Anvil – Forever Heavy
September 24, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #69, September 2009.
A new documentary captures Toronto metal heads Anvil’s three-decade-long road to success, writes Dan Rule.
He may be pushing 54, but Anvil founder and frontman Steve ‘Lips’ Ludlow has a spring in his step these days. “It’s a miraculous man!” he gushes. “Things like this just don’t happen.”
Ludlow is referring to Anvil! The Story of Anvil, the new documentary that has helped bring his band success after 30 years and 13 albums of hard slog, financial burden and crappy day jobs.
“When you’re 25, it’s like you own the world and it will last forever,” he sighs, chatting over the phone from his Toronto home. “When you’re 53, you realise that that’s not true at all.”
Formed by Ludlow and childhood best friend and drummer Rob Reiner in 1978, the Toronto band set the model for a whole generation of North American thrash metal bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath to follow, lending an explosive, visceral and sexed-up edge the classic 70s British metal sound of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
Although their first three albums – Hard ‘n’ Heavy (1981), Metal on Metal (1982) and Forged in Fire (1983)– made a thunderous impact on the international metal underground, Anvil’s respect amongst their peers never translated to stardom. With little label support and some poor management decisions, the group were bound to plummeting record sales and menial jobs.
But as Ludlow explains, all that changed when renowned British screenwriter Sacha Gervasi – the band’s former teenage roadie and a lifelong fan – called him out of the blue in 2005. “Sacha realised that we were still going, you know, and it really blew him out,” he says. “We’d done all these records and that we’d existed for all these years with no success and he thought that it was incredibly inspiring.”
“The moment he told me that he wanted to make a movie about us, to me, it was just like I won the lottery, but even more profound. If we had been any different to this 15-year-old roadie kid back in 1982, nothing would have happened.”
Drawing on new and archival footage, the surprisingly personal documentary traces Anvil’s explosion onto the scene in the early 80s, before following their attempts to record an unlikely thirteenth album, This is Thirteen, with British metal super-producer Chris Tsangarides and finally break through into a music world that wants little to do with them.
Suffice to say, the film has changed their lives irreversibly. “Not even my family realised what I’d been doing all these years,” says Ludlow. “They found it very difficult to understand why my life choices were the way they were. That was until they saw the movie, which just gave them a completely new perspective on who I was.”
Having just completed a North American tour with AC/DC, Anvil are finally getting the recognition they always deserved. “This whole thing could have only happened once and it did.”
“A fan made a movie about a band,” he pauses. “Not a record company, a fan, you know? Like, how pure man!”
Anvil! The Story of Anvil is in cinemas now