By Ben Apatoff
Why should fiction get all the fun? There are plenty of great metal rockumentaries, especially in the past few years, and the best ones absolutely deserve their own list. To prevent this from being a list of the 6,6(66) greatest metal docs, I'm ruling out concert movies (sorry, Flight 666) and other films that couldn't pass the JONAS BROTHERS test (i.e., movies that wouldn't be good if the bands sounded like Disney radio products.) So without further adon't, here are the top six, stranger than fiction metal movies, in chronological order.
1. Heavy Metal Parking Lot
Yes, Virginia, the kids in Detroit Rock City are real. They probably migrated to Maryland and caught JUDAS PRIEST with DOKKEN at the now-defunct Capital Centre in '86. Fortunately, some cameramen were on hand to capture a girl in braces squealing about wanting to jump ROB HALFORD's bones, a spandex-clad youngin' professing that MADONNA's "a dick" and punk rock "should be on Mars," plus about 15 minutes of more truly amazing testimonies. The rumor that future Chief Justice John Roberts can be seen in attendance is unfounded, but it's worth spreading anyway.
2. The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years
Penelope Spheeris' sequel to her influential punk rock movie followed mainstream '80s metal and hard rock, with everyone from LEMMY to OZZY to some long-forgotten hair bands chipping in. This movie may be responsible for some of metal's worst stereotypes, but it has no shortage of great scenes, from Ozzy cooking breakfast to CHRIS HOLMES chugging vodka in his swimming pool to MEGADETH's show-stopping finale. In his autobiography, perpetual voice of reason Lemmy wrote "Where are all those people now? That film probably helped kill their careers–it made everyone who liked heavy metal look like morons." Maybe so, but it's a fascinating movie, and you can watch the whole thing for free here.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4689920637100527225
3. Some Kind of Monster
An often unflattering portrait of the biggest metal band in the world falling apart, suffering a fan backlash, replacing their longtime bassist and struggling to make the worst record of their career. Since its release, METALLICA have been mocked for enlisting a control freak therapist and going for each other's throats on camera, but their willingness to confront and publicize their darkest moments reminded me of why I worshiped them in the first place. Being richer than god, creatively dry and constantly at odds with each other, Metallica couldn't be blamed for hanging it up in the early '00s, but Some Kind of Monster gives insight into the drive that's kept Metallica alive for over 25 years now.
4. Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
If I were to explain the importance of metal to someone who didn't like the music, I'd show them this movie. Metal filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen debuted by interviewing everyone from EMPEROR to TONY IOMMI to LAMB OF GOD to fans to musicologists in a tribute to the range, complexity and (most importantly) awesomeness of metal music. Metal is rarely documented in such a thoughtful manner, and even someone who couldn't tell MAIDEN from MAYHEM should get at least an appreciation by the end of this movie. Highlight: TOM ARAYA explains how it's possible to be a Catholic who screams blasphemies like "God hates us all."
5. Heavy Metal in Baghdad
Maybe you've heard the happy ending–ACRASSICAUDA have relocated to the U.S. and are currently working on an EP with ALEX SKOLNICK of TESTAMENT. But in Heavy Metal in Baghdad, there's no sign of anything but a grim future for these guys, four young metalheads risking their lives in the everyday brutality of Iraq while investing their dreams in heavy music. Everything is done in secret, from advertising their show as a "rock concert" ("metal" is deemed too dangerous) to listening to Metallica records that are illegal in Iraq, and it's impossible to not be touched by the bravery and determination of these kids. Watch the whole thing here, and then check out the looks on their faces when they met JAMES HETFIELD upon arriving in America.
6. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
A 30-year-old band with no label or foreseeable hit potential takes a break from their lousy day jobs to go on a tour that nearly exemplifies Murphy's Law. Spinal Tap comparisons are inevitable, but The Story of Anvil is also a Rocky-esque underdog story that'll have you rooting for guitarist/cafeteria worker STEVE "LIPS" KUDLOW, drummer/cold caller ROBB REINER and their oft-suffering bandmates, families and manager. It'd be a comedy of errors if it weren't so touching, a feel-good drama if it weren't also hilarious and mostly unfathomable if the cameras weren't rolling. Watch it again the next time you think of giving up your rock star dreams.
Please tell me why I should've included Get Thrashed or Global Metal, or that I'm a masochist for liking Some Kind of Monster, in the comments section.