Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden are to heavy metal documentaries what Spielberg and Scorsese are to quality drama. Except these two work together.
The Banger Films duo, who made award-winning docs Iron Maiden: Flight 666 and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, are thrashing their way through musical history with an 11-part TV series called Metal Evolution. If you haven’t made it appointment viewing yet, put down your Mastodon record and find the DVR remote.
“When we did our first film (2005’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey), we realized we created something that filled a need — people wanted a film about metal with some intellectual weight and depth,” Dunn told Wired.com. The pair mined that original philosophy for their new VH1 Classics show, which features interviews with metal gods old and new. “It’s not just for the diehard metalhead but for rock fans who want to know about distortion or what Vivaldi has to do with metal music. It’s a story about the evolution of a genre.”
While it has always had its hard-core adherents, heavy metal has enjoyed a recent resurgence as headbangers age and a new generation of headbangers grows up with easy access to the sludgy sounds of legendary bands like Black Sabbath, Motörhead and Iron Maiden. Once banished to culture’s periphery, tunes with sledgehammer riffs, screaming vocals and lyrics about drugs, wizards and nuclear apocalypse now can be heard in movies and TV commercials or conjured instantly on streaming music services.
Metal Evolution started at the genre’s beginnings when its first episode aired in November. The idea for the show sprang from the metal family tree found in Dunn and McFayden’s first film. The metal infographic categorized bands and made connections that casual fans wouldn’t normally see.
When the duo were discussing future projects, the approach seemed like a natural fit. They approached VH1 and the network was sold on the idea — 11 episodes, with a full hour on each metal subgenre. (See some of their interview subjects in the gallery above.)
“We wanted to surprise people with connections that exist between metal and other music,” Dunn said. “For example, Dick Dale and his surf guitar in the early ’60s, that shredding approach, the fast picking and tone, it set the template for a lot of metal that’s come about for the last 40 years. It’s hard to think of James Hetfield’s guitar without thinking about Dick Dale’s.”