Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DVD Views: Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Anvil: The Story of Anvil ***
Directed By:
Sacha Gervasi.
Featuring: Steve “Lips” Kudlow, Robb Reiner.

I cannot decide if the two people at the heart of documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil are inspiring or pathetic. In the early 1980s, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, two Jewish kids from Toronto, were on the verge of making it big in the music industry with their heavy metal band Anvil. Their album, Metal on Metal, inspired bands like Metallica, Megadeath, Pantera and a host of other heavy metal superstars. They even toured Japan with White Snake, Slayer and Bon Jovi. But somehow all those bands ended up hugely successful, and Anvil was left behind. Now 25 years later Kudlow and Reiner still dream of being rock stars, even though they are now in their 50s, and have to work other jobs to support themselves and their families.

Anvil tells their stories. After the music world passed them by in the 1980s, they never stopped, and from the sound of things, they never really changed their musical style either. Even Metallica has softened in the past 25 years, but Anvil rocks it out just like it was 1984. They have a small but devoted following, who show up to watch their gigs, and buy their albums (there have been 13 in all, most handled by a very small record label, who Kudlow and Reiner insist don’t know what they are doing).

The movie follows them on an ill fated European Tour, that they are convinced will be their ticket back to the big time. It doesn’t happen. Then they borrow money from their family to hire a good producer for their 13th album, which again they are convinced will be their big break. That doesn’t happen either. Finally, they travel to Japan to take part in a huge heavy metal show that again they think will be their break. As each of these things pass, and it becomes clear that it will not be their big break, they make excuses, and just keep on trucking. They are rock stars, even if they don’t really have any fans.

Part of me admires these two guys. They have been beaten down by life constantly throughout their careers, but they never say die. They just keep going, following their dreams, even if no one but them really believes that it is going to happen for them at this point.

But another part of me just wants to tell these two guys to grow up. There is nothing wrong with still being in a rock band at the age of 50. If they have fun performing for their small fan base, then go for it. And record your albums and sell them to those same fans. But stop thinking that you’re going to make it and become huge stars. The music industry has changed dramatically since 1984. With the exception of Metallica, all the other bands of that era that are still together mainly subsist on nostalgia of their fans. If fans don’t have those memories of you, you cannot expect to break through now. I am a heavy metal fan, and what I heard of Anvil during the course of this movie was okay, but did not inspire me to go and track down an album. At some point, everyone needs to grow up.

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