Documentary on Heavy Metal: My assessment of the depiction of the genre

On one of the days when I am off from work, I usually watch music videos of my favorite artists or reruns of Dateline Mystery on Youtube. On my news feed, I saw a video related to Metal. The video was a few minutes long. To the side, where there were recommendations for videos. One of these recommendations was a over two hour documentary on the origins and endurance of Heavy Metal. I decided to click on the video and watched it to see how the genre came to be.

Personally, I enjoyed watching the documentary despite the video quality frizzing up during watching it. The reason for such frizzing was due to the rain outside. But I was very excited to watch and learn about how the genre came into fruition. According to the documentary, Black Sabbath were the ones that founded the sound of Metal despite speculation that Iron Butterfly‘s song, In A Gadda Da Vida, Jimmy HendrixPurple Haze, or Stephen Wolf‘s Born to be Wild spurred the sound of Heavy Metal. The guitar sound and dark sound and lyrics of Black Sabbath were discussed for it’s lasting influence on the genre. Metal came to prominence in 1970 with Black Sabbath’s self entitled debut album, Black Sabbath.  At the time, many musical critics weren’t quite receptive to the lyrics and sound of Black Sabbath due to not really understanding the message of the music. The term, Heavy Metal was coined by music critics Mike Saunders and Lester Bangs to describe the heavier music. Regardless of how musical critics viewed the music, heavier music began to catch on as more bands started to come out with heavier sound and more raunchy topics. Also discussed alongside Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin’s influence on Metal’s sound was also dissected especially when discussing Jimmy Page’s guitar solos. To a lesser extent(according tot he documentary), Zeppelin was the main progenitor and influence on the hard sound of the genre after Sabbath.

Then the program went on. It was very exciting and interesting for me to know, because it gave me insight to the time era that these bands came from and how it affected the music they created and put out. Also bands like Led Zeppelin, KISS, AC/DCJudas Priest, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Gun n Roses, Metallica, Dio etc were discussed for their influence on Metal. Often times, the time era and youth culture was the culprit in the bands and music that they supported and listened to.

Time periods of music

1970s-Bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and AC/DC appealed to the youth. The youth were disgruntled with the effects of the Vietnam War and the corruption in the government so they felt like such bands’ music spoke to them in an emotional level. However, music started to change in the latter half of the decade with Disco becoming prominent on the American music scene and Punk music becoming prominent on the British music scene.  Metal was losing popularity and pushed back.

1980s- Bands like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Metallica, Dio, Scorpion, Poison, Guns n Roses gained prominence. Youth were drawn to watching music videos on MTV and enjoying the fruits of the labor post Vietnam War era. Unfortunately, the advent of MTV led to the watering down of Metal and the genre becoming more about heavy eye liner and long hair than about the music. There was a backlash against these hair Metal bands as bands like Metallica and Guns n Roses started to rise up and become popular.

1990s-Unfortunately, not many bands were scrutinized pass the 1980s except Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park. Pantera was a band that came to prominence in this era. Especially when the influence of Marilyn Manson‘s music was blamed for the two young men that caused a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in 1999.

2000s-2010s- Bands like Megadeth, Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold are still producing and making music today. Unfortunately, the pioneers of the genre such as Sabbath have stopped touring or retired.

However, my problems with the documentary was the fact that Deep Purple wasn’t mentioned. Deep Purple was one of the bands in the 1970s and 1980s that was pivotal in influencing the sound of Heavy Metal. In fact, the Holy Trinity of ‘Hard Rock’ was Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. It is a shame that almost every documentary on Heavy Metal leaves this band out, because their music and influence on many bands that come after them speaks volumes about their influence on the sound of Metal. In fact, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is a pity how Rock historians never give Deep Purple the credit and recognition that is due.

Another problem  I had with the documentary was the lack of distinction between Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Often times, people group the terms together and don’t see the difference between the two. Heavy Metal is a musical style where the beat is harder and more fast pace than Hard Rock. Metal tends to be heavy riffs played on low tune guitars and the sound is more gloomy. Hard Rock is simply the harder and more aggressive playing of American blues. Many times the terms overlap, but many Metal fans can distinguish between the two. The reason why the distinction between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal was a concern of mine is due to the fact that many bands on the documentary aren’t necessarily Heavy Metal. Bands like Led ZeppelinAC/DC, and KISS were/are not Heavy Metal bands. Led Zeppelin was more of a Classic Hard blues Rock band while AC/DC was a Hard Rock band. KISS was more glam Rock than actually Hard Rock or Metal. Also Guns n Roses, Def Leppard, Van Halen, aren’t Heavy Metal bands either. Those bands are more Hard Rock. Metal bands such as Iron Maiden,  Metallica(before the Black album), Judas Priest, Motorhead, Slayer, AnthraxSlipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Motorhead are what should be defined as such. To lump Hard Rock bands with Metal bands only confuses the viewer on the validity of such bands.

Overall, I believe that it was a good documentary. I loved how Guns n Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle was played at the end of the documentary. Watching it shed some light on how Metal came to be and the future of the genre. I am aware that there are many controversies behind the genre and not everyone likes it. But I happen to enjoy listening to the music. Though it may not be as popular as it was in the 1980s, I still appreciate listening to the likes of Metallica when I am on my break or relaxing. Needless to say, I believe Metal will always be apart of my life in good and bad times.

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2 thoughts on “Documentary on Heavy Metal: My assessment of the depiction of the genre

  1. I love metal. I started listening to it when I started growing into myself. It also helped me get through a lot. Which documentary did you see? I’ve seen a number of metal documentaries.

    Liked by 1 person

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