Any rock fan worth their salt should immediately see the film “Anvil,” if they haven’t already. Why? Because, in addition to being a generally great film, it’s easily one of the best rock documentaries I’ve ever seen. Guitarist Lips Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner are in the little-known but influential metal band Anvil, and despite years of little to no success, they’ve hung in there. Thanks in no small part to the film, they’re finally selling out venues instead of playing to crowds of two or three people.
The reason I bring it up is because “Anvil” is a testament to the power of rock ’n’ roll. Even if you don’t make any money or sell thousands of records, if you really love the music, it’s all worth it. And hopefully, someday, all that hard work you put in will pay off.
That’s why I like Too Late The Hero, a Berwick-based metal band that’s playing with a bunch of other metal and hard-core bands tonight at Dino’s in Brewer. They’ve been slugging it out in the New England scene since 2003, and this year, they finally got their big break, with a recently signed record deal, a new album ready to be released, and a big 2011 tour in the works. Isn’t it nice when that happens?
“You know, I don’t think we would have been able to keep doing it if we didn’t love to play so much,” said Aaron Caple, drummer for Too Late the Hero and one of the founding members. “When you see kids appreciate your music and singing the words back to you, it makes it all worth it. That’s really the most rewarding part for me.”
Caple, vocalist Jared Wilbur and bass player Nate Duckworth started the band more than seven years ago as a side project from other bands they were all in. Combining the heavy urgency and metal riffage of bands such as Thrice and Glassjaw with a melodic songwriting edge, TLTH quickly became the primary project for all five members of the band — and garnered an early fan base throughout New England.
A dual-guitar attack and group sing-a-long vocals became the band’s signature sound, but less than two years after forming, the original two guitarists left the band. Two more signed on. Then they left. Then two more signed on. Then they left. Now, finally, TLTH is on its seventh and eighth guitarists — Kevin Billingslea and Jack Stoltz, who are here to stay after spending more than two years with the band.
Those years spent touring and recording were tough on everyone, as it seemed that just as real success was within reach, it slipped out of everyone’s grasp.
“For a while there, it seemed like every time we started to build momentum, we’d suddenly have to find new guys,” said Caple. “We always had to regain ground. It was discouraging, definitely.”
In the past few years, however, things began to change. Instead of putting out a cattle call for new guitarists, Caple, Duckworth and Wilbur auditioned people, making sure that they’d pick new members who were as easy to get along with as they were stellar musicians.
“The hardest part about being in a band is the personality crisis,” said Caple. “It’s really easy to bash heads. You’ve got to be able to compromise and not let little things become big things. We have definitely learned that.”
Now better, faster and stronger, TLTH began touring with the new lineup in late 2008. Another year of touring followed. Then, in 2010, something awesome happened.
“We got a record deal,” said Caple. “We first started talking with the label in March. We signed in September, after all kinds of legal stuff. We’ve been in New York for the past two months recording. It’s getting mastered next weekend. It’ll be out in early 2011. It was like, ‘Here you go.’ It was the kind of thing we’d been waiting for for years.”
Sometimes, it really is that easy — though the dues TLTH have paid over the years were anything but easy.
“The overwhelming response that we got was ‘You guys deserve this,’” said Caple. “People have known us for all this time, playing shows constantly. We feel like we’ve really put our all into this band. And now people are recognizing that. That’s awesome.”
Too Late the Hero will play with Legend Has It, Spies Like Us, Sufferer, Convulsions and Hell On Earth starting at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, Dec. 10, at Dino’s Pizza in Brewer. Admission is $5 and one non-perishable food item. Proceeds benefit repairs to the Brewer location of the Rock Church, which is next door to Dino’s. For information, visit myspace.com/toolatethehero.