Sunday, 30 November 2008

"You black t-shirt fucks, you are all Communists" Global Metal : A Review

As long time readers of Thee Claw will know, for us it's as much about the music as it is about the travel and the stories that go with it.
For years the three of us have been collecting sounds from all corners of the globe, long before the advent of the internet shrinking international boundaries.
(I always smile when I think to a conversation Skum and I had in the pub once:
Patchie :"I'll do you a copy of that live Tormentor stuff"
Skum:"The Hungarian Tormentor or the German Tormentor?")

So, after a long wait to get my hands on it, I finally got a copy of Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn's follow up to (the frankly rather disappointing) Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, the new release being Global Metal.

Starting off in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Scot talks to Max Cavelera (ex Sepultura), Carlos Lopes (Dorsal Atlântica), Rafael Bittencourt (Angra) and a load of academics and journalists about how metal arrived in the country, and what it means to be into metal in that country and how metal is different there to other parts of the world, how their culture has shaped the sound of the bands there (Sepultura's lacklustre Roots album being used as the prime example).
Did you know, by the way that there is a whole mall dedicated to metal in São Paulo? The Grandes Galerias is now on Thee Claw's itenary of must-visit places.
One thing that became even more sadly obvious from this segment of the film is how amazing Sepultura were back in the day, compared to how bad they are now.

From here Scot and Sam travel to Tokyo, highlighting the difference between metal fans in Japan and in the west, mainly that they tidy up after themselves at festivals.
They talk to journalists about Deep Purple's arrival in Japan opening the floodgates for western rock, and Kiss being idols there. Marty Friedman (ex-Cacophony/Megadeth), a resident of Japan, offers an insight into the Visual K phenomenon, and Sigh are also interviewed.
Sadly there is no sign of Japan's greatest (and probably most studio-intensive) metal band, the mighty Sabbat.
Too much jock-metal in this bit for me (Slayer, Lamb of God) and definitely too much Lars Ulrich.
The sight of the businessmen in a bar called "The Blackmore" in their suits singing along to Highway Star, playing air guitar and headbanging is pure metal gold.

The next stop on the journey is Mumbai in India, with an emerging metal scene.
There are some decent bands coming out of a new scene, the non-necro black metal sounds of Demonic Ressurection for instance, and the point is raised that in India, if you are into metal that's it, you are a metalhead. There is no division through religion or caste involved. There are even what Thee Claw know as geg-metal bands in Mumbai, check out Bhayanak Maut. (Or don't, preferably. They even look like SSS)

Travelling from India to China, they seem a bit unsure of what they will find. If there is anything that people with an interest in the history of metal know, it's that amazing metal often finds a way to flourish under Communist rule, need I name all the East German, Polish, Russian, Hungarian etc bands that were underground legends before the Autumn of Nations happened?
Scot talks to Kaiser Kuo from Tang Dynasty, who tells us about the arrival of metal in China.
When bands became "cut-out" of record companies back catalogue, their CDs weren't destroyed, but sent to China. Some decent Chinese Black Metal (Ritual Day) is introduced to the viewer in this segment, and what is becoming more and more apparent through this film is that Metal serves a similar purpose and attracts similar people, no matter the geographical location.

Indonesian metal? Believe it. Some amazing footage in this part of Sepultura playing Inner Self in 1992 (this actually made the hairs on my arms stand up). Max tells a story about playing there, and halfway through the concert the police waded into the crowd and battered them with bamboo sticks, and made twenty thousand people sit still and not make a noise. Can you imagine living in that situation? The difference between the haves and have nots in Indonesia is staggering. Unemployment is at 40%, Barney from Napalm Death mentions that there will be a high rise hotel, the most expensive place to stay, and rigt next to it there will be a shanty town. The injustice of this is painfully etched on the face of Andre from Siksabur when he talks about mountains of diamonds. It makes you realise that these middle class goth kids that I see hanging around the city centre with their scowls... they know nothing. Neither do we.
One kid sold his father's shoes to buy tickets to go and see Metallica in 1993. Think about that.
In fact, James, think about that when you record the follow up to Death Magnetic.

Scot strikes a good balance between the fact that he is a metalhead and that he is an anthropologist, but the anthropology becomes more obvious towards the end of the film when he visits Jerusalem, interviewing Allaru and Orphaned Land (who incorporate their culture into their sound). A parallel is shown between Norwegian black metal bands and their love of their mythology with the topics that are often covered by bands in Isreal who are, quite understandably, very pissed off about a lot of things.
Slayer show up again here, the fucking beauts, but where else are you going to get a good mix of views about the lyrics of Angel of Death? And Varg Vikernes sent Salem a bomb in the mail. Fact.

All in all, I came away from this film with two things in my mind.
Firstly, metal is the music of the underdog, anywhere in the world. If you are disenchanted, opressed, whatever, there are people in other countries who are feeling the same thing, listening to the same music and forming their own bands.
Secondly, Sepultura used to be fucking amazing before Chaos AD.
If they had kept their act together they would be the biggest metal band in the world and Max Cavelera would be the Bob Marley of metal. To me, that's stranger than seeing a metal festival in Dubai.
10% agreeable people, 90% dickheads.


The SKUM said...

that video, at 0.46, is that marty friedman?

The SKUM said...

shit, yes it is, just read it properly ha!