Anvil strikes while the iron is hot (UPDATED)
"I'm looking for a little less brightness," said Steve "Lips" Kudlow, singer-guitarist of the band Anvil, in regards to a guitar sound during a studio session Tuesday. "I'm looking for something a bit more ... metal."
Such has been the single-minded pursuit of the power-metal pioneers over Anvil's more than three decades as a band. This year, however, Anvil got a wholly unexpected critical and commercial revival with the release of "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" -- a tenderhearted documentary on the band's rise, fall and meanderings into day jobs and empty clubs along the way, but also touching proof of the way music shapes one's identity and friendships for life.
The film's been well-received, to say the least, but for the members of Anvil, the warm reception is more a validation of the ongoing work of their lives, not a time capsule of an era as distant as Aqua Net and onstage bondage gear. They've played stadiums with Bon Jovi and European clubs to absolutely no one, and become festival-circuit film stars. But now they've a new, uncertain point as a band -- as up-and-comers yet again.
"This is not happening in retrospect, this is history being made now," Kudlow said. "It's opened all the doors we've always dreamed of."
For Kudlow and Anvil's impossibly named drummer Robb Reiner, the film's success is more fuel for the fire they've had for years. And it couldn't come at a better time for the genre -- bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage have made aggressive but melodic power-metal a viable sound again. They have the added benefit of genre bona fides.
"We came from when the music originated. We're not kids out there trying to copy that sound," Kudlow said. "The evolution of music is that it always gets heavier, and now that the edges have been pushed so far, people are ready for this sound again."
But while Anvil might not be contending for headlining arenas again quite yet, the film's steady success among non-metalheads means an entirely new type of audience is available to the band. On Tuesday, they were recording a song for use in the second season of "Sons of Anarchy," the FX series about motorcycle gangs, at Sunset Lodge Recording in Silver Lake, and have already written their forthcoming 14th album, the impeccably titled "Juggernaut of Justice." And as the film proves, there is absolutely a crowd open to discovering a band of 50-plus metalheads for the first time.
"The audience for metal is like this big," Reiner said, extending thumb and forefinger, before stretching his arms wide. "But the audience for the film is this big."
That's the most refreshing thing about Anvil's rejuvenation -- for Kudlow and Reiner, there is no nostalgia to the way they see their band. It's ongoing evidence of a childhood promise to throw devil horns until they meet the man himself. The movie may have put an unexpected spotlight on the band again, but only to show what's always been there.
"Lips is still Lips, and always has been" Reiner said. "Nothing's different with us. Our objective is the same as it's always been -- to blow people away."
-- August Brown
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" screens tonight at the Nuart, followed by a live performance by Anvil.
Photo: VH1 / Abramorama Films
UPDATE: The song Anvil recorded for "Sons of Anarchy" will not be the theme, but will be used in the show.