Anvil! The Story of Anvil was the one documentary I really wanted to catch at last year’s Hot Docs film festival. If you watched Canada’s MuchMusic station in the 1980s and its heavy metal segment, The Pepsi Power Hour (hosted by the mullet-sporting JD Roberts, who later became CNN’s silver-haired John Roberts), you might have some dim memories of Anvil and their hits Metal on Metal and 666. It was pretty cheese-a-riffic Canadian metal; when I was a DJ at Crazy Go Nuts University’s Clark Hall Pub, I used tracks from promo CDs of Anvil’s Strength of Steel and Annihilator’s Alice in Hell to get people to leave the pub after the lights had gone on so we could mop the floor.
(Okay, I’ll admit that I sort of liked their hit Metal on Metal.)
Anvil might have remained a footnote in metal history had it not been for a teenage roadie named Sacha Gervasi, who helped lug around gear for the band in the 1980s. Gervasi would later go on to become a screenwriter for movies such as Spielberg’s The Terminal. When Gervasi heard that Anvil were doing a big tour in 2005 and had landed the headline spot at the Monsters of Transylvania Festival, he asked their frontman, “Lips” Kudlow if he could film a documentary of them. “Lips” said yes, and a real-life This is Spinal Tap “rockumentary” ensued.
Every review of Anvil! The Story of Anvil points out that a lot of the mishaps experienced by the fictitious band Spinal Tap actually happen to Anvil, a real-life band. There’s the lifelong “David St.Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel-esque” friendship between the two founders of the band. The guitar player’s fiancee can’t speak English and mismanages the band into disaster. There’s a concert scene where the camera starts with a tight shot of a crowd near the stage and then zooms out to reveals that the band is playing to an audience of 200 in an arena that holds 10,000. The band memebers make ends meet through their day jobs: telemarketing and serving school lunches. There’s even a stranger-than-fiction scene where the owner of a club in the Czech Republic tries to pay the band in goulash rather than cash.
It’s funny, yet heartbreaking at the same time, because while Spinal Tap’s over-the-top problems were make-believe, the guys in Anvil were experiencing them in real life.
Here’s the UK trailer for the movie:
It looks as though Anvil will finally get their break. The movie is getting a lot of praise, people are actually coming to see their shows, and a number of their songs will soon be available as downloads for the Rock Band videogame.
I’m definitely catching the movie once it hits the theatres here.