7 Metal Documentaries to Watch


Since the coronavirus outbreak put our lives on hold for the next few weeks, let’s take this opportunity to consolidate our knowledge about the metal scene with some documentaries that are a staple on the scene, and some that may have flown under your radar.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005)

Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen’s excellent “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” (2005) is, as per IMDb’s description, “an examination of the heavy metal music subculture that tries to explain why, despite the longevity and popularity of the genre, fans are marginalized and ridiculed for their passion.” Featuring some heavyweights as Tom Araya (SLAYER), Randy Blythe (LAMB OF GOD), Alice Cooper, and Bruce Dickinson (IRON MAIDEN), this documentary offers a very good glance into what it means to be a musician and/or a fan of the genre and having to deal with social prejudice regarding this type of music, as well as why people around the globe gravitate so much towards it. It’s just as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.  

Global Metal (2008)

Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen continue their examination of the heavy metal subculture in “Global Metal” (2008), focusing on the adaptation and performance of heavy metal in various global communities, and how increased import of Western cultural forms has impacted new global markets (via IMDb). The film follows Sam Dunn’s journey through Asia, South America, and the Middle East, and offers an inside look on how people from various cultures are exposed to heavy metal, thus revealing a worldwide community of metalheads. Featuring the likes of Max Cavalera (SEPULTURA) and Kobi Farhi (ORPHANED LAND), this documentary sheds light on metal produced in other places than Europe or Northern America. Really insightful. 

Metal Evolution (2011)

Completing the holy trinity of Sam Dunn’s noteworthy documentaries that offer an overview of the metal community (“Iron Maiden: Flight 666” or “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” are in a category of their own) is the 2011 series “Metal Evolution,” which, over the course of 11 episodes, explores the many facets of metal, from nu-metal to power metal, from thrash and glam to progressive, offering a look of their inception and evolution.

Once Upon a Time in Norway (2007)

Chronicling the history, aesthetics, and ideology of the Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990s, both “Once Upon a Time in Norway (2007) and “Until the Light Takes Us” (2008) offer interviews with artists who were involved in church burnings, murder, suicide, and deals with comprehensive media exposure and the way these events shaped people’s perception on Satanism and black metal culture. 

Dig! (2004)

The love-hate relationship between Anton Newcombe (THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE) and Country Taylor (THE DANDY WARHOLES) is the central piece of “Dig!” (2004), a documentary about two promising American rock bands that choose very different paths to fame.   

Downloaded (2013)

Alex Winter’s documentary Downloaded (2013) explores the downloading revolution, spearheaded by Napster, and how this new way of consuming music affected the bands and the businesses, and how METALLICA fought back against piracy and illegal music sharing. Could this moment have been the birth of streaming platforms such as Spotify or iTunes?   

Cobain – Montage of Heck (2015)

The authorized documentary “Cobain – Montage of Heck” (2015) combines animation with existing footage, to offer us a candid glimpse into the life of grunge music icon Kurt Cobain, from his childhood and teenage years in Aberdeen, Washington, to his wild success and subsequent downfall with NIRVANA. This documentary is worth watching just for its stylistic approach, if not also for the history it provides. 

Depeche Mode – Spirits in the Forest (2019)

Anton Corbijn’s Depeche Mode – Spirits in the Forest (2019) centers around DEPECHE MODE’s 2017 “Global Spirit Tour,” and the stories of several fans that attended the concerts. At its core, this documentary is about the incredible way music connects us, makes our lives better and worthwhile, gives us hope in moments of despair, and is there for us when others are not, exemplified by the deep connection that exists between DEPECHE MODE’s music and the fans. This is indeed a different type of documentary, as it focuses on the fans, which is why it is so worth watching. 

Of course, there are plenty of other documentaries out there for you to watch and enjoy while waiting for the waters to calm down. In the meantime, stay home and keep it heavy!

Written by Andrea Crow

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