Everyone knows Metallica. But not everyone knows that Metallica was the product of a full-blown '80s thrash metal scene in the Bay Area — a scene that fostered other notable local bands like Testament, Death Angel, and Exodus. These weren't the makeup-wearing pretty boys strutting around MTV playing diluted hard rock. They were misfits trying to push their music to the fastest, loudest, most chaotic edge they could find in sweaty S.F. and East Bay clubs. And a few of the bands, along with their L.A. peers like Slayer, eventually even found some mainstream notoriety, helping to establish this thrash-derived sound as the quintessential American heavy metal. Just look at the success of the Big Four tour.
A new book aims to capture the early days of this scene. In more than 400 photographs from Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen, Murder in the Front Row tells the story of Bay Area thrash in the '80s through pictures of such notable events as Clif Burton's first rehearsal and gig with Metallica, Dave Mustaine's tenure in an early edition of the band, Slayer's Kerry King performing onstage with Megadeth, and more. In addition to the live shots, there are also many pictures showing the raucous post-show parties — the kinds of places where Metallica began to earn its old nickname, Alcoholica.