Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Metal on metal

I watched that Anvil: The Story of Anvil the other night. It's not very good despite all the plaudits it received. What I was expecting was a warm-hearted look back at a band who could have been contenders but never quite made. A film that investigated why they never made it, and their peers like Metallica, Motley Crue and Guns 'n' Roses did.

According to the blurb "Anvil were a major influence on the burgeoning thrash metal scene at the time. Members of Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer pay tribute." No they don't, they just come on at the start of the film and say "Anvil? Oh yeah, I remember them." That's it, not "Anvil? Well without Anvil we wouldn't be where we are today." And do you know why they don't say that? It's because Anvil aren't very good. Their so-called anthem, Metal on Metal, is just pretty average. The rest of the stuff I heard is third rate metal using adolescent sex (or the lack of it) as its subject matter. Look over any rock festival posters from the 1980s and there's Anvil at the bottom of the bill.

We're also told, according to the DVD box, to expect a "warm-hearted film about friendship." That's not really possible when Anvil's main man, Lips, is such an annoying prick given to moments of violence towards tight-fisted club promoters and even his own drummer, the man he was supposed to have made this pact with when he was fourteen that they'd "carry on rocking together forever." The drummer's name, by the way, is Robb Reiner, just one consonant too many away from sharing the same name as the director of This is Spinal Tap. Which is quite apt as Anvil's career trajectory mirrors that of Spinal Tap, especially the closing scenes of a rapturous return to Japan. The Japanese have a thing for a sub genre of heavy metal that I like to call 'Shit Metal.'

So the blurb's all wrong and what you get is a slightly depressing film about Lips cajoling Robb to go out on tour/make demos/try and get funding to make a new album in the UK. Fortunately for Lips - if not for the listening public - his older, and much more successful sister, stumps up the $12,000 to enable the band to record their new record in the Kent countryside. What follows are scenes of Lips chucking his toys out of his pram while sacking Robb. Robb returns to the fold about half an hour later when Lips has calmed down a bit. We then have to endure Lips hawking his record around major record labels without success. Lips gets upset.
Fortunately for Lips some bright spark invented the internet and you can buy it off him direct. Result! Not.

The saddest scenes though are near the beginning when a dodgy East European promoter books them on a European tour. It's very nearly heartbreaking to watch Lips approach metal luminaries like Michael Schenker, Carmine Appice and Tommy Aldridge at a Swedish metal festival to be met with blank 'who is this guy?' looks.
Robb emerges as kind of likable. You can tell he thinks they're flogging a dead horse but doesn't want to let his mate down. Surely there must have come a point in the past twenty years where he thought to himself 'enough is enough.' They both have day jobs, by the way - Lips delivers school dinners in a van.
No doubt Anvil will find short term gain from making the film, but they're still only making bottom of the bill at this summer's heavy rock festivals. More for curiosity value at a man who plays a guitar solo with a vibrator. Yes, really.
Anyroad, I went to see one of my favourite metal bands of the moment last night. The Amazon review for their new album contains this: "Fourth album from the successful American progressive metallers and follow up to their 2006 major label debut 'Blood Mountain'. That album, while their most successful, drew criticism from some fans for its seeming lack of focus. This album seeks to remedy that issue by having a unified concept in which an astral traveller wanders the spirit realm, exploring themes from quantum physics to Czarist Russia, and musically is as complex, brutal and enthralling as their earlier work." Which is pretty much what I want from heavy metal, not a turd with a Flying V and a dildo.


Five-Centres said...

I bought this in a sale but I can't bring myself to watch it.

Ishouldbeworking said...

I did laugh aloud at hearing Lips say 'shepherd's pie' in a Canadian accent. Otherwise, I just ended up feeling sorry for their wives.

Bright Ambassador said...

I love the way Canadians pronounce 'out' and 'about'. I'd like to hear one do an outside broadcast on local telly.