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Movie Review: Anvil!: The Story Of Anvil

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In 2003, writer Bill Tuomala offerred a career overview of Van Halen from an alternate universe in which The Stooges, The Ramones and the Clash had become stadium rockers and knocked heavy metal bands deep into the underground. “If you were lucky and knew someone in the know or if you hung out in the right record store, you might have gotten turned on to some metal during the seventies. Like there was underground favorites Led Zeppelin…” Tuomala describes Halen as dogged explorers who pursued their own path in the face of total commercial failure, but who finally got some belated respect when Nirvana became famous in 1991 (“The Year Metal Broke”) and had Eddie and Dave join them on their MTV Unplugged special.

The non-fictional Toronto band Anvil could have sprung out of that universe. Formed in the late seventies by guitarist/ vocalist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, the band have no problem getting everyone from Metallica to Slayer to Guns ‘N Roses to Anthax to virtually all of the hugely popular metal bands that sprung up just a few years later - to testify passionately on their behalf in the first five minutes of this fascinating documentary by Sacha Gervasi. English scribe Malcolm Dome describes their 1982 album Metal On Metal as “the heaviest thing you’d EVER HEARD,” and right at that moment, it might have been true. They were intense for their time, pushing the double-kick blast beats and blinding minor-key arpeggios beyond Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, gnarlier and more thrash-like than anything from that time besides Venom. As Metallica manager Johnny Z puts it, “There’s a sound on that album that has become part of the basic formula for every heavy metal record made today.”