Rock Reads: Anvil!: The Story of Anvil by Lips Kudlow and Robb Reiner

Reviewed by Anthony Kuzminski

One year ago, the highly renowned but triumph challenged metal band Anvil was experiencing a resurrection. Their movie, Anvil!: The Story of Anvil received unanimously overwhelming positive reviews, celebrities were coming out of the woodwork to support and name check the band and the film, which was playing to sold out screenings across the country. Not bad for a band whom a year earlier would have only been able to perform at their neighborhood bars. The film was such a engrossing and emotional tour de force, that it was impossible to not be swept away by the charm, charisma and underdog feeling of Robb Reiner and Lips Kudlow. Since the film debuted, it's been seen widely on VH-1, it found an audience on DVD, Anvil re-released their best album in over two decades, This Is Thirteen and are now on a worldwide tour playing to sold-out crowds everywhere. What a difference a revealing film can make. If all of the above isn't enough, then I have good news for you, there's a book too! Titled after the film of the same name, Anvil!: The Story of Anvil, the book could very well be a large appendix for the film. Slash gives a nice and complimentary foreword to the book, but the real action occurs in Robb and Lips reflections on not just Anvil, but their entire lives. If you think you don't need to read it because the film covers most of Anvil's history, then you will be pleasantly surprised when you find out that the 320-page book charters new territory and pull so much from Robb and Lips that I couldn't help but be pulled into their world even further. You not only discover how they grew up and came to cross paths, but we learn the intricate details of Anvil's early years and the recording and tours for their first few albums, failed relationships, drug dependence and other challenges I wouldn't dare of delving into here. While the DVD commentary covers some of this info, it's merely a footnote compared to the vividness of the book.

When I interviewed Anvil a few months back, drummer Robb Reiner informed me that the interviews done for the publication of the book were a healing process and I could tell by the look he gave me in his eyes. As I read the book, I was completely absorbed, even more so than the film in many aspects. Whereas the film made me want to support and writer about Anvil, the book made me want to discover their music. Of the 320-pages, I would say that approximately 300 of them cover material not in the film, the bonus scenes or the commentary. It was almost as if the book provided a sequel to their story. Ultimately, the book doesn't just compliment the film, but provides an encyclopedic narration of Anvil which is more than informative but provides the same heartrending wallop. We learn much about their original guitarist and bass player, Ian Dickson and Dave Squirrely Allison. The entire book is an oral history given from the perspective or Robb and Lips, but if you think they go easy on themselves, you would be mistaken. Looking back, they see clearly where the train went off course, where opportunities were blown and where their egos destroyed certain relationships. There is the distressing story of how the band chose Aerosmith manager David Krebs to manage them over Jonny Zazula (who represented Metallica, Anthrax, etc.). It was a critical turning point for the band and how it unfolds is more than just heartbreaking, but a life lesson everyone can learn from. Then there was a showcase performance in New York where the band made the horrendous decision to let their bass player, Squirrely, take over lead vocals and debut more appealing less heavy music. There are reflections of their Metal Blade records (Strength of Steel) and every other thing imaginable they endured during their lean years. Hindsight in 20/20, alas the band makes the best of every situation and you continue to be in awe of their willingness to keep Anvil together and continue to create music even though every obstacle imaginable seemed to tell them otherwise.

While the raunchy stories make for fun reading, it's the personal relationships discussed in the book that make it consequential. Both Lips and Robb dig deep into their families past and leave no stone unturned. Something that no interviewer has really captured was the band's reunion with Sacha Gervasi. We've all been given an edited cliff notes version of their relationship, but the book goes so much deeper. We learn the dire straits one of the Anvil members was in (I will not spoil it) and how the film, renewed interest in the band and well…faith and friendship managed to pull the band out of obscurity and into everyone's heart. Anvil!: The Story of Anvil is more than a great film, but a great book as well. I can't recommend it highly enough. If you hold no interest in metal or even music, you should still seek it out because I can't see how anyone could not be moved by the triumph over tragedy that is the story of Anvil.

Highly recommended.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.