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Reviewed by - John Dunphy

A Headbanger's Journey

It’s interesting how my opinion has shifted on Canuck Sam Dunn’s documentary on metal music, his first true love.

I balked at the cover when I first got my heads on this 2-DVD set about a month ago. To me, it looked like total fan service, and not the good kind. This was of the “metal up your ass” variety, the kind that caters to the sleeveless vintage Venom tee wearing, spiked wristband sporting dweeb that flashes the devil horns every time someone mentions Dio. Pure. Cheese.

Then I watched about 10 minutes of it and cringed again. This time, it was Morgan Spurlock fan service. The directorial style screamed Super Size Me, and I waited to see a shot of Alice Cooper downing a Big Mac and fries.

Luckily that did not happen. And, thankfully, a few weeks later, I gave this a second chance.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey is actually a very enjoyable, very informative look into the metal world. Why it started. Who arguably started it. What drives those involved in it, both the musicians and the fans.

The usual suspects are here: Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Slayer, Alice Cooper, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), and yes, Ronnie James Dio. \m/ \m/ I did not expect the addition of modern acts such as Lamb of God, Slipknot, Arch Enemy and Cannibal Corpse. Granted, of all the metal bands out there, these are probably in the higher registers of popularity, but their presence, and their opinions, offer yet another dimension to this thesis on metal.

Speaking of opinions, some, such as those of Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Rob Zombie and the aforementioned Alice Cooper and Ronnie James Dio are probably the most enjoyable on here. These rock and rollers come off as intelligent and interesting people that have valid arguments about the world of metal that go beyond stomping around and screaming the word at the top of your lungs.

For greater enjoyment there are the extras, including extended interviews, the requisite trailer and a fully controllable, and rather comprehensive “metal family tree,” giving synopses of and the forerunners to various sub-genres like hard rock, metalcore, Swedish death metal, black metal and more.

Speaking of black metal, there is a 30-minute mini-documentary on the black metal of Norway, arguably the birthplace of the sub-genre. When Dunn and co-director Scot McFadyen returned to Bergen, Norway for a screening of the movie, many Norwegians took umbrage at the film’s exclusive focus on the scenes rather dark past, including several church burnings in the early 1990s. They felt pigeonholed by Dunn’s coverage. The mini-documentary is the end result.

While this movie presents itself very professionally and very intelligently, it’s not perfect. As regular readers know, my favorite sub-genre of metal would probably be Goth Metal, which is barely whispered about in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. What about HIM? What about Type O Negative? What about Paradise Lost, the band that coined the goddamn name? Dunn says he could probably make a metal documentary that’s eight hours long, but couldn’t. So, much attention ends up being paid to the classics, the ones everyone knows about, even if they don’t listen to metal.

Which is OK, really. Bands like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Slayer were those that shaped and popularized the genre and made it what is today. And bands like Lamb of God, Arch Enemy and Slipknot continue to shape it. While Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey doesn’t cover every single base (there are probably thousands), it serves as an entertaining, intelligent, and informative, examination into your favorite bloody violent good time.

Release Date: May 23, 2006
Directed by: Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen
Format: 2DVD

Chapter Listing:

Disc One:
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey Documentary

Disc Two:
Extras -
The Definitive Metal History Family Tree
Mini Documentary on Norwegian Black Metal
Extended Interviews
Travel Outtakes
Lemmy at the Rainbow
Director's Commentary .

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