Sunday, November 22, 2009

Global Metal (2008)

From Sam Dunn, the maker of Metal: A Headbanger's Journey comes Global Metal, a look at metal in some of the less-discussed corners of the world. While the original documentary focused on the roots and subgenres (and therefore the US and Europe), Global Metal is more concerned with locales than artists and styles themselves.

Like his previous work, Dunn presents Global Metal within the framework of his college anthropology studies. He does this a lot, and much of the narration sounds like it's being read out loud from a thesis page. It's pedantic at best and alienating at worst, but A Headbanger's Journey was at it's best when other people (namely Gaahl) were doing the talking.

Unfortunately, Global Metal's interviews lack the topical punch of it's predecessor. There is one interview with an Indonesian headbanger that Dunn is clearly framing to be the "bad guy", but in the end he just outs himself as a complete idiot. Mr. Dunn, it is entirely possible to be against Zionism without being a Nazi. Ideological opposition to the state of Israel is not "hatred", and your flailing about just makes you look silly.

There's at least some fun to be had with Global Metal, though most of it comes from the joy of seeing people in far off places finally get to enjoy the music and culture that the rest of us take for granted. The one exception to this is the ever-enjoyable Lars Ulrich, who should be nominated for some kind of backpedaling award as a result of his interview footage. I don't want to spoil it for you, but watching that ape stammer and stutter his way through a zinger of a question is just about the funniest thing I've seen since House, MD called Lars "the greatest metal drummer of all time."

Max Cavalera is a great interviewee, as always, and the movie could have used a lot more in-depth look at his homeland of Brazil. Japan suffers similarly, with the primary interviewees being Tom "Decrepit Saddam Hussein" Araya and the aforementioned Mr. Ulrich. Instead of talking to Sigh, who make a very brief appearance, Mr. Dunn spends his time discussing Japan with a bunch of US citizens. Awesome.

Fortunately, Visual Kei makes an appearance to save the day from the West in the form of some Sex Machineguns footage and an X Japan interview. Though I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, it at least makes for interesting viewing.

I don't want to spoil too much of the various locales, since they're really the most interesting part of Global Metal. Hearing about the proliferation of metal music & shows in non-western countries is pretty interesting, even if the people doing the talking aren't. Plus, Tom Araya seems to think that being into Slayer in a Muslim country gets you killed. All right, Tom. I guess you really are that important.

There are plenty of other problems with Global Metal. Unattributed footage, bland interview questions and interviewees, and a bunch of outdated information. Calling Varg a Nazi these days isn't just tired and uninteresting, it's straight up wrong. Varg had a Nazi phase, sure, but who doesn't? Er - I mean... The point is that he hasn't been associated with Nazism for a very long time, and has written plenty about his movement away from that ideology. It's a bit like saying that Joe Lieberman is still a democrat, innit?

Anyway - I know I digress, but the point stands. Sam Dunn, for a supposed metal aficionado, doesn't really impress me much. Perhaps that's just the jaded enthusiast voice in my head talking, but I have seen much better questions asked by mediocre interviewers and better fact-checking in Norwegian tabloids. Global Metal can be worth watching for some of the live footage alone, but I could have just as easily ignored it.

Verdict: Indifference [5/10]


autothrall said...

Although I did get a kick out of watching some segments, I would have to agree that the documentary plays it very safe, very politically (in)correct, to a level of ignorance as per the usual textbook liberal mindset.

It was fun to watch Mirai, even though I don't agree about visual kei not being 'cool'. Bands like X Japan, Dead End, Seikima-II and Gargoyle were all playing metal before Sigh even formed, though the terms 'visual kei' weren't really being thrown around back then (glam was everywhere).

frank austin said...

I admit to not knowing enough about visual kei to really comment on the section, but it bothered me that so much of the segments on individual cultures were reflected through western eyes and intervewees.

I'm with you - I enjoyed some parts, particularly the elation in the Indian fan's faces seeing Maiden for the first time. Sam Dunn doesn't really impress me as the guy we should have making documentaries about metal. That should be you, obviously.

frank austin said...

PS - thanks for the editing on that one. I was very tired when I threw this up.