Photo Book of Classic Bay Area Metal Scene Photos to be Released This Fall
‘Murder in the Front Row: Bay Area Bangers and the Birth of Thrash Metal,’ a hardcover photo book by San Francisco Bay Area photographers Brian Lew and Harald “O” Oimoen, will be released this fall via Bazillion Points Books. The book will boast hundreds of candid, live, and studio shots, making it the quintessential book for any self-respecting metalhead. The photos were compiled by two accidental archivists who captured and visually documented a special time and place as it happened in front their lenses and flash bulbs.
Among the jaw-dropping moments in heavy metal history included in the 300-page book are Cliff Burton‘s first rehearsal with Dave Mustaine-era Metallica; Slayer‘s Kerry King performing with early Megadeth; Metallica and Slayer’s first Bay Area shows; the first meeting of Slayer and Metallica; original un-cropped prints of Possessed‘s blood-spattered ‘Seven Churches’ band photo shoot; some of the earliest photos of Vio-lence and Death Angel; Testament (then called Legacy) dressed in religious stage outfits; the crazed front row faces from legendary Ruthie’s Inn; and Metallica’s triumphant takeover of Day on the Green in 1985. Many of the photos have been unpublished till now.
“It’s the perfect example of being in the right place at the right time for Harald and I,” Lew told Noisecreep. “We were just teenagers with cameras who happened to befriend other teenagers, some of them in bands, and the scene we became a part of happened to launch or spawn so many bands and influence so many people. It’s also ironic how Harald now plays bass in D.R.I.”
Lew also said that the book aims to capture the vibe of the original Bay Area metal scene, and to share it with those who have only heard of it. Lew said that the scene “in a weird way represented a lot of the open minded support that the Bay Area has always given music in general. It was a very DIY scene supported by local fanzines, local clubs, a college radio station (KUSF), and a very special record store (The Record Vault). The majority of the people involved, bands included, were just kids under the drinking age.”
He continued, “Everybody knows that Metallica moved here, but Slayer and Megadeth spent a lot of time here in the beginning as well, to the point where they were entrenched in the early Bay Area metal scene too. Exodus were the house band…and from that flash point came all the other local bands like Possessed, Vio-lence, Death Angel, and Machine Head.”
Lew was just a headbanger with a camera, some talented friends and a passion for metal. In some ways, the book is a happy accident. Lew admitted, “It took me a while to grasp just how influential that original Bay Area scene has been to metal worldwide. When I see bands from other countries like Krisiun or Gojira give props to those days when [touring through the Bay Area] it kind of blows my mind still.”
The shutter-snapper is adamant that this book is transformative. Lew says the collection is not “a history book, but a time machine back to those days. It will show the mayhem, but also the camaraderie between the bands and the fans, although there was never a separation between the two. Everyone was friends and many of those friendships still exist today. We were all just alcohol-fueled metal kids having fun and causing trouble. [We] had little idea that anyone outside of the Bay Area even cared about what was going on here.”