There are some bands that just have a knack of dividing their fan base, whether it be through experimentation, controversy, or, in the case of Anvil, claims of misplaced fame. Anvil has been called one of Canada’s unluckiest bands, never having reached any sort of fame despite near constant touring and incredible hard work. This changed somewhat in 2008 with the documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which breathed new life into the failing band and gave them another kick at the can. But do they really deserve the fame and notoriety, or is it just bandwagoning? Two of our writers try to tease out whether or not Anvil matter.
Anvil deserve their fame.
“Torn” is one of the main feelings that you may feel toward Toronto’s Anvil. That’s because there really isn’t any other way that you should feel about them. The polarizing heavy metal group has drawn the ire of the genres loyalists for gaining notoriety through the 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil after literally fading into obscurity during the mid to late ‘80s. On the other hand, a whole new generation has accepted the group with open arms through the film’s characterization of their dedication and perseverance to their craft.
Anvil mainstays Steve “Lips” Kudlow (guitar/vocals) and Robb Reiner (drums) have, in their own combination of Spinal Tap-esque comedy and after-school-special moments, proven and dispelled a whole plethora of sub culture stereotypes all at once while exposing many of the horrors and tribulations that many a starving musician will go through at least once in their own career. The band deservedly forged themselves a second chance through sticking to what would seem to an outsider like a fool’s errand. Nobody in their right mind would sacrifice a second mortgage to a house or borrow a staggeringly large chunk of money from their sister to fund music that, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t even that good to begin with.
That’s the beauty of Anvil, though, because nobody makes it in the music world, anyway. One can dig through their catalogue all they want to try and find one of their albums to connect with, but it’s more about what the band represents. This is a group of guys whose entire career has seen the two-headed beast that is the rock ‘n’ roll industry. They’ve travelled to the top, hit rock bottom and rode a brand new wave all the way back to the promised land. All the blood, sweat and tears that’s needed to survive in this business is what Anvil is comprised of, conceived by the hard work of their heroes before them and it turn, creating more would-bes in their wake. (BM)
Anvil should have faded away.
After several random experiences with Anvil – watching their awful 2008 Sled Island performance, hearing endlessly about the acclaimed documentary and finally watching it, their loss at the 2012 Juno Awards, and viewing the opening tracks from their 2012 Maryland Death Fest performance – the thing that vividly stands out in my mind is a fellow concertgoer at the latter. He approached me, grabbed my shoulders, and bellowed, “Don’t judge Canadians for this music.” He then shuffled away and grabbed someone else. I shook my head and walked inside.
I’ve long been unappreciative of Anvil’s music, to which age has not been kind. However, after lengthy discussion with several people who adeptly described the band’s influence and impact – for example, how they predate bands like Venom and Iron Maiden with the utilization of Satanic imagery, their pioneering use of bondage and sex toys and crude lyrics, and how innovative they were by 1981 standards – it helped me appreciate their impact on heavy metal. However, it still left me with the feeling that although they may have been important 30 years ago, what have they done since 1984 that’s worth listening to? Therein lies the problem: while using a dildo to play a guitar onstage may have been shocking in my parents’ days, it fills me with derision now. The band hasn’t evolved whatsoever and while other thrash bands at the time moved on and incorporated new sounds and methods, Anvil continues along their dated, tired trajectory. In a genre whose success is built on innovation, if that’s not a death knell, I don’t know what is. (SK)
Watch Anvil on Friday, August 3 at the Distillery with Striker, Titans Eve, and CAYM.
By Brandon McNeil and Sarah Kitteringham
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham