Metal: A Headbanger's Journey

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Part amiable fanboy tribute, part semi-decent anthropologist's report on the culture of loud music, Sam Dunn's Metal: A Headbanger's Journey is an often delightful and entertaining essay on the anthropology of heavy metal, although he is inclined to employ devil's advocate arguments to illuminate his viewpoint.

Enforcing this essay style, he sets out chapter headings and immediately we get a condensed narrative overview of his love affair with the music, the life and loves, his choice of university major in anthropology. No one - especially Dunn - is convinced that his academic training will allow him to distance himself too much from the ongoing journey. The trio of writers, producers and directors (Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Jessica Joy Wise) keep the documentary continually interesting and never too far from a change of scenery, or topic of interest.

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His energetic film sports well over two dozen interviews with spokesmen from the industry and performers. Indeed, it occasionally overlaps, witness Dunn being interviewed live on the radio about the making of the film, before giddily relating to the audience about interviewing Black Sabbath's lead singer on the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon. He's as wildly enthusiastic and sincere as people get.

In a chart that would give Jack Black's character in School Of Rock a couple of tailspins, we're presented with a multitude of styles and genres of bands and music. "You might want to take some notes," he quips, as the screen spiders out into a hundred different bands and influences, from the humble(!) beginnings of Black Sabbath, Cream and Led Zeppelin to progressive, glam, new wave, death and the surprisingly scary lead singers of black metal. I saw many, many more, but the margin of my notepad was too small to contain them.

Black metal, in spite of its name, has little to do with the colour of the performer's skin, although a couple of hours in the sun would probably do them some good, rather than with the Satanic overtones of their work. In an effort to delve into religion and Satanic metal, we are introduced to the band Venom, whose lyrics are hard-hitting and vicious, while the band themselves are as good-natured as they come. But then onto the Norwegian black-metallists, who chillingly rasp out their words in between burning down churches in an effort to destroy Christianity. Dunn, in all his sincerity, cannot defend these artists.

There are little in the way of startling revelations, although the swift disarming of glam metal's sexually charged costuming and staging suggests that he is not all that keen to delve too deep. Most of the film is fun, like learning the origin of the devil's horns - make a fist with your hand and stick out your index and pinkie. Although, upon leaving the screening, I couldn't get The Passion Of The Christ out of my head, for two relatively simple reasons. Both film titles perfectly describe the movies in question and, for maximum impact, they're strictly members only affairs.

Those who wouldn't be seen dead at a concert might gain an acceptance and even appreciation for the style and art of the music, culture and dedicated individuals. At the film's best, I couldn't help but wonder that I'm missing out on something rather special.

Either way, it's off to a well-stocked record store...

Reviewed on: 28 Apr 2006
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An enthusiast for the music delves wrist deep into the dark corners of heavy metal.
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Director: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Jessica Joy Wise

Writer: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Jessica Joy Wise

Starring: Alice Cooper, Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, Dee Snider, Rob Zombie, Chuck Klosterman, Angela Gossow, Vince Neil

Year: 2005

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada


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