Harwood, Mark (Dir.) Soaring Highs And Brutal Lows (documentary)

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Reviewed: January, 2021
Released: 2015,  Streaming Amazon Prime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

SOARING HIGHS AND BRUTAL LOWS the documentary about female singers in Metal has been out for five years now and is STILL not available on DVD.  When it came out I thought to myself, “I can’t stream it (and I don’t want to) so I’ll wait for the DVD and buy it.”  No such luck. As time went on and DVD’s became more obsolete I was faced with a difficult three-way decision. Either I had to buy a Blu-Ray player and buy the Blu-Ray.  Or stream it. Or not watch it.  Well, I wanted to see and review it.  I wasn’t going to buy a Blu-ray player to watch one movie, that’s stupid, so I was essentially forced to choose between never watching it and streaming it. Such is life.

Director Mark Harwood was the mastermind behind this Dutch production which was sponsored in part by the National Film board of Canada.  FINALLY , my tax dollars are going to something useful!    The film runs 133 minutes.  SOARING HIGHS AND BRUTAL LOWS focuses on women in Metal, in this case mostly singers.

The ‘women in Metal’ topic has been done to death in the metal media, academia and blogs,  but this is the first documentary to the best of my knowledge.  It is a bit of a budget production shot in the standard ‘talking head’ style that, while uninspiring to watch, does the job.  The production value and sound is fine but there is no narrator and you can’t hear what the question is being asked of the person being interviewed, so really it is just a giant montage of various women talking about their experiences in Metal.  I was hoping for a bit more in that aspect.   It all sort of blurs together, with no chapter or narrative, all of a sudden the women just start talking about a new topic and you have to struggle to keep up as there is no transition between scenes or topics.

The one thing that I really like is the content.  It is superb.  We almost never get to hear from the operatic, symphonic, female vocalists from bands like Nightwish,  Epica,  Delain, Mayan and all those bands.   There is a heavy Dutch component in the is film, the epic-center of this type of style of Metal.

In addition to some veterans like Jansen and Van Giersbergen we get to hear from some young(er) Canadian talent in the form of Kobra from Kobra and The Lotus and White-Gluz from Arch Enemy.  We are also treated to commentary from Doro.  I noticed in the credits that Leather Leone was in the credits but she didn’t get any screen time.   In terms of other notable omissions it would have been nice to hear from other veterans; Lee Aaron, Anne Boleyn and Sabrina Classen. Perhaps they were approached but were unwilling or unable to participate.    The end result is we get a fairly strong focus on post-1999 females in European Metal… and Doro.

Each person getting interviewed discusses their career, their roles, the challenges, imagery, sexuality, stereotypes and more.  I felt that all of them noted that in their chosen career were unique challenges and the occasional annoying situations they encountered but it was far from a feminist tirade.   Because all of the people being interviewed are singers there was quite a bit of emphasis on singing; techniques, inspirations, styles, interpretations and so on.  Hence the title.   It would be neat to have a Part II where female musicians are interviewed to compare their role and experiences compared to those of front-women/vocalists.

I really enjoyed SOARING HIGHS. These performers are from some of my favourite bands and it was very enjoyable to watch them get a well-deserved moment in the sun.   I just wish more people could see this great documentary but right now access is very limited.


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