Global Metal

Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn

BY Katarina GligorijevicPublished Dec 10, 2008

In 2005, Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen directed Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. Dunn was a self-professed metal nerd who happened to also be an anthropologist - a perfect place from which to start telling the tale of metal music's roots. From those beginnings, Dunn and McFadyen traced an increasingly complicated series of sub-genres, interviewing a ton of bands and creating an insightful and entertaining "family tree" for all things metal. Now, the anthropology lesson is over and the dudes have hit the road on a world tour to seek out metal in places like Brazil, China, India and Dubai. In Brazil (home of international favourites Sepultura), the scene emerged from the ashes of a dictatorship. In China, we find out how metal entered the national consciousness when no band from outside the country ever toured there. In Mumbai, they talk about juxtaposing metal with Bollywood, while in Dubai they talk about how the internet has allowed them to experience previously forbidden fruits such as metal. Japan, as always, is wacky. A segment that really sticks out is Indonesia, a country struggling with horrifying poverty, barely managing to emerge from an oppressive dictatorship. The local scene is practically punk in its active political attitudes and lyrics. Unfortunately, in spite of his academic background and his opportunity to delve as deeply into these fascinating and diverse cultures as he might wish, I was left feeling like Dunn didn't ask the toughest cultural questions of his subjects. Sure, it's interesting and weird that metal has taken off in India but I would have liked to know how the iconography, attitudes and aesthetics of metal culture (which in the West place metalheads in opposition to some pretty specific values) play out in places where everything - from modes of dress to sacred imagery - is totally different. Can those meanings be transposed so easily? Sam says in the film, "metal connects with people regardless of their cultural, political or religious backgrounds, [they are] creating a new outlet they can't find in their traditional cultures." That answer doesn't go as deep as I wanted the film to but perhaps it's true anyway.

Latest Coverage