You know that feeling when you are ill and you don’t really feel like doing anything but watching films all day long? I’m quite familiar with that feeling. Hell, I think I experience it almost every week (if not more often…). I was lucky enough to stumble upon on YouTube a documentary entitled Such Hawks Such Hounds: Scenes from the American Hard Rock Underground. I was initially searching for a “southern/stoner metal” documentary which I’ve seen the trailer to some time before and forgot what its title was. Luckily, I saw this one…and I’m really glad that I clicked on it to check it out. It might be one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen.
What is it about?
Here’s what the official description says:
“For every music fan who says rock ’n’ roll ain’t what it used to be; for every pundit who concurs with Hunter S. Thompson’s assessment of the music business as “a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free;” there are an equal number who will say that the business of creating and releasing innovative and satisfying music is as healthy as ever — it’s just done on a smaller scale.
Such Hawks, Such Hounds is a testament to the vitality of rock music. Relying only marginally on nostalgia, it says that at any point in history, the music being made is as worthy of attention as that of times past. It’s an introduction to an underheralded subgenre and a realization of its cinematic possibilities.
Such Hawks tells a story that needs to be told. Since the Alternative Revolution of the early 1990s, there has been a heightened interest in music with roots in the underground, hence such excellent genre studies as Hype!, Scratch andAmerican Hardcore. While a similar celebration of sounds held dear, Such Hawks captures a moment as it is happening.
Such Hawks explores the music and musicians of the American hard rock underground circa 1970-2007, focusing on the psychedelic and ’70s proto-metal-derived styles that have in recent years formed a rich tapestry of unclassifiable sounds.”
Why is it so good?
In this documentary we get an insight into the underground hard rock genre directly from the artists who created it. There is no narration – we can only see titles which separate the chapters of the film, captions which indicate who is talking (unless you recognise the person) and some text from time to time to give us some historical background on a person or band. This enables us to form our own opinion on what the interviewees say and not being force fed an opinion of the directors or writers.
Although “big” and “important” bands are mentioned – and especially at the beginning, with the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Blue Cheer – the film contains interviews with artists and bands which we do not see so often on the screen or in metal/rock magazines on a monthly basis. Some of the bands interviewed include: Sleep, Mudhoney, Saint Vitus, Acid King, Pentagram, Kyuss, Dead Meadows, Comets on Fire, Nebula and many more including journalists and authors.
Soundgarden is mentioned in the film – they along with the grunge genre is said to be a type of “stoner rock” which is a continuation of the 70s hard rock movement. This is something that I am really grateful that it was brought up. I always saw Soundgarden and many of the grunge bands as hard rock or even metal (especially in the case of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains). This is something that many people don’t see… because they are stuck with their hit track “Black Hole Sun” which for me got boring after the repeated plays on radio and TV – they have so many other great songs and a great back catalogue.
Another interesting topic raised which I’d like to mention here is the use of weed and drugs in music. Artists explain here that it is not really necessary to create music, it is not the cause of their music but rather a “tool”. The imagination is stronger than any drug.
There is much more to this documentary. I strongly recommend you check it out below and even purchase it to support the creators of this great project – I know I will. Yes, Sam Dunn is not the only great metal/rock filmmaker.