Spheeris, Penelope – Decline Of Western Civilization Part II-The Metal Years (DVD)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: December 2001
Released: 1988, RCA/Columbia Home Video
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: JP


The first documentary on Heavy Metal. Part II of Spheeris\’ 3-part documentary series on music.

Before you say, “JP! Five out of 5 for a 13 year-old documentary about some poser glam bands?! Are you mad or just insane?! (I’ll give ya bonus points if you can name the band, album and song that line is from.) Hear me out.

I believe that this is probably the first full true documentary about Heavy Metal music. As we know, the definition of “metal” has changed and evolved over the years and many of the bands featured in this movie (Faster Pussycat, Poison and others) are not “metal” in the truest sense. However, when the bulk of this was filmed in and around 1987 many of these bands were “metal” in terms of being categorized in their place in pop culture. The bands were too big to ignore and caught the attention of the mainstream media and Penelope Spheeris.

In reality there is no logical format to this movie…it just sort of starts and ends. I’m not a film critic so stuff like continuity, camera angles and all that doesn’t bother me. If it bothers you take a mark off of my rating because even I can tell there is no rhyme or reason to the way this is put together.

What we do have is a great set of interviews, clips, jokes and live footage of the LA metal scene, from the biggest bands at the time to interviews with young and ambitious up and comers. Penelope doesn’t judge or editorialize through the course of her interviews but the responses, actions and attitudes of the people being interviewed make it easy for the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. The interviews are candid and uncensored despite it being difficult to get an intelligent answer out of some of the bands.

Highlights include Ozzy making breakfast at home, Gene Simmons in a lingere store and a telling moment with a very (supposedly) drunken Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P being interviewed at home in his swimming pool. I also enjoyed interviews with the bands that almost made it but not quite, like London, Seduce and Odin each long-time favorites of the LA scene. Watching Dave Mustaine of Megadeth talk about the selling out and the nature of the music business are very interesting in light of his recent public recantations about the selling out and the nature of the music business!

The whole thing is big, bright, dumb and beautiful which is really in some ways what the more commercial side of metal is all about. The soundtrack is great. Hey, I can’t help it I grew up listening to this stuff. For older fans it is neat to go back and see which bands made it and which ones didn’t and have a trip down memory lane. For younger fans who were not around the first commercial wave of metal, this is a neat movie to see some of the roots of the scene. Clocking in at 90 minutes it is a great film and I expect somebody somewhere is working on the DVD with bonus stuff. At least I hope they are.


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Track Listing:

Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Sound: Stereo 2.0
Production Year: 1988