Anvil: Juggernaut Of Justice

Canadian metallists prove they’re more than just those nice blokes off the film.

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If the Anvil story had ended with Anvil!: The Story of Anvil, Sacha Gervasi’s wonderful film about Steve ‘Lips’ Kudrow and Robb Reiner’s lifelong struggle in the service of heavy metal, then we could all have basked in its uplifting message that good guys don’t always finish last. As it hasn’t, we must watch through our fingers as our heroes totter back out into a harsh and unforgiving world. It’s like watching your toddler trying to cross a motorway.

The film was, as all good films are, a construct, a mediated version of the truth played sometimes for pathos and sometimes for laughs. And much like its subject it was big and warm-hearted, a study in humanity rather than of music, a buddy movie, a love story, a cautionary tale with a carefully-contrived feelgood factor and a reasonably happy ending.

Real life is more rough-edged and ragged, of course. The film undoubtedly saved Anvil. These days they have a record deal and proper management, they have a following and they have a narrative for those willing punters who make up that following to buy into.

But the film had its flipside too. Much of the goodwill for Lips and Robb comes from their portrayal as comical characters, uncomprehending child-men at the mercy of the fates. At times, the film was almost indistinguishable from satire. That is a shadow from which they must escape.

The good news is that Juggernaut Of Justice is a big heap of fun – a loud, raucous, uncomplicated heavy metal album brimming with passion and power. The bad news – and with Anvil there will probably always be a little of that – is that it lacks the touch of magic that separates the good from the great.

They begin the collection with the title song, which sums up their situation. ‘We were looking for that musical justice,’ says Lips. ‘I worked in a feverish way.’ That fever is present in its heavy groove, and in the urgent, heated riffs of FuckenEh and Turn It Up. Here Anvil thunder along quite nicely, and it’s a joy to go with them.

Bob Marlette’s production has captured the essence of their sound, which comes principally from the way Kudrow rips at his strings with a restless intent. Unfortunately they do have a tendency to plod when they slow down, as Conspiracy and New Orleans Voodoo go to prove, and their lyrics could still be scrawled down on the back of a school book, but Anvil are very hard to dislike.

Juggernaut Of Justice embodies them: they have seized their chance in the only way they know how.

Jon Hotten is an English author and journalist. He is best known for the books Muscle: A Writer's Trip Through a Sport with No Boundaries and The Years of the Locust. In June 2015 he published a novel, My Life And The Beautiful Music (Cape), based on his time in LA in the late 80s reporting on the heavy metal scene. He was a contributor to Kerrang! magazine from 1987–92 and currently contributes to Classic Rock. Hotten is the author of the popular cricket blog, The Old Batsman, and since February 2013 is a frequent contributor to The Cordon cricket blog at Cricinfo. His most recent book, Bat, Ball & Field, was published in 2022.