Throughout their rich histories, the rock and metal communities have seen a lot of “hot spots” develop across America. Seattle, during the 90s was the hub for the burgeoning “grunge” scene. Atlanta, for decades has been its own hub for so many kinds of rock and metal. Sevendust calls Atlanta home as do the like of Stuck Mojo, The Black Crowes, and Mastodon. New York City has often been known as one of the key cities (if not the key city) in which the hardcore punk movement started. The San Francisco Bay area meanwhile is where the thrash metal scene got its start. The Bay Area and the thrash scene that developed therein are the focus of the recently released independent “rock-umentary” Bay Area Godfathers. Released Nov. 10 on DVD by Metal Rock Films, the 90 minute retrospective is a presentation that thrash metal fans will find worth watching at least occasionally. That is proven in part through its central feature, which will be discussed shortly. The pacing that results from the main feature’s presentation presented plays its own key part to the retrospective’s presentation and will be discussed a little later. The bonus content that accompanies the main feature adds some appeal to the overall presentation and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Bay Area Godfathers. All things considered, it is a presentation that serves as a good starting point in an examination of what is just one of metal’s many sub-genres.
Bay Area Godfathers is a presentation that thrash metal fans will find worth watching at least occasionally. That is proven in part through the 90-minute program’s main feature. The main feature follows the genre’s growth from its infancy in the early 80s to its growth in popularity in the late 80s. Audiences learn through the presented history that the genre’s development was apparently somewhat unexpected. That is because in the lat 70s and early 80s, pop, disco and other genres were still very prominent and popular in the San Francisco Bay area. Even with those genres still being popular, audiences learn that there was a movement in the underground away from those more popular genres and acts and toward the heavier rock world. The guerilla style presentation is not the spit-shined work that audiences might expect from say MTV, VH1 or ay of those well-known outlets. The story is told through first hand accounts and stories of the musicians and bands that rose to popularity in the early days of thrash. The interviews are captured with ordinary cameras. There are no wireless microphones to amplify the speakers’ voices. There is no editing to clean up the look and sound of the interviews. They are presented wholly in a very distinct DIY fashion. At the same time, the program is clearly segmented into specific portions (E.g. thrash’s early days, the division of punk and thrash, the growing popularity of thrash on rock radio and magazines). That clear segmentation helps to keep viewers engaged and entertained throughout the course of the documentary. Between this and the fact that the story is told mainly by those who were part of the genre’s evolution (in place of lots of third hand narration), and the video that helps tell the stories, this main feature in itself gives audiences quite a bit to appreciate.
While the main feature in Bay Area Godfathers mostly ensures viewers’ appeal, it is not a perfect presentation. The pacing that results from the in-depth tale does suffer at points throughout the program. While Bay Area Godfathers’ run time is listed at 90 minutes, there are times when it feels like it runs a little bit longer because of the pacing. Whether that is due to the lack of that extra narration or maybe just a little bit too much in the way of anecdotes and stories is anyone’s guess. Maybe it is the result of both of those elements. Regardless, there are moments in the program that do feel as though they are dragging more so than at others. Thankfully, that is not the case throughout. That aside it is still noticeable, so it does detract from the documentary’s presentation at least to a point, just not enough to make the program fail.
Once audiences have made their way through the main feature of Bay Area Godfathers (or even before), they also have some bonus content to watch. The documentary’s writing/directing/producing team of Bob Nalbandian and John Strednansky discusses favorite memories of the early days of the thrash metal scene in the bay area. The men also share their thoughts on topics such as the impact of the scene on the overall metal community and why the pair even got started making its “Inside Metal” film series. The history behind this aspect is interesting as it takes listeners briefly into the bigger history of the rock ad hard rock scene in California. The discussion on the roots of the metal scene in the Bay Area in the early 80s shows the seriousness of the team’s dedication to the genre. It is refreshing to hear from the men, that this was not just some pet project, but something that stemmed from their own love for the genre. On a completely random note, as the men are talking (apparently in a hotel lobby) a figure walks to the elevators behind them in what looks like the outfit of the Kansas Jayhawks mascot outfit. All that is visible from the camera angle is from the waist down, but it certainly makes for a funny moment as the mascot stands there pacing a little, waiting for the elevator as the men talk. In discussing the favorite memories, Stradnansky talks about his first “Metal Monday” show, seeing Motley Crue and how that changed his life. It is its own continued testament about the love that these men had for their project. There are even discussions about favorite clubs, which adds to the discussions about the clubs featured in the documentary. This enriches that aspect of the presentation even more. Between this, so much more in the nearly 10-minute bonus and everything featured in the documentary’s main feature, this presentation proves itself a relatively entertaining and engaging presentation for thrash and metal aficionados in general.
Metal Rock Films’ recently released thrash metal retrospective Bay Area Godfathers is a presentation that rock and metal aficionados alike will find intriguing. They will find it as a presentation that is worth watching occasionally. That is proven in part through its main feature, which takes viewers back through the early history of thrash metal in the San Francisco Bay area. The rich, in-depth story told in the main feature is presented largely through first hand stories and anecdotes from those who were part of the scene at the time. Some are well-known names while others are less so, creating a rich starting point in the history of the genre. For all of the content that the main feature offers audiences, there are some occasional issues with the feature’s pacing. There are moments throughout the documentary in which the story feels like it slows down. Thankfully those moments are not enough to derail the program. The bonus content that accompanies the documentary’s main feature adds a little more enjoyment an engagement to the whole. Together with everything in the main feature, the two elements join with the better elements of the program’s pacing to make the retrospective/history piece worth at least an occasional watch. Bay Area Godfathers is available now.
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