If ever there was a story that needs to be told about how the music industry eats its own, The Story of Anvil is that story. As funny as much of this film is, it is also in many ways a cautionary tale.
In its limited theatrical release, this story of the real life Spinal Tap got considerable attention, and to be flat-out honest, that is exactly what initially drew me to it.
The joke factor here was obvious. Anvil: The Story of Anvil is the story of an eighties hair-metal band — complete with every possible stereotype you could ever imagine — who had their brief moment in the sun, sharing concert bills with the likes of Bon Jovi and the Scorpions, before slipping into obscurity.
And honestly, I've never particularly cared for the brand of hair-metal that bands like Anvil play. But the thing is, watching a film like this one gives you an entirely different perspective on the inner-workings of how the music business actually works, and how quickly they discard their own like yesterday's rubbish.
I signed up to watch this expecting to get a good laugh with lots of music-biz insider jokes — which I got. What I didn't expect, though, was to instead find myself inexplicably not only reaching for my hankie, but ultimately actually rooting for these guys.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil is an undeniable hoot in many ways, but it is also one of the saddest real-life rock-docs I have ever seen. It begins with Anvil's brief moment of glory headlining some sort of eighties Monsters Of Rock type deal with bands like Whitesnake, and then abruptly shifts to the present-day reality of a band whose members work day jobs in factories, and play gigs before maybe 100 people.
The opening credits say it all. Anvil is shown at a mega-concert with bands such as The Scorpions and the like, who all went on to sell millions of records — while one did not. Guess who that was?
Rock stars like Metallica's Lars Ulrich and Guns N' Roses' Slash offer up all their due accolades and respect. But in the end it all feels tragically empty, and you find yourself asking, "So where are these guys now?"