Metal Evolution-Episode 1: Pre-History Of Metal (DVD)
Released: 2012, Alliance Films
The first episode was a journey of influences that helped mould early heavy metal bands. There was a lot of interview material rehashed from Sam Dunn's earlier metalmentories, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Global Metal, but what surprised me was the quality of interviews from people in the classical, jazz and blues circles.
I hear blues in a lot of the metal I love, but had no idea of the jazz influence - as a non-drummer, I had no idea Dennis Ward's playing style had jazz roots. Frankly, not enjoying anything jazz has offered, I wouldn't have even tried to find a relationship between jazz and metal, and Iggy Pop's summation of jazz was spot on.
I was glad this episode reinforced my belief of classical music's strong influence on heavy metal and its theatrics and why I was drawn to a lot of its subgenres even if my attempt to crossover was ridiculed in the 80s/90s.
I couldn't, however, relate to heavy metal being an outlet for aggression, nor a music for outsiders, because even in a small city like Sydney, there were enough metalheads to make me feel like part of a tribe. And 'tribe' is a most appropriate term, for when Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello talked about heavy metal appealing to our 'inner reptilian', I thought that he may have been trying to find something even more base than our id - our inner caveman, which is what I have always said heavy metal appeals to.
To sum up this episode, I think it showed that essentially heavy metal has taken the best of every music genre that existed, combined it creating a new genre of music and made all the elements better!
Sam Dunn spends about 20% of this initial episode establishing the tribal nature and communal membership of the heavy metal subculture. While he interviews several guys ranging from Kirk Hammett to Tom Morello regarding the attraction of heavy metal to listeners, it is Alice Cooper and Bruce Dickinson that articulate most clearly the attraction and appeal of metal music. Sam also brings science into the fold, as he has a neurosurgeon measure his brain activity listening to classical music and then heavy metal; fascinating stuff.
As expected, much of what is uncovered will be known to serious metal historians, such as the influence of Paganini and other classical composers on metal music, like the neoclassical shred of Malmsteen or Rob Halford’s early career in theater and the influence of opera on him. However, interesting tidbits that might not be known were how Holst’s “ Mars” from his “Planets” suite was the inspiration for the song “Black Sabbath”. The legendary producer, Bob Ezrin also accurately points out that there were always musicians that wanted to be heavy since the beginning of time, like Wagner. In general, Dunn does a fine job in exploring the origins of metal from classical influences to blues and jazz, again nothing that is not generally known but fascinating just the same. For my money the payoff comes when Dunn explores the origins of distortion. While “Rocket 88” might be the first recorded distorted guitar song, Dave Davies of The Kinks made the first concerted effort to distort an amplifier and to this day the band remains one of my favorite non-metal bands. In sum, this episode serves as a mandatory history lesson for the casual fan but even the knowledgeable fan will find much enjoyment from the exploration of pre-metal.
This one probably ranks as one of my favourite in the whole series. The series essentially starts where METAL: A HEADBANGERS JOURNEY leaves off with Sam Dunn at Wacken Open Air. It’s a fascinating episode tracing the musical lineage of Metal by cross-referencing jazz, blues and classical. There is a good segment on the development of amplifiers and distortion of sound. Sam also explores the effects of sound on the human brain and gets hardwired for an experiment in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s neat to see the interviews with the old blues and jazz guys. My favourite scene is where Sam is hanging out with Yngwie J. Malmsteen in his mansion in Florida (with his collection of red Ferraris and vintage guitars) and ol’ Yngwie drops his now famous quote, ‘More is more!”