Behold! The greatest heavy metal documentary of all time!

(Image credit: Getty/Jeffrey Coolidge)

Since it began in 1975, the BBC's Arena programmes have prided themselves on producing "gold standard" documentaries on the arts. And in 1989, it turned its sights on the musical phenomenon that had arguably ruled the decade: heavy metal.

Originally shown on BBC Two as part of their Heavy Metal Heaven Night, presented by Elvira, the simply-titled Heavy Metal tried to get under the skin of metal music in all its guises, with amazing live Clips of Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf, Megadeth, Napalm Death and more.

But maybe best of all are the interviews, an all-star cast that includes Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler, Dave Lee Roth, Axl Rose, Bruce Dickinson, Lars Ulrich, Tom Araya, Napalm Death and the late Malcolm Dome, with talk about the roots of metal, the meaning of codpieces, deafness, the devil and everything in between.

Witness a slightly pickled Jimmy Page play Kashmir unplugged, go backstage at The Monsters of Rock festival of '88, and – for some reason – watch Bruce Dickinson sword fight and then demonstrate a crazy new invention: the exercise bike. 

As you would expect of Arena, it's well produced, funny and insightful, with great footage of metal clubs and the hordes of Castle Donington. Not forgetting a snarky Axl Rose.

Interviewer: "Have you got anything in common with Iron Maiden?"

Axl: "I hope not."

Is it the greatest heavy metal documentary ever made? Well, that's still probably The Decline Of Western Civilization Pt 2, or Sam Dunn's epic Metal Evolution series, but it's damn close. 

Tom Poak

Tom Poak has written for the Hull Daily Mail, Esquire, The Big Issue, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and more. In a writing career that has spanned decades, he has interviewed Brian May, Brian Cant, and cadged a light off Brian Molko. He has stood on a glacier with Thunder, in a forest by a fjord with Ozzy and Slash, and on the roof of the Houses of Parliament with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham (until some nice men with guns came and told them to get down). He has drank with Shane MacGowan, mortally offended Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and been asked if he was homeless by Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.