Anvil – ‘The Story Of Anvil’
Back in April, Anvil made their appearance in Worcester, MA at The Palladium as part of The New England Metal & Hardcore Festival. The band was part of the Thursday night pre-show that included the New England premiere of the documentary and their concert immeadiately after. I was set to go but the problem was that my wife’s birthday was the same day as the show! I was told to go, my wife is understanding when it comes to Metal, but there are some lines you don’t cross and missing my wife’s birthday party was one I wasn’t prepared to try. So I never went. The good news was that the movie has been enjoying a long run at a theater in Cambridge, MA but the hour plus drive into the Boston metro area is something I like to avoid.
So I’m sitting at my computer after work early Saturday morning and I’m searching for info online for the inevitable DVD release in the U.S. and I found a local link to the Avon Cinema in Providence, RI. The Anvil movie started a run there Thursday and the theater is only 15 mins from home! Armed with my iPod blaring Anvil’s latest album, THIS IS THIRTEEN, and the hardcover book of The Story Of Anvil, I made my way down to Thayer Street (near Brown University) for the matinee show.
Thayer Street used to be one of my hangouts in the early ’90s when I was in college, there were plenty of bars and record shops to go along with all the college girls from Brown University. It was a cool place to hang and party back in the day but as I finished school, and the record shops started closing, I stopped going down that way. I probably haven’t been down that area in a good 10 years so I decided to get there early and take in some of the shops. Nothing…..I couldn’t find any of them, there were none left! Turns out the shop I was looking for, In Your Ear Records, moved to Warren, RI so I had nothing to do but buy my movie ticket, listen to some Anvil and wait.
Waiting in the tiny lobby of the old school theater, I found a lot of kindred spirits. There were a few older Metalheads like me bringing their kids to see the movie but what really made the day were the kids/teens that made their way to the movie on their own to discover some Metal. I ended up talking to a group of 5 kids, all within the ages of 13-17, and they were like sponges for Metal information. They saw my Heaven & Hell tour shirt and we started talking. It’s nice to see the younger generation embracing Heavy Metal and it’s history. It’s sounds a bit corny to say something like that but kids nowadays don’t have as many independent record shops or flea markets like I did. There isn’t radio airplay and MTV is a joke, the only way these kids learn is from the Internet and their parents’ music collections. There were about 20 of us in the lobby talking Metal, talking Anvil, and there was just a great vibe almost like going to a concert.
So the doors open, we all file in the theater, and we endure 10 mins of previews! Those things should be outlawed! The movie starts off with some classic Anvil footage of the Japan SuperRock show in ’84…..exactly like the trailer. There was a lot of applause seeing the old footage and a lot of laughter seeing Lips using his trademark dildo to play his guitar!
I’m not going to ruin the movie for everyone by going through the entire story, I’ll save that for the eventual DVD review when VH-1 Classic Records sets a U.S. release date for the soundtrack and DVD, I just want to give some thoughts and highlights. Basically, the documentary centers around the history of Anvil, the highs and lows of being in a legendary band that never quite achieved success, and the journey of making THIS IS THIRTEEN. I was a young kid when I discovered Anvil so I’m an old time fan, it was really cool to see one of the bands I grew up with on the big screen. There was enough claasic footage to satisfy my old school cravings and there was plenty of recent tour footage (circa 2006/2007 before THIS IS THIRTEEN) to give me an idea of where Anvil is. The comparisons to Spinal Tap are inevitable and obvious, there is definitely some comedy to Anvil’s journey: how can so much bad shit happen to one band? Especially one that is so influential to a lot of Metal heavyweights (Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slash, Slayer, etc.)? There was a bit of laughter when some of the lower points of the tour were showed like the band missing a few trains, band fights, venues that hold 10,000 and less than 200 show up…..definitely Spinal Tap! I took it seriously and, even though I laughed a bit too, I couldn’t help but ask the same question that the movie asks over and over: How did Anvil not become stars?
The answers come from the book, something I recommend people read because you get so much more information and insight to the band’s history and the film. I’m 2/3 of the way through the book but I was able to fill in parts of the movie with the information I had read, it made everything more enjoyable. Like I said, I took the documentary seriously because I really love Metal and a band like Anvil, that I grew up with, is close to my heart. Not trying to get all sentimental here but when you love something, you pursue it and that’s one of the main themes of Lips’ and Robbo’s career, it’s the reason they keep going. One of the scenes in the film shows Lips’ 50th birthday party at a club with Anvil playing a set. There are some longtime Anvil diehards there singing all the words right into the camera in the drunken Metal splendor and, even though they were funny, I identified with them, I identified with the band. I’m going to be 37 this year, I’ve put in 29 years of Metal fandom in and I can’t see that stopping as I go forward to the 40s and 50s.
Back to Anvil…..another part of the movie I really got into was the making of THIS IS THIRTEEN with legendary Metal producer Chris Tsangarides. I really thought the album was one of the best of 2007 and it was really cool to see everything from the band sending a demo to Tsangarides, to raising the money, to the studio performances, and the decision to release the album themselves. It gave an insight to the creative process but also the personal journey the band invested in culminating in a triumphant sold-out appearance at a Metal festival in Tokyo, Japan.
When the movie ended, there was some applause from the audience because it was a really great film. I ended up talking to some people outside the theater and gave them some links to some cool Metal websites so they could check out some Anvil and other bands from the early ’80s that these people remembered but lost touch with. All in all, a great film and a great band. I will definitely be going back for another show sometime this week and I’m going to take my 10 yr old daughter with me so she can add Anvil to her Heavy Metal discovery.
Go see this film! Metal On Metal!