Sam Dunn is a damn trooper for undertaking such a tough subject as metal’s genealogy. Not only is he opening himself up to criticism from butthurt subgenre elitists but he’s actually tackling something that is very complex. Sure, not all the genre groupings are perfect but he weaves a narrative of influences that is actually pretty insightful. After making what is probably one of the best heavy metal documentaries out there, he’s still doing all the intellectual heavy lifting while letting keyboard donkeys like myself sound smarter at shows. And though some of the episodes might seem unnecessary on the surface, the grunge and pre-metal episodes come to mind, it’s tough to discuss metal history without talking about the tough times and the catalysts of change, even if they may fall just outside of metal’s domain. After all, you can’t talk WWII without talking the Treaty of Versailles and the battle of Stalingrad. Stuff I’ve learned from Metal Evolution through the first few episodes.
1) Yngwie Malmsteen lives in Miami and owns half a dozen Ferraris. He must have a fantastic royalty arrangement because he hasn’t been relevant in a couple of decades. Good to see he’s stayed humble.
2) The surf Rock of Dick Dale was one of the first instances of speed picking. Hang ten, bro!
3) The real challenge of talking to Ted Nugent is trying to avoid talking about politics and hunting. The man is a real C word. Simmer, Ted. Nobody is trying to take away your small arsenal of weapons. Somali militants would love to have the firepower you have on that game reserve, err I mean, ranch. Unlike you, however, Al Shabbab has never directly threatened the president with a crossbow. Congrats.
4) MC5 has to be one of the most underrated live acts in history. I’m not even sure what “the jams” are but I wanna kick them out.
5) We need to get off Jimmy Page’s jock. Not only do him and Robert Plant not associate with metal at all but, like a parent who disowns their children for not making the “right” choices, Led Zeppelin seem to hate metal. So much so that they turn down an appearance on the show. We should all kindly remind them of how loathed they were towards the end of their careers (“fuck you, dad! You probably had a lot more time to memorize the anti-drug lecture once they shut down Studio 54, huh?”). Their aristocratic bullshit and decadence not only helped give birth to such reactionary movements as thrash metal but also gave us fodder for hilariously awesome stuff like Spinal Tap. Besides timeless, progressive rock n’ roll records, Zeppelin is also known for their pseudo-transcendental pretensions and sometimes sloppy live musicianship. I go through periods where I love this band, as I’m sure many metalheads do, but their influence on heavy metal is over-puffed.
6) Poison’s Rikki Rocket is surprisingly cognizant about hair bands, both why there were awesome and why they sucked. Awesome sucking. You heard it here first.
7) Lars Ulrich always looks like he just woke up. (Insert LuLu joke here.)
8 ) Tape trading fostered thrash and the precedent it set throws a real wrench in the gears of any moral arguments against internet sharing. The internet has made this kind of grassroots development exponentially faster. On a very trite but necessary note, we sort of have a responsibility as a scene to harness this and reward the hardworking DIY artists that currently make some of metal’s most interesting music. Does that mean we shouldn’t have copyright laws? Of course not. Metal labels do a lot of awesome work but still I think people like Jonathan Coulton make some very good points.
9) Black Sabbath‘s title track, arguably the first metal song ever written, was based on Gustav Holst’s classical composition “Mars, The Bringer of War”. Though most people know that the bombast of classical composers like Wagner are one important element in metal, it’s still pretty gnarley to see how similar these two pieces are. Heavy metal has a godfather and his name ischt Gustav.
When I finish the season and finally see the Matrix, I’ll let ya’ll know.
Since nobody actually gets VH1 classic as part of their cable package, you can watch the full episodes online.