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Metal Monday: The 10 best heavy-metal documentaries

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Metal Monday: The 10 best heavy-metal documentaries Empty Metal Monday: The 10 best heavy-metal documentaries

Post by Soulmonster on Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:41 pm

By Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY
Updated 2h 6m ago

Note: Today's column is guest-written by Richard "Luftmensch" Morgan. If you'd like to contribute to Metal Monday, send a pitch to

Funny thing about heavy metal documentaries: There aren't many, and most of them stink. Here are 10, in chronological order, that will come in handy if you don't know your Hammerfall from a hole in the ground.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984) -- Oh, wait a sec ...

Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) -- Heavy Metal Parking Lot is quite simply the Coming of Age in Samoa of metal documentaries. Two guys (John Heyn and Jeff Krulik), a video camera and the "festivities" leading up to a Judas Priest/Dokken concert in Landover, Md. The hair! The clothes! The disrespect of Madonna! I can neither confirm nor deny that I briefly appear onscreen in this film, but your parents might. Look for them here.
Most metalicious moment: Blatant flouting of Maryland's statutory rape laws.

Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years (1998) -- Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World, Black Sheep) takes a look at the Sunset Strip scene that gave rise to glam-influenced metal bands such as Poison and Guns N' Roses in a film that should have been underwritten by Aqua Net and Maybelline. The film drags in spots, particularly when focusing on bands that never quite made it (Odin, anyone?). But the interview with W.A.S.P.'s Chris Holmes, under the disapproving eye of his mother, is worth the price of admission. It's free if you watch it here.
Most metalicious moment: Either a shockingly coherent Ozzy Osbourne (possibly borrowing Bonnie Tyler's hair) preparing breakfast in a bathrobe, or Paul Stanley of KISS conducting his interview from a bed of satin sheets amidst a tangle of lingerie-clad groupies.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) -- Tolstoy posited, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Luckily, Leo didn't live to witness Metallica, whose chronicle of the making of St. Anger only feels as long as a Russian novel. Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky go behind the curtain to capture the kings of thrash getting in touch with their feelings. Under the guidance of $40,000-per-month performance enhancement coach Phil Towle, the band alternates between airing their grievances and twiddling their thumbs as frontman James Hetfield deals with his substance abuse issues. The resulting record is a hit-and-miss affair at best, but after having a front seat for more than two hours of heavy metal group therapy, you can't help but marvel it was ever finished.
Most metalicious moment: Hetfield at his daughter's ballet recital.

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005) and Global Metal (2007) -- A metal fan since the tender age of 12, Canadian anthropologist Sam Dunn talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to the devil's music. The most academic of the metal documentaries, these films find him circling the globe in an attempt to define the metal community. It's ironic that the films with the most global scope feel the most focused, and Dunn gets bonus points for his brave attempt to get cladistic and construct the "definitive metal family tree." Rent them both and make of night of it with someone you love.
Most metalicious moment: "Interview" with Mayhem members Blasphemer and Necrobutcher. Is it just me, or are fewer parents naming their kids Necrobutcher these days?

Heavy Metal in Baghdad (2007) -- Watching The Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years, one gets the sense that everyone in Hollywood in the mid-'80s was in a metal band. Heavy Metal in Baghdad offers the flip side of that coin, as filmmakers Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi profile Acrassicauda, Iran's premier (and sole) heavy metal band. A fascinating and, at times heartbreaking, look at the role of metal in a society where merely sporting your favorite Slipknot shirt can get you thrown in jail.
Most metalicious moment: It might look awkward to Western viewers, but it's hard to beat the enthusiasm of an Iranian mosh pit.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2009) -- Criticized by some for being little more than a "real life" Spinal Tap, Anvil! The Story of Anvil follows Toronto's premiere purveyors of the heavy stuff on an ill-fated European tour and the recording of their subsequent "comeback" album. Director Sacha Gervasi takes us on a white-knuckle roadtrip from hilarious to heartbreaking and back in a film that takes turns lifting the spirit and crushing the soul. Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner are two of the most fascinating (and codependent) characters ever to grace the big screen.
Most metalicious moment: Is there anything more metal than a song about the Spanish Inquisition called Thumb Hang?

Lemmy (2010) -- Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister may never get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, but in the metal community, he's as close to royalty as it gets. From his love of Little Richard to his fascination with military history to his Hoarders-worthy Hollywood apartment, Lemmy is a walking contradiction and metal savant, who proves time-and-again to be surprisingly lucid and wise (just ask Scott Ian about Lemmy's "shorts") given his copious alcohol intake. Do not operate heavy machinery after screening Lemmy.
Most metalicious moment: Lemmy drives a German tank!

Until The Light Takes Us (2010) -- Hey kid, ya like corpse paint and lo-fi black metal? I got just what you need. At its core, Until The Light Takes Us is the story of two men, Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell (Darkthrone) and Varg ''Count Grishnackh" Vikernes (Mayhem, Burzum) and their relationship to the much-maligned genre they helped pioneer. Come for the music, but stay for enough murder, arson and cannibalism to launch CSI: Oslo. The production values aren't exactly up to Hollywood standards, but directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell seem to have a sense of just when to let the cameras linger.
Most metalicious moment: Fenriz explaining how to avoid being at the receiving end of a body cavity search.

Richard "Luftmensch" Morgan is a contributor to My Old Kentucky Blog.
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