These days it’s easy to forget music existed, grew and evolved before the internet, even for someone of my age where I lived through internetless times. Metal Down Under (MDU) begins where all stories begin, at the beginning, in the late ’70s and early ’80s where Australian metal bands drew local metalheads to local bars and pubs. If you’re familiar with the history of heavy metal as a genre then MDU will certainly fill the gaps when it comes to how Australia sat in the global scheme of heavy metal and, due to our geographical isolation, you could say a lot of the stuff in the ’80s we did here was certainly derivative of US and European metal trends.
One of the best bits of MDU is the fascinating insight, by today’s standards, of how a lot of Australian and international music was disseminated via a couple of record stores and the tape trading scene, all driven by a thirst for more home-grown metal. The narrative about metal in the ’90s is just as interesting, and that’s where the film really focuses on the community of the artists and fans.
A lot of Australia’s most known bands make an appearance including Psycroptic, Blood Duster, Alchemist, Mortification, Sadistik Exekution and Hobbs’ Angel of Death. Writer and director Nick Calpakdjian, meanwhile, has done a brilliant job in interviewing the bands who have helped shape Australian heavy metal: the interviews are interesting and the subject’s passion for Aussie metal really shines through.
Whilst there are a couple of big name omissions from the project, for whatever reason, what we have in front of us is still an extremely detailed portrait of Australian heavy metal, and this documentary sits tall amongst its international metal documentary brethren.
By Paul S Taylor