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  • Canuck head banger Sam Dunn examines the evolution of heavy metal from the same anthropological viewpoint as his "Metal" documentary films. Metal Evolution is more of the same globe-trotting adventures of Dunn and crew as they examine the origins of the beast from the smoking cauldrons of Birmingham to the back streets of New York in the 1970s.

    Dunn plays to his audience and those uninterested in metal might not really enjoy such a detailed examination of the various sub-genres of metal. For those who are more denim and leather inclined, metal evolution provides a treasure trove of interviews with such "metal gods" as Rob Halford, Geezer Butler, and even such "proto-punk"(I hate that term) legends as Iggy Pop. Dunn is entirely methodical in his examination of the genre, and this is clearly a labour (yes I am Canadian, that is a U) of love for Dunn.

    What is truly great about Metal Evolution is the sheer grandiosity of the examination. Every major sub-genre is covered (Yes, even the much maligned "Nu-Metal"). If the words "Black Metal, Death Metal, and Power Metal" don't strike any chords in your hardened heart, then Metal Evolution will probably not be worth your time. I truly loved every minute of this series so far, and it is great to see such a documentary in the era of "bands" (I use the term loosely) such as LMFAO and Hedley who are about as heavy as non-alcoholic Labatt's. Yes, Metal (CAPITAL!!!) is back and Dunn's examination proves once and for all that metal is not for the weak, nor is it for the unenlightened. Dunn, a University Graduate and scholar proves that metal is an intensely complex genre full of musical diversity and a list of "characters" that are equally complex. Overall, an absolute must for anyone who has been known to throw up the horns in salute to the world's most misunderstood form of music. METTTTTTTAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see that this documentary series about heavy metal was by the same person who made the documentary "Metal: a headbanger's journey" (reviewed at this site)...Sam Dunn. Sam grew up being a fan of the genre and also went on to become an academic anthropologist, so he is quite articulate in his analysis of the music he is so passionate about.

    In this series he looks at the influences of heavy metal (odd suggestions like jazz and classical music as well as the more predictable genres like blues), as well as the variety of forms the genre has split into...episodes are devoted to such topics.

    Not sure if I have all of my notes on this series on hand, but of the notes that I do have, here are some things that I noted or would have liked more information on etc: * Black Sabbath's famous self-title song started out by their bass player - 'Geezer' Butler - playing classical composer Gustav Holst's doomy piece "Mars". Black Sabbath's guitarist Tony Iommi liked what Butler was playing and played that classically inspired riff on guitar...and that became their famous self-titled song. Holst's 'riff' was played by brass instruments (e.g. tuba) on his composition.

    * There was some old black and white footage of rock'n'roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis playing a song on his piano in front of a studio audience. It looked to me like the teenage males were headbanging to the music! * I would have liked some more depth to the interviews sometimes. E.g. just from a curiosity standpoint I would have liked to have known why Saxon's Bruce Dickinson decided to join Iron Maiden. Did Bruce feel that Iron Maiden had a better chance at commercial success than Saxon? History has borne that out in any case.

    * An episode devoted to more extreme forms of heavy metal would have been appreciated. When I surf radio stations - so to speak - I sometimes come across programmes devoted to heavy metal and often you'll hear heavily distorted vocals and/or very fast rhythms. So, I think that genres like speed metal, death metal and black metal could have been focused on in one episode at least. Or even an episode devoted to more fruity varieties of heavy metal...bands with opera singers or which use symphonic orchestration...stuff like that.

    In any case, there are lots of interesting clips and interviews with the musicians etc. Sometimes it feels that Sam pretends to be ignorant on musical matters in order to illuminate for the fan something about the genre...or perhaps it is a process he actually went through and is replaying it for the benefit of the example would be when he wonders about the influence of jazz on heavy metal.

    There are 11 episodes in this series...I think each episode was around the 50 minute length mark. Topics and bands range from the well known to the obscure.
  • thatty716 December 2011
    If you are a fan of metal in any kind - YOU MUST SEE THIS. However, it is interesting for people that don't even like metal music. My sister is not a fan but, she's almost more into this show than I am. I love metal and I love the fact that this show explores all the different genres. I hate the fact that people that don't like metal think it's all just violence and anger. For some bands it is but, however, there are so many different forms of metal that some people would even be surprised to learn that certain bands are even considered metal. The cool thing about this show is that even if there is a band that I absolutely hate on it, it's equally as interesting and entertaining when there's a band I love. This is one the greatest shows on TV right now and I hope that it can open at least one person's eyes to what metal really is.
  • I first heard of "Metal Evolution" when creator, and narrator, Sam Dunn went on VH1's "That Metal Show" to talk about the series. As I am always interested to hear new music, especially older bands that I had overlooked, I tuned in and instantly got more than I bargained for. Dunn crafts the show so that you get a current view of a metal sub-genre along with it's past and it's influences. Often I would leave an episode with a list of 5-6 bands that I had never heard of (or never cared to listen to) and would immediately be happy as I worked through new set lists on Spotify.

    Best of all, this show not only appealed to myself (self-professed metal head), but my wife who wants nothing to do with heavy metal music. While my wife won't be picking up any of the new bands from the show, she was interested in the evolution of the music and seeing how current metal music tied back to bands that she was already aware of. While there are some episodes that I particularly didn't care for (grunge / nu-metal) I still found the shows to be extremely interesting.
  • I thought the show was interesting and am sometimes shocked at how some of the performers, such as Metallica and Slayer, seem to be oh so very human during their interviews. The origins of metal, according to the show, developed during the Elvis Presley era. Which, I think is a bit far fetched. To me, the first heavy metal song was Helter Skelter by the Beatles. I also never considered bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam having anything to do with metal. I always considered them more on the lines of punk rock. I thought the documentary was well done. Bringing up bands like Blue Cheer was great, because I had always thought they never got their due. All in all, it's still Rock and Roll to me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    there is nothing bad, very well made, interviews great people and bands, it seems like even the film maker (Sam Dunn) is learning while he's making these documentaries, either that or the learning part is part of his narrating style. I just hope he makes more episodes like Death metal, Black Metal, Goth Metal, Viking/folk Metal and others. The episodes are like a 10 hour version of the A Headbangers Journey. In each episode, Dunn questions where that specific genre comes from, which also includes interviews with the pioneering bands of the specific genre and looks at influences from the bands in the 60s and 70s. People will definitely get into older bands by watching these episodes, as well as finding some surprising influences.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What starts as a interesting look into the evolution of Metal and its always increasing number of sub-genres quickly turns into a narrow and biased look on the music based around a home made sub-genre family tree of questionable legitimacy and fact checking

    The first few episodes are pretty interesting as they show where the genres have their stylistic roots, though it still misses something when they fail to mention Jimi Hendrix but do mention Iggy Pop & The Stooges, claim Judas Priest invented Metal in the same episode as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple is discussed, and other such small annoyances that makes it feel less professional and more like a opinion piece on when the music he loved growing up started sounding like he liked it

    Then comes the big turnaround where he just starts speculating due to a lack of knowledge. Genres like Shock Rock and New Wave of American Heavy Metal are coined despite those being descriptors of a visual style/movement rather than a musical genre, and the bands mentioned already exists in set sub-genres they could have discussed instead. An entire episode is spent trying to convince us that Grunge and Post Grunge is a Metal genre while claiming Nu Metal can barely be considered Metal at all. Alternative Metal, Groove/Funk Metal, Industrial Metal and Metalcore are all completely ignored or put in as small segments into other episodes. The list goes on, and it's clear he should have had a team of experts from different genre origins with him on his journey instead of trying to map everything by himself via just interviews

    The one positive part of the show that makes it still worth a watch though is the interviews. There is a lot of interesting looks into the music, lifestyle, philosophy and, yes, evolution of the music from the mouths of the musicians themselves. It's just a shame that all have to be wrapped together by a very unreliable narrator with a very narrow understanding of half of the genres he discusses with very odd priorities that ultimately undermines the educational value this show could have had
  • Metal Evolution is an 11 episode documentary that looks at the influence of Heavy Metal and chronologically how it changed stylistically to form the different genres, glam, power metal, death, trash etc. It starts with how heavy metal came to be in the 70s, what influenced the musicians to create this new form of music. Personally I found it rather generic as it can be argued that most if not all forms of modern music can directly draw its roots from classical, jazz or blues. From there it follows a chronological timeline from the 70s to the present day. Each episode ends with how the genre in that episode led to another genre. So each new episode is a new genre. The narrative includes the narrotors personal view of the music as well as interviews with musicians, magazine editors, music writers and even anthropologist. Some of the linkage IMO is rather far fetched, example is grunge being a genre of metal. Yes it can be argued that some grunge musicians listened metal and definitely grunge happened as a backlash to glam metal. But stylistically grunge is more a descendant of punk. (creed was totally disavowed by all...hahahaha). In summary an entertaining piece of work with a lot of information and personal perspective from the musicians involved.
  • fedor828 February 2012
    This is just a general overview of the entire series. The 1000-word limit makes it near-impossible for me to cover all 11 episodes in a satisfactory manner. So, if you have nothing better to do, look up my reviews on the individual episodes to get a more detailed appraisal of Dunn's ambitious little project.

    Sam Dunn. The best thing about him is his short name; it doesn't take a long time to write. I have issues though with the way he presents the development of metal and its branches. A typical Sociology Major, Dunn thinks that human environment is at the root of EVERY change, whether in music or generally. Hence this naive/deluded need to over-focus on "teen angst" and "alienated youth rebellion". Well, "angry teens" had existed 50 years ago, too, 5000 years ago; they were always around. Metal developed only recently mainly due to technology: it's that simple. But Sociologists are notorious for talking about the bleedin'-obvious - as well as missing the bloody obvious.

    The episodes are too short. 45 minutes isn't enough to cover any of these branches – not even the awful ones such as nu-metal and power metal. However, that probably wasn't Dunn's fault; I assume it's the time-framework within which he had to work. He is to blame though for wasting some of that precious limited screen-time by inserting interviews with quasi-experts/outsiders who have either nothing interesting to say or who can't even get basic facts straight.

    For example, interviewing a Marxist college-professor who actually argued that Metallica sold out on the "black album" because they recorded ballads for it. Never did it occur to her to actually PLAY their albums; that way she would've learned that Metallica had recorded ballads on three previous albums. In the same episode, an author of a book ironically titled "Extreme Metal" tells us in all seriousness that "death metal completely abandoned all melodies". So how does that help in making me believe that he is a go-to person for extreme metal? Farcical.

    Dunn's over-zealousness to lend the series "credibility"/seriousness – by interviewing pseudo-intellectuals (i.e. those who conned him into believing they were part of the "all-knowing", highly analytical intelligentsia) who know next-to-nothing about metal but act as if they have all the answers – is annoying. Contrary to popular opinion, there actually are intelligent, knowledgeable, and fascinating characters in the metal scene itself: there is NEVER need for metal documentary-makers to go for "outside help" in explaining the genre. 1: most metal fans don't want to listen to these attention-seeking "experts" with their long-winded, far-fetched and nebulous theories on metal's "social relevance". 2: the uninitiated will be mislead by listening to so-called "experts" who prefer to let their imaginations run wild, making up nonsense about the meaning/origins of metal, as opposed to looking at the genre in a realistic, down-to-Earth manner. Besides, I'd rather hear about it from the horse's mouth than listen to the views of people who obtained most of their limited knowledge second-hand or even third-hand.

    The most irritating aspect of the series is metal's oft-touted "socio-political relevance". There are even some fools who claim that metal was created by youths reacting against the status quo, the so-called "Establishment" (i.e. the same society that enabled their freedom to explore music in such an adventurous manner in the first place) – and we all know what is really meant by this: kids from the "proletariat" rejecting the vicious, "decadent" Capitalism that oppressed them so; a romantic notion, but far-removed from the truth. Besides, it is mind-bogglingly hypocritical that these Western Communists actually suggest that metal kids look toward Marxism as some sort of "bastion of hope and freedom"; in those countries metal-heads usually had a hard time even finding/buying metal albums, let alone being able to pursue careers with their own bands. Socialism as the "Great Youth Liberator"? You've got to be kidding me.

    The emergence of metal and its subsequent and speedy evolution had mainly to do with the huge/rapid leaps in music equipment. Or would anyone suggest that metal could have just as easily started in the early 1900s? Before Christ? The reason why it became increasingly heavier, with thrash starting off a long chain of extreme sub-genres, is the technology: continually improving guitars/amps/pedals. Without an improvement in the gear since the early 70s there would have been most likely no thrash, and certainly no industrial or death metal, both of which heavily rely on high-quality productions/sounds to avoid sounding like unlistenable noise. (Pop fans might beg to differ.) Especially thrash had little to do with "alienation" or any such baloney which left-wing rock analysts want to believe in so very much because that would back up their own misogynist worldview.

    Metal bands – those few that are overtly political - may generally tend to lean toward left-wing politics (as nearly all forms of rock), but there are too many non-liberal – key – figures in metal for Marxists to be able to claim metal as the natural extension of their decadent ideology, or to be able to misuse metal as an extended arm of their powerful world-wide media propaganda. Alice Cooper, Lemmy, Hetfield, Nugent, Peart, Simmons, Kerry King, Pete Steele, Mustaine: just some of the big names that are well-known for not being liberals.

    I am disappointed at how Dunn managed to omit some key bands in certain episodes. His coverage of thrash was quite solid (you can't make a bad episode about it if you tried), but even there he blundered by omitting Venom, Voivod (wearing their T-shirt doesn't cut it), the German trio, SYL, Machine Head and Grip Inc, while actually wasting the viewer's time with later mediocre garbage such as In Flames, At the Gates, etc.

    Given its flaws, such as the superficiality that stems from overly compressed/crammed info, the series is of more use to those clueless about metal than to fans.
  • For an old metalhead, this is an interesting show for people who liked the Headbangers Journey video. The disingenuousness shows up when you're reminded that Sam Dunn created his own "family tree" and is basically indulging himself with this show. He's practically begging the grunge bands to declare themselves "metal" and I'm sitting here going, who cares? LOL. I guess as an anthropologist Sam Dunn is naturally predisposed to dissect his obsessions like this, but he needs something else to do. A Rush-style biography of Scorpions or Sabbath would be good.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an excellent rockumentary with a truly epic scope. It takes on the task of covering the birth and development of Heavy Metal in it's major development stages and it examines its most important genres. Sam Dunn is best known for his documentaries Metal A Headbanger's Journey and Global Metal. This series is a deep dive into the tree of metal evolution that figured in both his previous documentaries.

    This is not merely a fan-boy celebration of his favourite music, it is a genuinely well made and even-handed documentary film as well. Apart from interviews with many important, even legendary, people the series also explain the roots and development of this music in detail without losing the rock'n'roll feeling. Fun and educational.

    Heavy Metal is a complex and important music style which, at its best, provides a musical and cultural depth that rarely receive any respect in mainstream media. Despite attempts (sometimes successful in the short term) to commercialize it, Heavy Metal have managed to stay genuine.

    One can of course debate Dunns choices of bands and interview victims in some cases. For example a notable omission is AC/DC which is only mentioned in passing (true for all Sam Dunns documentaries), this is never explained and might have legal or practical reasons. Never the less, what is here is comprehensive enough and then some.

    This is required viewing not only for Metal fans but for anyone with a serious interest in any sort of music. I believe classical musicians or fans who are not familiar with Heavy Metal would find this interesting, for instance. Also, the series is interesting from a cultural/sub-cultural/anthropologic perspective as well. Recommended!