Random thoughts



The Substream's Film Lab

Home » Reviews

Anvil! The Story of Anvil – how far would you go to realise your dream?

Submitted by on May 4, 2009 – 2:40 pm3 Comments

anvil2Anvil! The band that time forgot; its history and possible future is mapped out in the appropriately titled “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”. As you can see from the image to the right it has been highly acclaimed by many critics making this review superfluous. Nevertheless I was determined to see for myself what made this documentary so good.

This is the film that has been compared to This is . This is the film that in during its general release in the UK only two cinemas had it on their roster. I am aware that documentaries are not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact documentaries based on Heavy Metal bands are appealing to even less of a demographic. So why should you seek it out? What makes Anvil! The Story of Anvil so appealing to a general audience?


At 14, best Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, hailed as the “demi-gods of Canadian metal, ” influenced a musical generation that includes Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, despite never hitting the big time. Following a calamitous European tour, Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, set off to record their 13th album in one last attempt to fulfil their boyhood dreams


Let’s get this straight. Anvil! The Story of Anvil is not your average rockmentary. It is a tale of hope and dreams that stay in people’s minds throughout their lives. It is a story of two men who hit their mid-life crisis at 14 and haven’t turned back since. Ultimately it is a story that is told from the perspective of two musicians as they refuse to get old.

Lips (the frontman) and Robb (the drummer) are seemingly respected in the metal industry with famous bands (and musicians) speaking of how much they respected Anvil. This includes: Metallica, Anthrax, Whitesnake, Motorhead, Twisted Sister and Slash. Yet somehow, along the way most of the above can be uttered in normal conversation and yet Anvil cannot. Whilst Slash is attending to many thousands of groupies wanting (ahem) autographs, Lips is delivering school meals (his job).

You could put this lack of public awareness down to management (or the lack of), recording laziness (as it is suggested), trust in a manager who is incapable of speaking understandable English or their music that may have gone out of fashion. However not one word is said about Anvil just not being good. For me (a metal fan) I’ll admit to not hearing of them before but was impressed with the name list that offered their (verbal) support for the band. Their musical ability was also impressive but I’d appreciate that many of you who categorically hate loud music may just not be impressed by their performances.

This is where the film comes into its own though as you realise what an effort that the band has gone through to continue “rocking”. For those of you who cannot appreciate the music you’ll envy how Robb and Lips continue to believe in their dream despite the things that continue to stop them in their tracks.

There is an old Chinese proverb that states (paraphrasing):

If ten people say that you’re sick…then lie down.

Anvil’s alternative (and better) proverb could be:

If ten people say that you’re sick…….keep on going until you physically collapse! Then get and keep on going more!

This underlying positive attitude throughout, helps you rally to their defences as they find dead-ends and embarrassingly empty venues at their gigs (despite being promised big crowds). You watch Anvil! The Story of Anvil willing them to keep going against all odds. For most of us this determination and dedication is alien, but for two Canadian musicians whose intelligence is played for comic effect throughout the film their willpower is enviable.

This documentary is a question that asks: How far would you go to realise your dream? The film left me in awe of the band. I’ll admit to always wanting to support the underdog. However, often the underdog is undeserving but for Anvil’s dedication to their work only praise is deserved.

My only true criticism of the film is that the tale is stopped almost too abruptly. You don’t want it to end and when it does, you need further information (which the ending credits help to some extent). However considering the comparison to that other famous rockumentary (This is Spinal Tap), it is important to realise this tale is far from told. Anvil, as the film states will continue playing no matter what happens.

I’ll admit to loving Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Much more than your regular musical documentary, it is an uplifting tale of the brief highs and many of realising your dream. It is an old-school Bromance (for want of a better word) which will make anyone who has ever had a dream root for them.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Image credit: Exclaim!

Comments are closed.