Calpakdjian, Nick (Director)
Metal Down Under (DVD)
Released: 2014, Animus Industries
There have been any number of Heavy Metal documentaries over the years. Some cover various sub-genres, some focus on certain bands but I believe this is the one of first ones that is solely dedicated to the scene of an entire nation. In case you have been living under Uluru (Ayres Rock), METAL DOWN UNDER is about the Australian Metal scene.
Producer and professional film-maker, Nick Calpakdjian has created a monster three-hour doc and the sub-title of ‘A History Of Australian Heavy Metal’ says it all. METAL DOWN UNDER is now available on DVD, which is how I saw it, and it is a nice package. The cover art is cool, what could be more Metal than a picture of a kangaroo skeleton holding a guitar? The film is actually divided into three one-hour segments, which is clever because it could be shown on television as well. There is no booklet but there are a couple of bonus features, bloopers and so on. The menu is simple and easy to navigate. I still haven’t wrapped my head around the tractor in the opening credits but it is unique.
Part I opens with a stand-up comedian in a club doing a hilarious monologue that lovingly captures the essence of Metal better than anyone I’ve ever heard. A magic moment to be sure. The narrative starts at the beginning with the early roots of Aussie Pub Rock, The Angels, Rose Tattooo and yes, AC/DC. This segment captures the early era of Australian Metal by looking at, not only bands, but lots of footage of key record stores, (Central Station, Utopia) key festivals (Metal For The Brain), regional glossy Metal magazines, (Hot Metal) and key radio programs with interviews with industry people who were instrumental in sustaining the scene in the early days. People like Andrew Haug and Brian Giffin, author of the encyclopedia of Australian Heavy Metal are featured as welI. liked the industry angle but there was no shortage of bands. Bands spotlighted included Heaven, Taramis, Hobb’s Angel Of Death and of course Mortal sin. There is a great story about how Mortal Sin got discovered, one the only Australian bands in the first wave to get signed to a label and the extended interview with Hobb’s is awesome.
Part II covers into the 90’s . You had to have your band name start with the letter ‘A’ to get into chapter Two as they feature Abramelin, Alarum, Alchemist, Allegiance, and Armoured Angel! This chapters shows the large growth following in the pioneers of the 70’s and 80’s and the development of very influential festivals such as Metal For The Brain which ran for 15 years. They talked about some of the diversity in the scene with unique Australian and largely insane bands like Blood Duster and Sadistik Exekution.
Part II takes us from the mid-to-late 90’s and into the modern day and the local fascination with crossover and industrial Metal with bands like Frankenbok, Dreadnaught and Segression. There is a nice little segment on the resurgence of Power Metal looking at bands like Lord, Voyager and Vanishing Point and a lengthy segment on Pyscroptic. There is a hilarious portion with Jason from Blood Duster making fun of Psycroptic. All in good fun…we think. The chapter concludes with many of the 40 or so people who were interviewed trying to define what is the ‘Australian Metal sound’ and a discussion of the ‘tyranny of distance’; is a help or hindrance to bands in Australia.
I have a fondness for the Australian scene, as it seems exotic but also draws many parallels to the Canada scene. A few pioneering bands, very little media or sales support, tight-knit regional scenes, separated by massive distances. Touring is difficult at best, label support is minimal and both Canada’s and Australia’s scenes are overshadowed by the Yankees and Europeans. METAL DOWN UNDER is a magnificent work for any Metal fan who wants to explore that great nations underrated history and scene and a must for all Metal fans from Down Under. Pair this up with Brian Giffin's book on the Australian Heavy Metal and you will have everything you need to known about their scene.