The hammers that forge heavy metal (Part 1 of 3)

Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
Photos by: Chris Quintana

In this three-part series, Kimmy talks about some of the problems that plagued and continue to challenge metal bands and fans, her experiences as a former member of a metal band and her personal thoughts about the local metal scene and those of several local metal band members. The points she raises take off from the documentary film Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey by Sam Dunn.

Ralph Morales, guitarist of Calapan, Mindoro-based metal band Untold, performs during a gig in Los Baños, Laguna. (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

Ralph Morales, guitarist of Calapan, Mindoro-based metal band Untold, performs during a gig in Los Baños, Laguna. (Photo by: Chris Quintana)

I can still remember what I asked my mom to get me for Christmas back in the early ‘90s when I was in fifth grade—Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith, and a bunch of black shirts. I wish I could say my parents started me young on heavy metal but no. I guess, subconsciously, I was rebelling against my father’s favorites like Julio Iglesias, Air Supply, and anything that has a cha-cha beat to it.

My parents did not like my musical taste but at least they were—and are still—tolerant about my preference for this genre of music that until now has a solid following and that shows no signs of stopping. Its fan base is alive and kicking, and the music itself is continuously transforming (into better or worse, depending on how you look at it).

A friend of mine posted recently on social media about a documentary film about heavy metal, and it got me curious. Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, which was released in 2005, was directed by anthropologist Sam Dunn. The film explores the origins and roots of heavy metal music and the stereotypes that persist about this often misunderstood genre of music. A metalhead himself, Dunn presents the film in a first-person perspective—not the typical outsider point of view. He set out to answer the question: Why is heavy metal being consistently stereotyped, dismissed, and condemned?

In his quest for an answer, Dunn interviews various members of heavy metal bands, from the ‘institutions’ of metal to the newer ones; heavy metal music fans; people who work in the music industry, specifically those who have worked with heavy metal bands; academic scholars; writers and journalists. The anthropologist also briefly documents his experience in attending the Wacken Open Air festival in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, an event that is considered the mecca for diehard heavy metal fans.

I may be 10 years late in watching this film but I think it raises several good solid points, which I believe are still relevant and can generate an intellectual discourse on the genre. I want to break them down from a sociological point of view; and to insert personal insights, and to share first-hand experiences as a former member of a metal band.

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