Sam Dunn is back as the Heavy Metal anthropologist in his new documentary, Global Metal. Acting as the sequel to the successful 2005 documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”, the co-director and host travels the world to see how various cultures have embraced metal and made it their own. The film reveals the passion of the obsessive fans as they share their stories on how their cultures have influenced the rise and progression of the worlds heaviest music. Joining Dunn on his trip around the world is co-director Scot McFadyen, his accomplice in their 2005 success. Their travels take them to Brazil, Japan, China, Indonesia, India, Israel and the United Arab Emirates as they meet up with locals involved in the metal scene.
The documentary starts in Brazil, focusing on the rise of world famous Sepultura and the massive outdoor concert Rock in Rio. Next up is Japan where Dunn looks at how a traditional and cordial society reacts to music that is anything but polite. We’re treated to the various metal scenes within Japan, from a glam rock Visual Kei akin to Poison and Warrant over a more death metal sound like X-Japan. We also get a glimpse into the popular television series “Death Panda”, which has a choir of teenage girls singing over ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman. It’s clearly evident that Japan has various styles of metal, akin to the U.S. back in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s.
Next we travel to China, where the influx of American tapes and CD’s helped fuel the desire for metal. With the opening up of Chinese society and its economic system China has been slow to embrace the metal sound yet we see how a school has begun teaching students how to play music with a metal feel. Tang Dynasty, China’s first Metal band, makes an appearance as well as former band member Kaiser Kuo as he gives insight on how he formed the band when he moved to China from the U.S.
The documentary starts to get really interesting when Dunn visits Indonesia, India and the Middle East and he explores how the various conservative religious traditions have impacted the metal movement. One particular scene in Indonesia has the lead singer of one of the most popular bands, who happen to be Muslim, rant on his anti-Zionist message while at the same time wearing an anti-Nazi armband. In India, metal fans talk about Bollywood music, arranged marriages and the pressure they receive from the older and more traditional generation. Fans tell of how they were beat by police for simply trying to get into a Metallica concert in Jakarta. An Iranian talks about how he was caught by the religious police for wearing a Slayer t-shirt and having long hair.
We’re even treated to a few interviews with members of bands like Slayer, Sepultura, Iron Maiden and Metallica. The members relay stories of bizarre incidents that have taken place to them in their trips around the globe, from receiving toothbrushes as gifts in Japan to watching riots break out in Indonesia. We’re even treated to Lars Ulrich claiming that it’s cool and great that kids download their music off the internet illegally. Ultimately though, the documentary isn’t about the stars. It’s about the struggles people go through and how they shape metal. Like one man said in India… “it’s like the sky, it belongs to everyone.”
The struggles the metalheads go through to express themselves is something we Westerners take for granted. Global Metal does an excellent job portraying the various struggles the societies face and how the metal scene reacts to them. Dunn has done another wonderful job illustrating how music is an integral part of so many people’s lives. This is something you shouldn’t miss.