Metal: A Headbanger's Journey reaches far beyond the black T-shirt crowd, offering a fan's-eye view of heavy metal music from a fan, Sam Dunn, who also happens to be an anthropologist. Dunn — who codirected, along with Scot McFadyen and Jessica Joy Wise — narrates this witty, educational ride through metal's history. Rockin' topics include the technical aspects of the music ("What makes metal sound ... evil?"), fiercely devoted fans, and issues swirling around gender and religion. In one of Metal's most fascinating chapters, the filmmakers travel to Norway to investigate the genre's extreme, church-burning contingent. The doc's many famous faces include Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, and the singular Ronnie James Dio, who discusses at length his invention of the devil-horns hand gesture, as well as his friendly rivalry with Gene Simmons.
On the phone from Toronto, Dunn — who relayed a tale about the film inspiring a man to buy his first Black Sabbath album, and noted "That's the kind of evangelical conversion we're totally looking for!" — and McFadyen shared their Metal mania.
SFBG What was the most difficult part of making the film? Were there memorable moments that didn't make it into the final cut?
SCOT MCFADYEN We drank a lot of Jägermeister [laughs]. A lot of ridiculous stuff that didn't make it into the film will be on the DVD. And the section on Norway and black metal was a really difficult part to edit down, so on the DVD we'll have another documentary all about Norwegian black metal.
SAM DUNN It's a fascinating subject: Arguably the most extreme music ever produced comes out of one of the wealthiest, safest, most progressive countries in the world. From an anthropology perspective, especially, looking at the relationship between music and culture.
SFBG So are those guys really evil, or what? It seems like Dio has a sense of humor, but I'm not so sure about those Norwegians.
SD We definitely had our battles. But we just recently got an e-mail from Rob [Halford], and he really loved the film — he called it the best thing that's been done about heavy metal. SFBG
METAL: A HEADBANGER'S JOURNEY