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The early '80s were an odd time for metal. Until MTV turned the genre over to pretty boys, Spinal Tap gave away the joke, and Metallica made the intelligentsia take the genre seriously, only a devoted cult in denim was paying much attention. While the new wave of British heavy metal took grassroots lessons from punk, the real hockey hair was in Canada, where bands like Helix and Anvil were riffing like overcaffeinated lumberjacks, spouting off-kilter anthems that trod a line between comedy and cluelessness. Anvil's lyrics had to be heard to be believed -- songs about getting outsmarted financially, about bad sex (To "Keep It Up," "all it takes is just a little pill"!), about chainsaws. Future icons like Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Motorhead and Anthrax were fans, awed when guitarist-singer "Lips" Kudlow brandished vibrators on stage. Yet the group remained unknown; in the U.S., their highest charting album, 1987's Strength of Steel, peaked at 191. In 2009, though, something changed: An indie film called Anvil! The Story of Anvil documented their no-win career, impressing critics hardly fluent in metal. Before you knew it, Anvil were set to tour with AC/DC.

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