‘Anvil!’ – This is (mostly) Spinal Tap

‘Anvil!’ – This is (mostly) Spinal Tap


The mates in the heavy metal band Anvil visit Stonehenge in the new to DVD documentary about their rise to obscurity.

They also make a triumphant visit to Japan and, at one point, someone cranks an amp all the way up to … wait for it … 11.

What makes “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” such a poignant documentary is how closely it hews to the mockumentary classic “This is Spinal Tap.”

But the boys – it’s impossible to call them grown men – of Anvil aren’t full of themselves or delusional about their place in rock history. They just want to play to a packed house once in a while and make enough money to support their rock ‘n roll dream.

For those who don’t live and breath hair metal rock, Anvil hit the scene around the same time Bon Jovi, the Scorpions and Whitesnake ruled MTV in the mid-80s. But the band couldn’t break out in a similarly big way.

So the Canadian band kept on rocking, all the while being ignored by the music industry and fans in general.

The film catches up with the band as its founding members are hitting 50. Lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (no relation to “Tap” director Rob Reiner) both have day jobs, but they save up enough money and vacation time to rock out as Anvil.

They play local gigs to a tiny but devoted fan base, but eventually hook up with a talent-free manager who promises them an extravagant European tour.

Spinal Tap-style disasters ensue, leaving the band members wondering if they’ll ever come close to their rock band fantasies.

“Anvil” makes it impossible not to root for the band’s core members, even if you want to shake them by their overprocessed hair and say, “grow up!”

Director Sacha Gervasi keeps the focus on the emotions fueling the band, meaning we thankfully aren’t inundated by the music – half baked anthems from a musical era better left behind.

We meet the band members’ families and fan base, the latter a frightening lot who seem stuck in their late teens along with their rock heroes.

The film feels forced at times, including the segment shot at Stonehenge, and some of the in-fighting between the band mates feels as if the group is playing out every aspect of the rock blueprint.

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” is alternately funny and heartbreaking, an ode to chasing a dream that won’t die even if every sentient being around you says it should.

(Photo: Anvil lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow rocks out in the sweet documentary “Anvil: The Story of Anvil.”/VH1 Films)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bjcNo Gravatar November 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Anvil Photo by Brent J. Craig

AkJNo Gravatar November 11, 2009 at 11:27 pm

I haven’t seen this yet so I don’t know how much they have in interviews but Anvil really influenced a lot of metal bands from the early 80’s and going forward. They were part of many big metal tours, especially across Europe, and eventually helped the influence of changing the direction of one of the biggest metal bands ever – Pantera. Good thing for that because if Pantera stayed in the other roots influence, glam rock, they would have kept playing the fair grounds with Wierd Al and not arenas with Sepultura.

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