Metal - A Headbanger's Journey
Banger Productions

Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Jason

There have only been a few things in my short 22 years of life that has managed to satisfy my occasional boyish excitement. Some of these have been: seeing Maiden live front row and having Steve Harris come down personally off stage to give my little bro his wrist band, sleeping with my ex-girlfriend’s twin sister, getting my motorcycle license (even though I still don’t have a bike), and now, recently added to the list, is the release Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey on DVD. You might find the idea of a DVD release totally incomparable, and maybe ridiculous, when compared to the other things which I mentioned above, but I should note that it’s very rare when my expectations for something are already quite high and that something comes along and breaks the standard I set. I’ve seen a couple of Metal specials on television, studied a lot subculture-related material, and lately read Ian Christie’s Metal History (which should have been more accurately named “Wanking Metallica”), but none of them had ever managed to properly explain what Metal is all about or do so in a way that would please Metalheads and inform/entertain others at the same time. The specials always seemed more focused on sharing Vince Neil’s stories of debauchery, and the studies of subcultures were always either too general, inaccurate, or would take thousands of wasted words in eloquent language just to say something simple and obvious. Finally, there comes a documentary that accurately pays tribute to Metal, in an intelligent and structured manner that interviews bands and reliable sources from all across the board, and that is entertaining enough to win over the hearts of people that thought Metalheads were morons listening to savage music. So, back to why I believe this release is a great moment for me: Metal is a very big part of my life and has been a constant source of wild entertainment, discovery, and indulgence; but just as Metal has been there for good times, it has also been there for the darker moments, providing me with a kind of escape and empowering feeling when needed. Therefore, I’m overjoyed that a film has been made that pays tribute to something which is very important to me, and that I can now carry around a DVD (with fantastic extra features to boot) rather than dragging a friend of family member to the movies to shed light on what they used to consider as my enigmatic preference in music.

The title of the DVD straight-up describes the way this documentary was filmed. Sam Dunn, a Canadian anthropologist and life-long Metalhead, sets out on a journey and travels to the U.K, Germany, Norway, Canada and the U.S to study Metal culture and why it has provoked such polar reactions since its inception. The DVD is categorically broken into sections such as origins, fans, environments, religion, gender and sexuality, and by going through these categorizations the film gives you a 101 class on all the major genres in the Metal scene. The teachers in this 101 class are numerous and of great quality. Interviews were done with many notable figures from the Metal world including Tony Iommi, Lemmy, Dio, Alice Cooper, Mayhem’s “Necrobutcher”, Bruce Dickenson, Gahl… and that is just the tip of the iceberg, but what separates this documentary from the other ones I’ve seen on Metal is that and equal amount of insight is given from academics, DJ’s, fans, writers, and yes, even groupies.

Just because the film gives the audience a 101 in Metal doesn’t mean can’t be entertaining. There are plenty of hilarious stories, topics and interviews which are shown in this film which I found side-splitting. It isn’t possible to mention the funny aspects of this documentary without mentioning the drunken interview with Mayhem, wherein Necrobutcher seems to lose his cool over nothing and becomes overly aggressive when questioned about Mayhem and the Black Metal scene. Though Necrobutcher’s burps and one track use of the English language are amusing, one of the best parts of this film is when Dee Snider recounts the story of when Twisted Sister, and many other bands, were attacked by an organization called the PMRC in the 80’s, and when he was essentially called to defend Metal in front of a senate committee. I’d read about this instance before, but through the magic of video and Dee Snider’s story telling, it only makes the story that much better.

For me, the extra features on the second disc are truly what turned this film from a very-worthy purchase to a sure-shot. The extras include a huge and interactive “Metal Genealogy Chart” which has a written description all the types of Metal there are and have been, then there is yet another huge section filled with extended interviews with artists that are and aren’t in the film (including an interview with Dimebag and Vinnie), then comes your standard cut scenes and travel outtakes, but the most interesting part of the special features is a hilarious segment titled “Lemmy at The Rainbow” which is basically Lemmy sharing his views on various topics including women and drugs, and mini-documentary on Black Metal. The mini-documentary on Black Metal was added to the special features because many people criticized the film for focusing too much on church burnings instead spending more time on elaborating what Black Metal is and its roots in Norwegian culture. This mini documentary is done just as well as the feature film and is a fantastic compliment to the feature film.

The logic in the following few words is plain and simple: Buy, rent, or steal this documentary. I don’t care how you do it, but I can honestly say that anyone, regardless of musical taste, will at least enjoy this film or parts of it. This statement may be bold but it isn’t unfounded, because if I could get friends who take great joy in making fun of Metal and whose musical taste is limited at G-Unit to admit that the film was very good then there must be something behind it. I tip hat off to Sam Dunn and the makers of this film.

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