Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Things can change pretty quickly. Canadian metal band Anvil is a case study in such movement into and out of perception and visibility. When the group first started in Toronto, in the late 1970s, they were the forebears of so much that was to come. They were admired by all of the bands that went on to have the most epic of careers in heavy metal. These people had all of the booze, blow, women and cars that they could want and they considered Anvil to be some of the originators of a new sound, not to mention phenomenal showmen who could make everyone taking the stage before or after them look foolish. Their first three records were instant classics and they were considered stars, performing on huge, successful worldwide tours with the biggest and best. It was great for a while and then it all went away. We learned, just a few years ago how cruel or just everyday life can get for those dreamers who were so close to something really, really major happening and then just watching it never form. Lead singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner - childhood friends and the two original members of the group who are still playing together (the trio is rounded out by bassist Glenn Five) - could have let it all go and yet they kept making albums, one after another, and playing shows, wherever someone would have them. They kept it all alive as best they could, still believing that the dream didn't have to ever die. We saw a few years ago, in the documentary, "Anvil: The Story of Anvil," what they were doing with their lives - delivering food to schools and working a stone chisel to pay the bills, but still being as fired up as ever to hit the road and play gigs whenever they could, keeping the hope fires burning. For all of the depressing parts of the movie - the guys backstage at a festival in Sweden, approaching other metal heroes that they've loved and respected or known professionally and seeing the far more famous guys look uninterested or barely able to be bothered - there's so much more heartwarming, never-say-die beauty to it. Kudlow and Reiner are easy to root for and it's just as easy to root for the antics of playing guitar with a vibrator and writing some of the funniest pseudo-serious/not serious at all/funny as shit lyrics that have ever been put into metal. They aren't cynics, just dudes who like to turn their amps up to unhealthy levels and party the hell out of the night. There's nothing grander than the wide and slightly sadistic, crooked smile that Kadlow frequently assumes. It's full of pure joy. He sings about the devil and fucking and torture and having an aggressive, blood-thirsty soul and yet it comes across as something akin to the noble life's work of a great actor or director, casting these ongoing thoughts and interests out as further acts in a picture that will never roll credits. Reiner tells it all in the movie, when - with stone dust covering his face and peppered into his hair, he says, "Give me another stage and another party and then I'll be really happy."