There’s no denying the appeal of thrash metal. Long relegated to the underground, the furious speed and thunderous blast beats that so define the genre have in latter days become a stalwart of the musical scene, catapulting the men and women in the scene beyond the confines of niche interests and into the mainstream. In an era where even the fucking Kardashians will wear Slayer shirts it’s hard to remember what was ever so dangerous about thrash.
Its history, however, is fascinating. Laced with a fierce DIY spirit, the music of thrash grew thanks to the efforts of like minded kids wandering the streets of the Bay Area in search of something loud, fast, fierce, and terrifying. Fueled by the likes of Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath, a small handful of misfits and freaks brought new speed and new life to the world of metal and forever altered the dynamics of the genre.
A new documentary, Murder in the Front Row, explores the inauspicious roots of your mom’s least favorite musical genre, charting the history of thrash metal from its days as a loose collective of metalheads to powerful force of nature. Featuring interviews with the likes of Exodus, Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, the film is a must see slice of history for fans of thrash or anyone curious about the metal scene.
The birth of thrash is, by now, the stuff of legend. Growing thanks to a worldwide network of tape traders, who would send dubs of local bands to pen pals in sometimes distant locales, Murder in the Front Row tells the tale of how a small group of grimy kids found fellowship and started a scene almost entirely on their own. It’s hard to picture today, with thrash experiencing an unprecedented acceptance in the mainstream, but it was the fiercely independent spirits of teenage metalheads that led to the towering success of some of today’s biggest musical draws.
Fans will enjoy seeing a who’s who of metal reminiscing about the origins of their scene and sharing intimate, behind the scenes origin stories of how bands like Exodus and Metallica first formed. It has been, in some cases, years since musicians like James Hetfield and Gary Holt talked about the days of denim and leather and the debauchery of the Bay Area scene that served as the polar opposite of the glam metal growing from Los Angeles.
While the film never tries to break the mold in terms of musical documentaries, largely sticking with established formulas and presentations, it still presents a fascinating history that’s filled with larger than life characters and wild stories. Fans of metal will love seeing and hearing early footage of some of the biggest names in metal today, much of which has been previously unseen. What it chronicles is a fascinating corner of the music world filled with misfits and outcasts who pushed themselves and their peers to play harder, louder, and faster than had been previously considered possible. Murder in the Front Row is a loving ode that proves the old saying true: metal will never die.