Anvil was in the thick of that whole '80s "hair metal" craze, touring with Whitesnake, appearing on the same bill with Scorpions, Bon Jovi and the like.
It all but invented thrash metal, with bands including Motorhead, Metallica and Anthrax happily acknowledging their influence.
"Everybody just sort of ripped them off and left them for dead," says Slash, guitarist for Guns N' Roses.
But Anvil didn't die. Band members just went back to Canada, found day jobs and clung to their dream, decades after they had any hope of realizing it.
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Lead singer and guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow drives a delivery truck for a company that caters school lunches. Drummer Robb Reiner operates a jackhammer. Anvil! The Story of Anvil follows them through a comically and cosmically dismaying year in which they take one last stab at glory, with a disastrous European tour, a studio date with the one English producer who "got" them back in the day, who might give them one last chance at a record deal.
Hopes are introduced and dashed, things turn ugly, and just when you think they can't get any worse, they do.
Their biggest fans just might be in Japan. That pipe dream of every rock star or baseball player — that there is redemption, or at least a few bookings and the idea of maybe making it to the land of the Rising Sun — sustains them, especially Lips, who lives the cliché as if it's all he ever wanted out of life.
The Canadians of Anvil come off as an un-ironic Spinal Tap, not realizing the futility of their cause, not seeing how funny it is that a bass player takes up with the idiot Italian tour manager who keeps botching their travel arrangements, not knowing how predictable their meltdown in the studio might be.
If you didn't have some hint that, yes, they were the real deal, you'd swear the filmmakers and the rockers interviewed about Anvil (Lars Ulrich of Metallica among them) were pulling your leg.
But to dream past 50, to keep rocking and head-banging when you're "too old to rock 'n' roll, but too young to die" is the inspiring feel-good message of Sacha Gervais' cute if predictable documentary.