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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
I saw this awesome documentary at the Gene Siskel Film Theater in Chicago a couple days ago, and I feel that Sam Dunn has done an incredibly accurate analysis of the evolution, misconceptions, and ideas involved in metal culture. Though lacking in extensive detail for time's sake, Mr. Dunn has still worked to debunk many of the common stereotypes and misconceptions about...
Published on April 20, 2006 by Pain with no Remorse

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Putting the "holy" back into devil music
Sam Dunn, the director and tour guide through "Metal," has lovingly constructed what comes across as a defense and an ode to heavy metal. As such, it doesn't constitute a documentary about heavy metal, much in the same way that "Endless Summer" is not a documentary of surfing. But it is nonetheless entertaining, with a satisfying, no-nonsense education on the exclusive...
Published on December 24, 2007 by K. D. Kelly


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, April 20, 2006
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
I saw this awesome documentary at the Gene Siskel Film Theater in Chicago a couple days ago, and I feel that Sam Dunn has done an incredibly accurate analysis of the evolution, misconceptions, and ideas involved in metal culture. Though lacking in extensive detail for time's sake, Mr. Dunn has still worked to debunk many of the common stereotypes and misconceptions about the brotherhood of metalheads, both past and present. My favorite interviews include those of Ronnie James Dio- the guy seems so nice, and has a great sense of humor....and my other favorite is with one of the guys from Gorgoroth. The guy is so drugged up or brainwashed by something, that he barely can answer a question. I picked up this DVD and it's definitely going to be a an awesome thing to show to my metalhead and non-metalhead friends. Incredibly entertaining, and highly recommended. Buy it now.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I could have watched 10 hours of this, September 18, 2006
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This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
Horns up to Sam Dunn and co. for not only finally putting together a definitive documentary on my favorite genre of music, but for also having the excellent taste to do it right. It covers everyone from SABBATH to SLAYER to ENSLAVED, hits on Satanism, censorship and sexuality, and does a fantastic job of showcasing just how deep and varied metal really is. Worth the viewing alone for the metal genealogy chart. Where the film falters, however, is in trying to objectively explain the music's appeal - it sometimes feels at once passionate and defensive. Still, required viewing for anyone who knows the unfortunate difference between Ride the Lightning and St. Anger. 4.5/5.
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51 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not really scholarly, but metal fans will love it, May 9, 2006
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
From Blogcritics.org and Triniman's Blog.

Metal - A Headbanger's Journey begins with footage from 1986 with kids gathering for a rock festival. They're partying, playing air guitar, dressed in the proper attire of black t-shirts or no shirts at all, but most of all, they just look like they are out for a good time. But, someone is out to ruin their fun...

The film switches to the September 19, 1985 Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Senate hearings. The group published their "Filthy Fifteen" list of songs, along with their interpretation of what the lyrics are about. Artists included Venom, Mercyful Fate, Def Leppard, Prince, Sheena Easton, Vanity, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, among others.

Looking precisely like he just left the stage, singer Dee Snider, addressed the Senate suits, including future VP Al Gore. It's interesting to note that in part of Snider's speech which wasn't included in the film, he explained that he was raised a Christian and follows many of the same ideals, doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs and is a married father of a three-year-old. In other words, he was showing that beneath his mountainous blonde mane, he's actually not unlike most adults, except that he sings in a heavy metal band.

Since I seem to be the only person addressing this committee today who has been a direct target of accusations from the presumably responsible PMRC, I would like to use this occasion to speak on a more personal note and show just how unfair the whole concept of lyrical interpretation and judgement can be and how many times this can amount to little more than character assassination.

The hysteria surrounding the questionable lyrics was described as being the "moral panic of the day." Despite the farce of the hearings, the music industry adopted the PMRC sticker rating system, which actually caused sales to increase in the case of some artists - forbidden fruit.

Sam Dunn introduces himself. He's earned a Masters in Anthropology and his thesis was on the Guatemalan refugees, but he always wanted to do a study about heavy metal. He's a skinny, long-haired fan and looks indistinguishable from the masses of metal fans from 1986, most of whom also probably grew up to be...responsible, normal adults. Sam's a scholar and his approach to looking at metal from an intellectual point of view doesn't always work.

Take the interview with the band Mayhem.

They basically spewed forth swears and boasts about how they are the best band in the world and said absolutely nothing of substance. Dunn included the clip but mentioned that beer and interviews sometimes don't mix. A more serious documentary would have cut this footage out. So, don't go looking for something to base a thesis on, but do be prepared to be entertained and mildly educated about various aspects of the metal world.

Mars Bonfire, the stage name for musician Dennis Edmonton (1943), was the person who wrote the Steppenwolf classic "Born To Be Wild" which mentions the term "heavy metal" for the first time. I didn't know he was a Canadian or what his name was. Now I know.

People weighed in with their opinions of the first heavy metal band. Some cite Blue Cheer but most mentioned Black Sabbath. This led to an interview with Black Sabbath guitarist and leader Tony Iommi. According to Wikipedia, "The tritone, as its name implies, is a musical interval that spans three whole tones or six semitones. The two most basic types of tritone are the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth."

Wikipedia also cites examples of where we hear the tritone, known as the Devil's interval, in songs such as Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath", Metallica's "Enter Sandman", Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Sibelius's "Fourth Symphony", Liszt's "Dante Sonata", the music of Slayer and King Crimson and believe it or not, in the Simpsons theme and the musical West Side Story. Iommi simply thought the "tritone" sounded evil and wrote lyrics to go along with the sound. Later on, Black Sabbath really took advantage of the demonic imagery in order to make a lot of money and have a schtick to really make them stand apart from other bands.

This led to a discussion of the classical influences on heavy metal, something that was obvious to me, but was totally unknown to a long-time rock fan who I mentioned the film to today. To illustrate the point, they play Bach on a harpsichord and seamlessly seague to Eddie Van Halen playing Bach-like material (if not Bach) on his electric guitar.

The film also discussed the other major influence in metal was also discussed, the blues. Tony Iommi actually mentioned that Sabbath were essentially a blues and jazz band at the begining, and were also influenced by the dire working class, poor neighborhoods that they grew up in.

Other themes and connections to metal, such as sexuality, how dressing like women is actually extreme masculinity, religion, church burnings in Norway, violence and gore are explored in the movie. Tom Araya, the lead singer in Slayer, raised a Catholic, quipped that religion was the biggest brain washing tool in America and that art is a reflection of society and that they're just picking up the darker reflections. He also mentioned that "everyone knows what's wrong, the things you do not do. The people who don't understand that aren't connected with themselves spiritually." That's quite a profound statement from someone who likes to have provocative song titles simply because it will get them a lot of attention. Slayer are simply trying to stay in the spotlight just like every other band, and who can blame them?

Alice Cooper was interviewed a few times and he proved to be one of the most interesting people Dunn spoke with. Regarding Satanism, Cooper said, "If you're looking for Satanism, don't look to rock'n'roll. It's all Halloween." He went on to recount how when he meets black metal bands in Norweigian shopping malls, how they seem like the most harmless people, yet he marvels at the one up-man-ship they have between them, to be more extreme than the next band.

Dunn's trip to Norway to explore one of metal's recent and most notorious sub-genres, Norweigian Black Metal, was quite interesting and somewhat sad at the same time. He noted that Norway is 87% Lutheran but their biggest cultural export is, ironically, Satanic Black Metal and he describes it as punk meets Wagner dressed as Alice Cooper. There's no way to discuss Norway's metal scene without talking about the burning of churches by some metal musicians. The bands see Christianity as something that was forced upon Norway about 1000 years ago and it's the big bad guy. They see Satanism as something for people who are born to be kings, strong, and free. It's not for the timid or weak. By this definition, a church minister said that the Satanists will always be in small numbers since most people are not like them. As far as Alice Cooper is concerned, however, it's all so Spinal Tap to him.

Cooper was one of the most reviled performers in popular music in the seventies by those who didn't understand him. He went on to say "There's more blood in MacBeth than in my show, and that's required reading in school."

The topic of suicide rears its ugly head but Dunn doesn't get too much into the stories about bands being sued for causing kids to commit suicide, which is a pathetic accusation in the first place. It's noted by UCLA musicologist Robert Walser that the most powerful predictor of whether someone will commit suicide is the feeling of helplessness...but no one listens to metal to feel helpless.

The documentary is a terrific starting point to gaining an understanding of what makes metal fans such a brotherhood. It intelligently discusses the differences between the major categories of metal and it may surprise you by how many sub-genres he identifies. There is so much to the world of metal, so many more people who could have been interviewed that I hope more intelligent films of this ilk are made.

Dunn also peppers the film with insightful analyses and commentaries from members of academia who are knowledgeable about metal, journalists, a musicologist and industry insiders, including Brian Slagel, Bob Ezrin, and Malcome Dome. Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson were very interesting to listen to as were Cannibal Corpse, Angela from Arch Enemy, Geddy Lee, Lemmy and the world's most famous groupie, Pamela Des Barres. The who's who of who didn't appear in the film is astonishing, such as Metallica, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, and so on. I'm hoping that someone makes a follow up.

My rating for this film is 4/5. Look for the double DVD version on sale soon.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent look at the Metal genres, April 24, 2006
By 
S. Mosier (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
I saw this movie in New York City April 21. I must say that I was refreshed to see a movie that didn't focus on the "meathead" stereotype that Metal as a genre has. I was pleasantly surprised to hear intelligent interviews about reasoning, history, folklore and roots of metal. It is good for fans to see their favorite Metal artists talking in an intelligent fashion, which shows that Metal isn't just a no brain, long haired world. Every Metal fan should see this, especially young kids whom think that this genre is all about violence, gore, and satanism. Metal: A Headbangers Journey is the ultimate study in a genre many misunderstand, and many partake in.

The movie also features great footage, editing, found footage, and obviously the music featured is spectacular.

Great job, I will have the dvd the day it comes out!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done., May 26, 2006
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
I'll keep my review fairly brief. This movie is very well done and is a comprehensive look at the heavy metal genre. Though it does go into a brief history of heavy metal, that is not the focus of the film. The film is meant to show people that there's more to heavy metal then the stereotypes that have been given to the genre. If you watch the mini-documentry on the Norweigian Black Metal scene featured on the second disc, you see that a lot of people complained about the length of the original film. In all honesty, if this was the history of heavy metal, then i'd agree that they could've done A LOT more since they really only scratched the surface when it came to the history (I personally wished they did a lot more with the thrash metal movement as well as make mention of more modern metal bands) BUT since the focus of the film is to debunk stereotypes and explain the genre in general, I felt that the goal was executed in the time presented.

Overall, I highly recommend this to fans of the genre as well as to those may not be fans of the genre, but wish to at least understand it a bit more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun Film, April 22, 2006
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This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
We saw this at the Wisconsin Film festival and have been looking for it on dvd. Buying it today because this is a great flick. You do not have to be a metal head to enjoy this, although you will obviously appreciate it all the more if you are. This film has great humor, history, and hits you in the head with an iron fist. Sam is an anthropoligist and took his skills to his passion for metal and explored the depths for all to share in. I'm a die hard metal head and went with my wife and a few friends - one of which is not into metal at all - and we all thought it was great and talked about it for hours and still qoute it today. Rock on Sam!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great look into metal, July 2, 2006
By 
C. Pedersen (Lake Mary, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
My only complaint with this film is that it isn't long enough. A great look into the culture of metal within the small amount of time. Sam is articulate and professional throughout and obviously a metalhead.

Be sure that you are aware that this isn't the "history of heavy metal" exactly - although there is a general flow through it.

To the people who are bashing it for not having a thesis..give it a rest. It's a glimpse into the culture of heavy metal.

The most obvious statement I can make about this DVD is that you will like it more if you are actually a metal fan.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome documentary, June 26, 2006
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This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
This was one of the best buys I have ever made. Not only is the price right, but the documentary was better than what I had hoped it would be. Many great interviews (the Mayhem one being the most entertaining, of course) and many great points. Definately a must buy for any metal head.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best metal doc out there in this old rivethead's opinion, September 13, 2006
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
I'm 42 and been a metal fan since hearing "Smoke on the Water" the first time as a kid. Though my musical tastes have expanded to include quite a few other genres, I still find myself throwing metal cds into the player a few times a month - sometimes old stuff, sometimes new. But I still love the power & intensity. Director Sam Dunn knows this passion well, and does a bang-up job exploring the genre, its performers, and fans. When Sam describes his childhood air guitaring to Iron Maiden before moving onto death & speedmetal as an older teen, I chuckled out loud... for me it was KISS as a kid, then moving into the harder, darker Iron Maiden as a teenager. Like a lot of viewers, I especially enjoyed the segment on Norwegian black metal. Been a fan of goth metal for years so it was interesting learning a little more about the more extreme form of dark metal.

As for the inclusion Rush's Geddy Lee -- their first 6 albums are metal any way you cut it. They were definitely considered metal when I was a teen. Way to go Sam Dunn!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best metal documentay ive ever seen!, May 10, 2008
This review is from: Metal - A Headbanger's Journey (DVD)
Basically it covers the evolution(if thats what you want to call it) of metal over the last 40 years. theres loads of great interviews and concert footage, and some testimonies to the impact metal has had on the fans.

This documentary is great, and it actually stays entertaining and relavent after multiple views, unlike a lot of docs. you get insight from all the major subgenres and bands from Black Sabbath to those crazy black metal guys in Norway.

interviews with so many different great musicians, from Dio and Lemmy to the guys from Lamb of God.

the coolest part about this movie is the Metal Chart. it includes every subgenre you could think of, and the most well-known bands from each. now, this is one HUGE chart.. were talkin everything, from black metal, stoner metal, progressive metal, and thrash to.. classic metal, the new wave of british heavy metal, power metal, nu-metal, grindcore, death metal, melodic metal and a whole lot more.

this is the definitive metal documentary. hands down.
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Metal - A Headbanger's Journey
Metal - A Headbanger's Journey by Jessica Joy Wise (DVD - 2007)
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