The Story of Anvil Drops

Last night, on East 23rd Street, Manhattan’s Blender Theater was teeming with tough-looking characters. There was an abundance of very large hair. Dark eye makeup and leather were in high attendance. A cloud of cigarette smoke hovered above the theater’s entrance between Park and Lexington Avenues. It was the premiere of Anvil!, The Story of Anvil, a documentary about the Canadian metal “demigods” by the same name, and the crowd was, as one might expect, a little bit rowdy. The film, which was directed by one of the band’s former roadies, Sacha Gervasi (who ran away at 16 to go on tour with the group), tells the story of frontman Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow and his drummer and best friend Robb Reiner, as they make one last run for a shot at fame—25 years after the band’s (arguable) heyday. Throughout the screening, antics abounded: Constant, back-and-forth heckling prompted some near brawls, and at least one person was spotted storming out of the rafters, shouting a surly remark. (He was found later on downstairs, beer in hand.) There was a lot of coughing, a lot of drinking, and a lot of cheering. When the woman in the seat next to me asked for a coke without any sort of alcoholic additive, her order was met with polite surprise. Given both the scene and the subject matter, I would have bet on leaving the theater in a thick layer of eyeliner, maybe, but not tears.

But then, the dudes from Anvil are used to being underestimated. That’s part of what makes this movie so good. (Gervasi’s excellent direction doesn’t hurt, either.) This is more than a movie about heavy metal. Actually, it’s not really about heavy metal at all. It’s about two sort of awesome fifty-something-old rockers who have been pursuing what they love for twenty-five years. It’s about the brotherhood, and hardship, that were borne out of that. The resulting movie is both deeply hilarious and, at times, surprisingly emotional: As we follow the band from their catastrophic 2006 European tour—which was organized by Tziviana, a woman of Eastern European descent who emailed the band out of the blue with the proposal, as well as a picture of herself—to their return to the studio for a 13th album, to a triumphant performance in Japan, we the audience (particularly this one) have become rather emotionally invested in these guys, their music, and their careers.  Also in their wives, and kids, and decades-old friendship! By the time the band took the stage for their live encore performance, even the non-metal-enthusiasts among us were awestruck by the blur of Reiner’s drumsticks in the air, the poignancy of Lips’s onstage theatrics, and the urgency of the middle-aged fistpumping that was accompanying the band from below. Quite a feat, indeed.