I had no desire to watch a documentary about a Canadian heavy metal band, but I did and it told me more about a love of and commitment to an art form than any film I have ever seen.
Anvil: the story of Anvil is moving, poignant, inspiring and deeply heartbreaking. It poses the questions with which many artists that have yet to achieve any sort of fame or monetary success grapple: Am I delusional? Should I give this up? Is my perseverance admirable or ludicrous? Is my relentless pursuit of my art form worth the many costs I suffer as a result of my efforts?
The film follows the founders of the heavy metal band Anvil, Steve “Lips” Kudlow (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Rob Reiner (drums). The two have been best friends and band mates since they were fourteen. In 1984, they toured the world with heavy metal bands Scorpion, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. All the bands on the tour had astounding subsequent success, except for Anvil.
The film begins with shots of Anvil during this glory tour and then flashes forward twenty-something years. Anvil is still together, but playing strip mall bars to a small but dedicated group of fans. Lips and Rob are working decidedly unglamorous day jobs—Lips as a catering delivery driver and Rob as a construction worker. But the years, lack of success and drudge work have not dampened the pair’s enthusiasm or hope of once again reaching a wider audience. It’s wrenching to watch Rob and Lips’s sometimes painful hopefulness and dedication despite the cost to their marriages, finances, and even their friendship with each other.
And viewers of the film have to wonder, how could this aging pair even imagine they will ever make a comeback in the young man’s world of heavy metal? And yet it’s impossible to keep from rooting for them wholeheartedly as they come to represent every dedicated musician struggling to gain some recognition despite staggering odds.
It’s clear that Lips and Rob keep playing metal and pushing for their dream of having an audience for their shows because their passion for their music forces them to do so. An apt lesson for any aspiring artist.