Metal: A Headbanger's Journey

Written and Directed by Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Jessica Joy Wise
Screening at Fact (1st June 2006)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Everyone knows that the devil has the best tunes. But what exactly is it that gives some heavy metal that distinctive ‘evil’ sound? Well it’s down to the tritone interval, which was labelled ‘diabolus in musica’ during the middle ages and banned by the church. This is just one of the fascinating facts revealed by anthropologist and lifelong metal militiaman Sam Dunn during his investigation into the ultimate Marmite music.

Dunn examines complex themes - such as masculinity in metal for example - with enthusiastic glee. Tracing its history back from late sixties blues
right up to the present day, Dunn draws a sprawling map of sub-genres, interviewing his favourite musicians as he goes. So the dedicated headbanger gets to see great contributions from Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Slayer amongst many, many more.

Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath and Rainbow reveals how the devil horn salute he popularised was picked up from his Italian grandmother, who used it to ward off the ‘evil eye’. There’s also a look at a few of metal’s particularly controversial moments, such as the spate of church burnings in Norway during the early 1990s, and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister facing down a US government attempt at censorship in the eighties.

Watching this film, the enthusiast will be enthused, the hater will hate it, and the curious will find it curious. But that’s metal for you. It has certainly divided opinion over the years, but it has also united its legions of fans, providing an outlet for thoughts and feelings that some would prefer were hidden. Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello sums-up nearly four decades of music in nine words: "Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me". No wonder the powerful hate it so much.

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