What did it take to entice Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock, and some 500 chain-smoking, beer-drinking, leather-jacketed metalheads out into the freezing New York City rain?
A new documentary about an obscure Canadian metal band that’s been struggling to make it in the music biz for 30 years: Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Monday night at Manhattan’s Gramercy Theatre, a special event called the Anvil Experience drew a horde of metal diehards, including Snider, Andrew WK, Twisted Sister guitarist J.J. French, and lots of wasted guys named Jimmy, Vinny, and Sledge. Spurlock took the stage, beer in hand, to introduce the film. He praised Anvil and ignited the crowd with his chants: “Kiss a stranger!” and “Have unprotected sex and get syphilis!” In fact, he may have gotten the crowd a little too riled up.
As soon as the film began, a drunken bro in the second row began shouting expletives (e.g. “Your mom’s a whore”). It wasn’t long before Snider, seated at the back of the venue, yelled for him to “Shut the fuck up.” The dude didn’t abide (and was thrown out), but his drama was no match for the one on screen.
The story of Anvil is this: High school buddies Robb “Robbo” Reiner, now 50, and Steve “Lips” Kudlow, 52, formed the band in 1978. Four years later they released Metal on Metal, a seminal album that laid the groundwork for speed metal bands like Metallica and Slayer. But despite sharing the stage with the likes of Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, and Whitesnake in the ’80s, Anvil never found the success of their peers.
“Everybody sort of ripped ‘em off and left them for dead,” former Guns N’ Roses axeman Slash explains in the film.
But Anvil never quit. In his directorial debut, Sacha Gervasi, who was a roadie for the band’s 1985 tour at the age 15, tracks their ill-fated 2005 European tour, which is full of band in-fighting, missed trains, and shoddy management. At one point, a bar owner in Prague tries to pay them for an under-attended gig… in goulash. At another, the band perform in a 10,000 capacity venue at a Transylvania metal festival … to a crowd of 174.
It’s painful to watch — especially when Lips returns to his Ontario day job of delivering food to local schools because he has no money and no interest from record labels.
But there are plenty of laughs in the movie, too.
In one scene, Robbo and Lips visit the prehistoric monument Stonehenge (once used by a cult of sun worshippers) to find inspiration. Sound familiar? The faux band in This Is Spinal Tap had a similar fascination with the mysterious English site. But remember, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is real — these guys are dead serious.
After the film’s credits rolled, the screen lifted and Anvil was on stage, ready to rock. The trio ripped through the title track from their new album This is Thirteen (yes, it’s their 13th album). They also played “Metal on Metal,” with Lips singing its final verse like the mission statement for his life: “Metal on metal never will die / Parties and concerts / Keep it alive.”
Anvil! The Story of Anvil hits theatres nationwide Friday, April 10. Visit VH1 Classic for info on the travelling Anvil Experience.
And read SPIN’s recent profile of the band here.
WATCH:Anvil! The Story of Anvil trailer: