managers don't know what they are doing and band members, Reiner and Kudlow, are at each other's throats. It's an arduous task to keep together a band for so long that hasn't quite broken through in the way they'd please, and the penalty for that hard work is playing small gigs to a smattering of fans.
I won't go into detail about everything in the film, but I will say that it is the best documentary I have seen this year, and I love documentaries. It is utterly fascinating to see Reiner and Kudlow's relationship -- the two have known each other for some 30 years and they have both managed to remain amicable enough to stay in the same band. Its sad to see these grown men still living their metal dream well into the 2000s, but it is admirable and, ultimately, heartwarming to see the beautiful relationship between the two.
The film has garnered some impressive acclaim, and I see exactly where that is coming from. Something like this -- something as genuine and as real as watching a band struggle through years of anonymity, trying to get their big shot some 20 years after the death of their particular genre of music -- is truly unique among today's films and documentaries. I don't know if I will ever see such a real and well done documentary concerning music in my lifetime, and if Anvil! is my only opportunity, then I can rest easy knowing as much.
Anvil!: The Story of Anvil will be coming to Arizona on June 26. Sadly, for Valley residents, it will be playing at the Loft Theater in Tucson. I will say, however, that it is well worth the trip.
For more information on showings, head on over to the movie's website at www.anvilthemovie.com
Check out Anvil's myspace page as well as their facebook page for more information on the band as well as some of their songs.