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  Anvil! The Story of Anvil For Those About To Rock We Salute You
Year: 2008
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Stars: Steve 'Lips' Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Chris Tsangarides, Glenn Gyorffy, Kevin Goocher, William Howell, Tiziani Arrigoni, Lemmy, Slash, Lars Ulrich
Genre: Documentary, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1984, there was a heavy metal tour in Japan which featured a group of bands who were to go on to enormous success across the world, if they were not well on their way already. Bands like Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, household names of the decade... along with one Canadian band who were not so fortunate, and they were called Anvil. Well, they still are called Anvil because despite a line-up change and a turn in their luck which saw them relegated to obscurity, they ploughed on regardless, determined to live the rock and roll dream. This documentary caught up with the two main players of the band, over twenty years after the initial hype.

The band that was most mentioned in regard to Anvil by those who had enjoyed this film was not Black Sabbath or Metallica or any of those heavyweights, but a fictional one: Spinal Tap. The relationship between those two leaders of the group was unmistakably Nigel Tufnel and David St Hubbins-esque, and at times you half expected the latest European tour to end up with the poster "Puppet Show and Anvil", such is the disastrous nature of it, with our heroes reduced to playing tiny bar venues to about five people. And yet it was not all about laughing at clueless would-be rockers, as the director Sacha Gervasi showed that he had as much faith in them as they did.

Yes, there are fights, and yes, he makes them visit Stonehenge as if playing a visual prank on them, but Gervasi also captured a tender side as we know, and the band know, that they were not getting any younger - the film just about starts with the lead singer's fiftieth birthday - and their chance to be all time world beaters had probably passed. Actually, there was no probably about it, such is the impoverished nature of the situation they have found themselves in, and all for the love of rock 'n' roll. We follow the brother-like relationship of singer "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (another Tap connection!) and after a while realise that for all their onstage bluster, they're really rather vulnerable.

This is underlined when we see interviews with those who know them, the wives and relatives, who genuinely worry about their future and the fact that they seem to have sacrificed any financial security for a life in music, and not a particularly fruitful one, either. Sure, Anvil had a few albums out, but they lament that they never did as well as they felt they should for reasons including the production, their management and distribution simply not being up to scratch and doing them justice. There are a few glowing interviews with stars who did make it big like Lemmy and Lars Ulrich, but it's Slash who points out that Anvil set the template for eighties hard rock yet never reaped the rewards as others took their ideas and ran with them.

Often in the opposite direction. The European tour that Lips is so excited about is arranged by a new manager who ends up in tears as the band get lost on the way to the gigs, then aren't paid and when they are get chickenfeed, all of which would be funny if it were not so tragic. But every so often there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as when they get in contact with the man who they believe produced their best album, Chris Tsangarides, and he agrees to make a new record with them. This they do, almost splitting in the process as we recognise all those years of underachievement do come at a psychological price, but then comes the fact that they can't get distribution for something that doesn't sound bad at all, just unfashionable. If you're worried that this is going to end up heartbreaking, well, I don't want to spoil it but bless the Japanese. A truly inspirational, funny and endearing work, nice guys Anvil deserved all the warm attention they got after this was a success.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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