Anyone who works in the creative industries – be they a writer, an actor, a director, a songwriter or musician – knows the lure of the “big break.” It’s the moment when the clouds part and the heavens finally, after years of toil and dejection, deign to cast the spotlight upon you and your work.
When, in the new critically-acclaimed doc Anvil! The Story of Anvil, we first meet the Canadian metal band’s remaining original members Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner, it seems that they are still banking on that golden moment, some 30 years in to their band’s career. Indeed, as the film opens with footage from the Japanese festival Super Rock ’84, which put Anvil on the same stage as the Scorpions, Bon Jovi and Whitesnake in front of tens of thousands, some may say that moment has come and gone. Testimonials from Slash, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister paint Anvil as a hugely influential group, one that unfortunately missed the million-selling mark by just that much.
Directed by longtime friend Sacha Gervasi (who first met the band at age 15 and went on to be a Hollywood screenwriter) and beautifully shot by Chris Soos, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is justifiably being hailed as a new classic rockumentary, capturing the highs and lows of a duo of dreamers that refuses to say die. Whether the camera is catching them backstage in Prague nearly coming to blows with a promoter who doesn’t want to pay them or onstage in a 10,000-seat hall playing for a crowd of 174, the view is unflinching and honest. And in a post-Spinal Tap world, it’s impossible to not look upon some moments, such as the band’s performance at then-guitarist Ivan Hurd’s wedding, without seeing a little bit of Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins in the Anvil team.
Still, the story arc of Anvil does allow for Kudlow and Reiner to see some semblance of a return to glory by the film’s end. And without revealing too much, we see how Kudlow and Reiner’s mission – to at long last become “f***ing rock stars” – evolves into an acceptance that sometimes, the journey’s all you’ve got. That’s something that everyone who’s worked on making a dream come true – be it a new album or a new documentary project – can identify with.