Anthropologists need an entry point into a new culture. Dunn achieves this by interviewing Max Cavalera the cofounder of Brazil's Sepultura and frontman for Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy. Cavalera explains that Sepultura emerged in the mid-1980s as Brazil evolved from a military dictatorship to a neoliberal market society. For many heavy metal fans Sepultura's album Roots (1996) was their first encounter with an indigenous worldview as the band included field recordings with the Xavante Indians and Brazilian percussion. Dunn's interview with Cavalera uses Roots to tacitly bring the anthropological models and theories of Clifford Geertz, David Horowitz, Stanley Tambiah and others to fans who are unfamiliar with these influential scholars. In contrast to this immersive approach Global Metal ends with a more familiar event: Iron Maiden's concert on 1st February 2008 the first time that a major Western heavy metal band has played Mumbia, India.
A second entry point for fans is when Dunn revisits past controversies and debates in heavy metal media to include new voices and perspectives. Does Slayer's song 'Angel of Death' about the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele promote Holocaust denial and racism? Dunn turns to the Israeli band Orphaned Land who note that although the song was written for shock value it has been used by politicians to inform Israeli youth about the Holocaust. Orphaned Land then talk about Jerusalem as a global city and the past religious conflicts between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Far scarier than Middle Ages imagery and occult demons is Orphaned Land's reality of having to live daily with potential suicide bombers in crowded urban areas.
Dunn returns to this debate throughout Global Metal to show how different individuals and groups reinterpret a meme or symbol and how this can have unforseeable outcomes. Orphaned Land recount how after playing 'Angel of Death' live for Israeli audiences they were sent a mail bomb by Varg Vikernes a notorious Norwegian black metal musician and Holocaust denier. Iranian fans who are photographed next to Slayer graffiti face possible arrest and torture by religious police - which provokes Slayer's frontman Tom Araya to comment that the fans seek a death sentence.
More disturbingly, Dunn interviews the Indonesian band Tengkorak whose song 'Jihad Soldiers' embraces a militant Islamist worldview. When Tengorak's lead singer quotes conspiracy theories from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Dunn observes his jacket has a crossed out Nazi swastika. "We're not against Jews," the singer explains, "just the Jewish system." Dunn then visits a Muslim mosque with another Indonesian musician. Tengorak's context is the 1997 Asian currency crisis which sparked a wave of conspiracy theories within Indonesia due to macroeconomic destabilisation.
Many of the interviewees give examples of how heavy metal music is reinterpreted differently to Western narratives. Japanese fans reject Western alienation as an existential motivation and instead create a more emotional and direct identity that is an alternative to their conformist work identity. KISS had an immediate impact in Japan as the band's makeup is comparable to Kabuki theatre. The live improvisation which closed Deep Purple's first concert at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan in 1972 has sparked a subculture of ageing salarymen who reform their teenage bands to play 'Highway Star'. Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman explains how X-Japan and Death Panda have fused heavy metal with Japanese game shows like Rock Fujiyama and pop music to create rifts within and between subcultures. In China heavy metal music is used as part of a Confucian state policy to give youth an outlet for aggression, even though the music is officially frowned upon. Whilst visiting Mumbai, Dunn intercuts scenes of Indian bands playing a local bar with the Hindu wedding playing Bollywood music next door: two alternative cultures coexist.
The heavy metal subcultures that Dunn visits serve as barometers for nation-state development; freedom for religious and political views; and in a nod to Ulrich Beck, P.R. Sarkar and Amy Chua, the relationship of subcultural groups to mainstream society and sociopolitical power. Japan has a Janus-faced subculture which has Western and indigenous elements. India and the United Arab Emirates' subcultures are at an infancy stage which Dunn links explicitly to democratic political institutions and modernisation: UAE hosts a festival with bands and fans who cannot perform in their home countries due to restrictions. China, Iran and Turkey have subcultures that are underground due to religious authorities who perceive them as antinomian youth subcultures. Beck's concept of subpolitics from below and Sarkar's Law of the Social Cycle provide theoretical insights here: if the fans are shudra (workers) they have coopted insights from vaeshya (entrepreneurs, merchants) and vipra (intellectuals) to create soft power which counteracts the influence of ksatriya (military).
Brazil and Indonesia are two test cases of this hypothesis. Cavalera's narrative of Brazil's transition to democracy stands in contrast to Samuel P. Huntington's Political Order in Changing Societies (1968) which warned of the gap between rapid sociopolitical change and lagging political institutions. Instead, Cavalera argues that Sepultura's music signified a subpolitics response by the shudra underclass to poverty and the lack of macroeconomic and sociopolitical reforms by social elites. The flashpoint is Metallica's concert on 11th April 1993 at Lebak Bulus Stadiam in Jakarta, Indonesia. Metallica's drummer Lars Ulrich explains that in order to protect a middle class area Indonesian police prevent fans from entering the stadium. Fans retaliate by setting fire to the surrounding buildings; the smoke is visible on a bootleg concert tape. Indonesian authorites then banned all heavy metal bands and live tours until the Suharto regime ended in 1998. Indonesia's heavy metal subculture have since gained greater visibility although Tengorak gives voice to subcultural fears of Western geoeconomic, cultural and religious domination.
The consensus of most fans in Global Metal is that heavy metal's 'identity politics' is evolving into a transnational network with a cosmopolitan worldview. Almost everyone in the documentary wars an Iron Maiden t-shirt - the power of Chinese sweatshops, marketing and passionbrands. The major facilitator is the heavy metal entrepreneur, such as the cofounder of China's Tang Dynasty who imported Western heavy metal in the late 1980s and then evolved into an indigenous worldview. The major barrier to this cosmopolitan ideal and diffusion process is when subcultural identities are caught in Muzafer Sherif's assimilation-contrast effect of social judgment: Japanese purist fans who decry the fusion of pop-metal or Indian fans who are caught in a power struggle with authority figures and family traditions.
Failures in market design are one source of these infra-subcultural battles. In order to change their financial account reporting Western conglomerates dumped their excess back catalogue such as Extreme's 1989 debut album as cheap CDs into India and other countries. Third World countries were the beneficiaries of bootlegs, MP3s and illegal downloads. Dunn coaxs an admission from Ulrich that this is a positive trend, a reversal of Metallica's lawsuit against Napster in 2000. Black markets emerge where demand exists yet there are no official agents and major price differentials exist. Ironically, Global Metal is a victim of this trend: the documentary and a soundtrack of featured bands now circulates on illegal BitTorrent networks. Turn up the distortion to 11.