April 21, 2014

Metal Evolution: Extreme Metal – The Lost Episode. (Banger Films) Review

Metal Movies, Metal News

In the 2005 documentary, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn created a “metal family tree” showing the different music genres and their interrelationships. The concept of this tree was such a hit that their company, Banger Films, set out to create a TV series based on exploring different metal genres. The series, called Metal Evolution, aired originally on VH1 Classic and Much More Music (Canada). During the show’s 11 episodes, Dunn criscrossed the world exploring the origins, communities and ideologies behind metal’s most popular sub-genres. From exploring the history of metal in the Pre-Metal and Early Metal shows, to hanging with thrash greats Scott Ian, Gary Holt and … well Lars was there too, of course. Dunn takes an anthropological approach to his studies, looking at what made different genres rise and gall in popularity, which makes for some particularly interesting episodes about Grunge and Nu Metal.

Metal Evolution: Extreme Metal - The Lost Episode

Metal Evolution: Extreme Metal – The Lost Episode

The series was a hit … except for one glaring omission. Where, cried the legions of fans worldwide, was the episode about extreme metal? Surely this widely-adored and fiercely-defended genre deserved a place in the series?

Of course, extreme metal being, well, extreme, it was not going to be a big downer for getting the series picked up by certain networks. So Banger Films found a different way to get the series made. Called the “Lost Episode”, the Extreme Metal episode of Metal Evolution was partially crowdfunded through 2 IndieGoGo campaigns, where people like me put up a small amount of cash in order to help fund the project in return for a copy when it came out, along with other rewards.

“Some of the networks felt that extreme metal was too heavy or too niche. We’re out to prove that extreme metal is metal’s most vital sub-genre and that metal would probably die without it!,” says Dunn.

We just got our copy for download last week, and watched it over the weekend. So, how did they do?

Pretty bloody good. The episode is the same format and the same high-quality production as the previous in the series. It doesn’t feel “out-of-place” at all. And what I liked about it was the breadth of different bands and sub-genres they covered. I’ve noticed that when books and films do mention extreme metal, they often go from Alice Cooper to Venom to Metallica to Norwegian Black Metal to END CREDITS. So much diversity and interesting things are happening within the extreme metal underground – in fact, it’s probably where MOST interesting things happen, and I get annoyed at people not acknowledging this.

Metal Evolution: Extreme Metal starts with Venom, but soon moves on to Florida Death Metal, to grindcore, to early black metal, glosses over the Scandinavian Black Metal scene (and with good reason, he’s already covered it in Headbanger’s journey), talks to Danni Filth, flirts with Cannibal Corpse, and talks a lot about and with Carcass and Enslaved. The last band on screen is Gojira, which was really neat. It was cool to see this acknowledgement that even now there is room in extreme metal for new ideas and clever concepts.

Highlights included the follow-up interview with Mayhem’s Necrobutcher. If you’ve seen Headbanger’s Journey, you know Dunn chats with him at Wacken and he is a bit of a plonker. But this time he’s drinking tea instead of beer and is much more coherent and interesting. I found the way Dunn connected grindcore into the story of extreme metal really interesting, and focused in on Carcass and Enslaved as important bands in the evolution of extreme metal.

The thing about Metal Evolution is that if you’re a huge, multi-genre metal fan, it probably won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. What makes them cool to watch are a) the interviews with musicians, especially people you might not see on these types of shows all the time, b) the way Dunn and co. pull the pieces together, and use anthropological framing to create context and story from what is essentially chaos. You get to see the story of metal unfold. It’s pretty cool.

Tom Gabriel Warrior, frontman for extreme metal bands Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Triptykon, was interviewed for the episode. “It was an absolute honor and a pleasure to host Sam and his outstanding team at my place in Zurich,” said Tom. “That extreme metal has been overlooked in this series so far is a scandal. This episode is utterly overdue!”

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