In Celebration of the Best Metal Documentaries

See also: Metallica at Outside Lands: The Five Best Parts of the Band's Fiery San Francisco Show See also: The 10 Most Ridiculous Claims Made By Dave Mustaine of Megadeth See also: Lamb of God's Randy Blythe Set Free; Five Finger Death Punch Weighs In

Heavy metal fans are a tenacious bunch. Plenty of music fans will settle for a download or live television performance from their favorite acts, but metalheads are dedicated, compiling endless reels of footage into scrappy bootleg DVD collections, cataloging YouTube clips, generally devouring anything and everything they can get their hands on with obsessive passion.

The metal documentary is an art form in and of itself. Different from a performance document, the best docs dig into the heart of their subject matter, and in the case of metal, it's a strange, powerful place. Don't know where to start? Allow me to help.

An early classic of the genre revels in the gonzo, bone-headed idea of metal: Though This Is Spinal Tap was a (loosely scripted) mockumentary, its status as a legit document of the dazed and confused metal lifestyle is secure: Eddie Van Halen claimed "Everything that happened in that movie happened to me." Though it's clearly a joke -- a thoroughly and mercilessly funny one -- the film "taps" into what makes metal fun, while cleverly skewering the idea of anyone taking it too seriously.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) is a classic, a testament to the youthful spirit of metal, with such scenes as a spandex-wearing adolescent shouting that Madonna's "a dick" and punk rock "should be on Mars."

Penelope Spheeris' Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years (1988) looked at the Sunset Strip scene that gave rise to such glam metal bands as Poison and Guns N' Roses. Favorite part? A surprisingly coherent Ozzy Osbourne cooking breakfast in a bathrobe, and Paul Stanley of Kiss doing his interview from a satin-covered bed, covered in a tangle of lingerie-clad groupies.

The 2000s saw the art form expand and grow: Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005) was created by 31-year-old headbanger-turned-anthropologist Sam Dunn as he explored heavy metal's cultural impact and its fans' devotion. I love how it breaks through heavy metal stereotypes. Heavy Metal in Baghdad (2007) flips the concept of the Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years, showing a different side of heavy metal -- the other side of the world. In Iran, wearing one of your favorite heavy metal band's shirts could get you thrown into jail.

Also, I can't forget DimeVision, which presents Pantera's Dimebag Darrell as a sort of heavy metal Walt Disney who showcases home videos, pranks and mind-blowing riffs with constant access to an open bar. Or Pantera: 3 Vulgar Videos From Hell, a hell-raising collection of Pantera's home videos, live concerts, and everything in between. The future promises some great additions, too: Lamb of God's new documentary, As The Palaces Burn, features the band traveling to India, South Korea, Colombia, and Mexico, places where heavy metal lovers are persecuted and not accepted. "We spent time interviewing our fans and following them through a day in their life, leading up to our concert in their particular country," explains drummer Chris Adler. "It's purposefully set in hostile areas of the world to show how music can help us all rise above."

It's in these places where political unrest, massive socio-economic disproportion and hatred rule. Lamb of God has routinely said that they feel that music is the flame which draws human beings closer together. "It's 2012, the year of the Mayan calendar, according to some, say the world is going to end. What better time than to embark on a world tour?" Randy Blythe says via press release. "Something about this music is obviously making a connection that crosses cultural, ethnic, socio-economic boundaries," began Blythe. There is no, 'You're Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever the fuck you are,' I look out at any show I go to and I see the audience and I see some 16-year-old kid and I look there and I'm like, 'That's me.'" The film is set for release sometime in early 2013 -- though Randy Blythe's trouble in the Czech Republic has everyone wondering exactly what will happen regarding the band's future.

And then there's Metallica, arguably the most successful metal band of all time, and their new $20 million 3D movie. It's not the band's first foray into filmmaking, either.Some Kind of Monster (2004) was incredible, but this 3D monster promises to capture the band at new heights (and let's face it, that's not what was happening in Some Kind of Monster.)

Their crazy new stage show, which they tested during an eight-night stay in Mexico City, include a gigantic "Metal Up Yer Ass" toilet, a crumbling Lady Justice, and a stage tech catching fire during "Enter Sandman." Giant pieces of art spanning the band's 30-year career are showcased in the stage set up, and it's not just going to be a concert movie, it's a narrative.

So heavy metallers, rejoice. There's still new entertainment on the horizon, even in the genres time of need, from musicians getting detained overseas, bands selling out and the economy in the shitter.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise