The best documentaries come from people who know and love their subjects, and Sam Dunn knows and loves metal. From the documentary’s opening introduction during which Dunn relays stories of leaping from his front porch while playing air guitar, you realize that Dunn “gets it,” and the goal of this film is to help you “get it” too, or at least get why other people “get it” — got it? Good.
Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey takes a look at heavy-metal through the eyes of a true metal head. The documentary is broken up into bite-sized topics (lyrics, death, religion/Satanism, etc.) which are each represented by a chapter. The film spends a lot of time discussing the different subgenres of metal (power metal, glam metal, death metal, and so on) and travels to different locations (the Wacken Festival and Norway, for example) to cover metal-related events. The documentary is just more than one fan’s opinion about metal, as it contains interviews with metal musicians such as Bruce Dickenson (Iron Maiden), Kerry King (Slayer) Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister), Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Slipknot, Rob Zombie, and many more.
The documentary’s strongest point is also its weakest: Sam Dunn. Dunn does a great job of conveying his enthusiasm of all that is metal throughout the film. During Dunn’s screentime you can tell that this guy loves metal. The problem is that Dunn’s love of metal gets in the way of any objectiveness of the topic at hand. The documentary wavers between “a history of metal” and “Sam Dunn’s love of metal.” Don’t expect Bob Larsen or any other anti-rock fans to show up here.
As far as the history of metal goes there’s not a lot of new information here. The interviews provide some interesting fodder and overall the documentary is more enjoyable than it is informative. A second included DVD includes uncut interviews, cut footage (including an interview with Pantera), and more data. While Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey won’t win over any non-metal fans, they might find themselves enjoying the film. Even if you’re not a metal head, after watching this documentary hopefully you’ll at least understand why some of us are.