Members of Metallica, Exodus, Testament and other San Francisco–area thrash-metal groups reflect on how wild the scene was when it exploded in the early Eighties in the trailer for the upcoming documentary Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story.
“It was scary, and it was dark,” Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick says. “It was this outlet for angst.”
“Poseurs must die!” Kirk Hammett exclaims with his hands in the air.
The film, which was directed by Adam Dubin (Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party” video, A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica), will premiere in San Francisco at the AMC Kabuki 8 at 1 p.m.on April 20th. After the screening, the supergroup Metal Allegiance, featuring members of Megadeth and Testament, will perform across the street at the Fillmore with special guest Gary Holt, of Exodus and Slayer fame, and more yet-unannounced guests.
The film also features interviews with members of Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Possessed, Death Angel and Vio-lence, among others, and its soundtrack features music by most of those groups. Comedian Brian Posehn serves as the film’s narrator.
The documentary is based on photographers Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen’s book about the scene, Murder in the Front Row, which came out in 2012. “What I loved about the book is that it wasn’t just about Metallica,” Dubin said in a statement. “It was documenting a vibrant scene, where all the bands were equal and there was real camaraderie. The photos captured the sweat of the clubs, the ringing in your ears and the power of young people. Harald and Brian captured the humanity of it, and they understood that I was somebody who could bring that out in a film.”
The film builds on the book’s narrative by explaining how fans in California drew inspiration from U.K. groups like UFO, Iron Maiden and Motörhead and swirled those sounds into something new. “All these bands were mainly from England, and they never really toured the West Coast,” Dubin said. “So these young people started creating their own music, starting their own fanzines, booking clubs and trading tapes. These were people who were adamant about music and the bands, but also each other.”
The two-minute trailer features James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, Chuck Billy and many of the speakers introducing themselves — Slayer’s Kerry King says, “I don’t need to say my name, everybody watching this knows who I am” — as well as anecdotes about the scene. “We were doing this for chicks and beer, and I didn’t drink,” King says straight-faced. Mustaine quips, “This isn’t as exciting as you thought it would be, was it?”