I can recall vivid memories of sitting in the car and my dad putting the Rush album 2112 into the stereo. My dad is an odd music fan; his favourite band is Rush and yet a lot of the music of my young childhood was country because it was what my Mom and Dad could agree on. Then came those moments where I was in the car alone with my dad and he would play some Rush. The sweeping synthesizers in the opening were already a massive change from what I was used to, but then everything changed. Cutting guitars, bass, and drums invited me into this new world of music. Distorted instruments, syncopated beats from the drums, rolling tempos, all being hovered by Geddy Lee’s voice acting as an instrument all its own. This was the moment when I can say that music changed from being a passive influence on my life to an active participant, changing my very being into an artistic soul searching for more and better and different than what I had always been exposed to.
More than a decade later, I was sitting in my mother’s living room babysitting my sisters, and I saw a show on the guide called “Metal Evolution.” I had seen this mentioned once or twice but I had just passed it over before. That day was particularly boring so despite being almost ten minutes through already, I flipped this show on. As the commercial ended, I heard that same opening riff from 2112 as the screen showed a car driving down a Canadian Highway. As this episode (which turns out was the final episode of the series) took me through Rush’s contribution to the Progressive Metal genre, I was completely hooked. Then it took me to areas that I wasn’t expecting with introducing me to Queensryche, Tool, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Meshuggah: bands that I was aware of, but would never have associated with my Rush. Later that night when I returned to my dad’s house with my computer, I searched through my iTunes and found some of that music. Could I have been more wrong about their association? I had the same feeling listening to Mastodon as I had when I grew up listening to Rush. It was an explosion of new musical knowledge for me, but more so, it made me realizes that I had to go out and get this series.
Sam Dunn, the series creator, was the man behind the 2009 concert film Iron Maiden: Flight 666, the 2010 documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and the two films that preceded this series, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal. And with the same documentary style as his previous film, Metal Evolution is both an educational and entertaining series for fans of the whole Rock music movement.
The first three episodes of the series cover the roots of Heavy Metal. From its musically stylistic home in Classical, Blues, and Jazz; through the roots in Hard Rock godfathers like MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath; into the self-identified birth of Metal with Van Halen and Judas Priest. The next three episodes are about the three most commonly referred Metal genres: New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, and Thrash Metal. The most interesting episodes though, are the last five.
Starting with Grunge, they cover genres where there is a real debate about where to put them in the history of Metal and if they can be classified as Heavy Metal. More importantly though, they get into the modernity of metal and what other genres it has created in its forty year history. In Grunge they talk about how bands like Creed and Nickleback, while distinctly not Metal, were heavily influenced by the Grunge bands of the early nineties and NWOBHM bands of the early eighties. In Nu Metal they go into how sell outs like Limp Bizkit fit into the same era as classics like Rage Against the Machine. By bringing us into the story with genres and bands that are still in the spot light today, it keeps us invested in the story of genre that is still thriving today.
The only negative aspects of this show are that Sam Dunn often feels forced in his delivery and that it will only appeal to Rock fans. Between asking questions to the camera that he obviously already knows the answer to and getting answers that we’ve already heard from other interviewees, it can get a bit repetitive. For someone who doesn’t like Metal, this show will do nothing for you. But if you are a fan of any of the bands I’ve mentioned here, this is a must see. It talks about the history of Metal in a way that invites you to experience what Dunn has such a passion for. You will be introduced to bands you had never crossed your mind and be opened to a diverse field of artists that will satisfy your thirst for new music for years.