Anvil are a Canadian heavy metal band from Toronto, Ontario, formed in 1978. The band consists of Steve “Lips” Kudlow (vocals, guitar), Robb Reiner (drums) and Chris Robertson (bass). To date, the band has released sixteen studio albums, and has been cited as having influenced many notable heavy metal groups, including Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica.
The band, in particular Kudlow and Reiner, was the subject of the 2008 documentary film, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, directed by the screenwriter and former Anvil roadie, Sacha Gervasi. Upon its release, the film garnered critical acclaim from many major publications, and has since brought the band renewed recognition, including opening slots with AC/DC and Saxon. Appearances at both major heavy metal festivals, including Download, Loud Park and Hellfest, and independent music festivals like Bumbershoot and SXSW, also followed the release of the film. Reviewers described Anvil as a pioneering hair metal band that was popular in the 1980s but then faded into obscurity in the 1990s, while refusing to stop playing, recording and gigging. Anvil’s antics on and off stage, the setbacks they suffered, and their determination to keep going was compared to the fictional band Spinal Tap.
The roots of Anvil began in April 1973 in Toronto, when high school friends Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner began playing music together. They met through friend, guitarist and neighbour Marty Hoffman, but “musical differences” caused his departure after their first show. By 1978, the first full line-up of the band included Kudlow (lead vocals, lead guitar), Reiner (drums), Dave “Squirrely” Allison (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ian “Dix” Dickson (bass). At this point, the band was called Lips.
In 1981, the band released an independent album called Hard ‘N’ Heavy. Shortly after they were signed by Attic Records, they changed their name to Anvil and the independent album was released by Attic as their debut album. Following its release, Lemmy Kilmister asked Lips to play guitar for Motörhead to replace “Fast” Eddie Clarke, but Lips declined. By 1983, Aerosmith manager David Krebs and assistant Paul O’Neill signed Anvil and convinced Attic to release the band from their contract so the band could sign with a major label. However, after initial interest, Krebs eventually stopped returning phone calls and did not get the band a major label recording contract, but eventually released the band from the managing contract.
Free to pursue a recording contract, they were signed by American label Metal Blade Records in 1987, by William Howell (a fan who is now a DJ with KNAC radio). They released three records with Metal Blade, starting with Strength of Steel, which was the group’s most commercially successful record in the United States, peaking at No. 191 on the Billboard 200. Anvil were then picked up by Maximum Records, an independent Canadian label that was formed by Helix’s manager-at-the-time William Seip. From 1996 they were signed by Hypnotic Records in Canada and Massacre Records in Germany. According to Lips, Anvil would have not continued had it not been for the German fans and the German contract. Germany was the only market for reasonable sales in that period, so the country kept the band running and gave them the opportunity to do more records. In 2001, the band recorded Plenty of Power and continued touring. Lips remarked “We’ll play gigs sometimes where there’s no one there”.
In 2006, the band recorded with Chris Tsangarides, who previously produced their acclaimed 1982 album Metal on Metal. After failing to find a major label that was willing to distribute the band’s new material, the album, titled This Is Thirteen, was self-released in 2007, and was available exclusively from the band’s official website.
The band’s history has been documented in the documentary film Anvil! The Story of Anvil released in 2008. The film has received high praise which has put Anvil back into the public consciousness, propelling them to play several festivals including the Download Festival in 2009 at which they headlined the Tuborg stage. Rolling Stone called the movie “the year’s most praised rock doc.” The band played “Cat Scratch Fever” with Slash and Anthrax’s Scott Ian at the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie premiered.
From June to July 2010 the band went on a headline tour of Europe selling out venues in the UK, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands as well as festivals in Finland, Sweden, France, Italy and Germany. Lips confirmed on this tour that he had in fact paid back his sister the loan to pay for the production of This is Thirteen.
Following the release of the album the band completed yet more tours in Europe and North America often playing alongside artists such as Alice Cooper & Saxon. The band released a new greatest hits album Monument of Metal: The Very Best of Anvil. Anvil also started re-releasing their old material starting with Strength of Steel, Pound For Pound and Worth the Weight later that same year.
May 2013 saw the release of Hope in Hell, a new Anvil studio recording again produced by Bob Marlette, who—according to Lips—contributed a lot to songwriting skills and arrangements. The whole album was written by Lips and Rob alone. In some songs Lips was inspired by his love of heavy “rock’n’roll”, which made him feel he “found his way home” to the time when they did their first record. In an interview with The Drummer’s Journal, Lips outlined how the record was written “as if it was 1983 again.” The band has been touring to promote that album—in fall 2013 they played Europe, and in summer of 2014 they played some European festival gigs.
In 2014, Anvil parted ways with Sal Italiano and replaced him with Chris Robertson, who was already acting as the band’s rehearsal bassist and a member of their road crew.
2016 saw the release of Anvil Is Anvil. The album was released on February 26. In July 2017, it was announced that the band would begin recording their new album Pounding the Pavement in August for a release in early 2018.
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