Bob Nalbandian - The Rise of L.A. Thrash [DVD] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bob Nalbandian

The Rise of L.A. Thrash [DVD] (2018)

inside metal


The director of The Rise of LA Thrash Metal seems to have a chip on his shoulder, and maybe deservedly so. The premise of the film is that LA is just as responsible for the birth of thrash as the Bay Area, who usually gets most of the credit. One of his key arguments is indisputable: three of the big four of thrash (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer) were originally from LA. (The other, Anthrax, is from New York.) Metallica is often associated with the Bay Area, but only relocated as a condition of bassist Cliff Burton joining the band. Director/producer Bob Nalbandian also suggests that LA thrash suffered from living in the shadow of the glam/pop metal scene.

Nalbandian chose the style that has become pretty typical for music documentaries. An off screen interviewer asks questions that we don’t get to hear, and the answers are arranged to further along the minimal story line. The most prominent musician interviewed is definitely Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, but there’s a pretty impressive list beyond him too. David Ellefson (Megadeth), Chris Poland (Megadeth), Marty Friedman (Megadeth), John Bush (Armored Saint, Anthrax), Frank Bello (Anthrax), Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Testament), Rocky George (Suicidal Tendencies), Ernie C (Body Count) and many others make significant contributions.

The film is broken up into smaller sections, but it’s pretty much 90 minutes of continuous talking interspersed with archival live footage. The vintage video showing the chaos of those early shows is undeniably cool. It’s also interesting to hear how New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences combined with hardcore punk influences to form thrash. Bands like Motörhead and Venom were mentioned again and again. I couldn’t help but notice how many people of color were interviewed for this project. Heavy metal is generally considered white, male music, but it’s always been more diverse than that. There were at least a few minorities and women in that early thrash scene.

There's no doubt that I’m in the target audience for The Rise of LA Thrash. I’m a fan of both early thrash and punk/metal music docs in general. The film doesn't break any new ground, but it easily managed to hold my attention for an hour and a half. I would definitely recommend that heavy music fans check this out, but there’s not really a compelling enough storyline to interest the general public. There is a promise of a part two, and I would look forward to seeing that too. Watching this movie is going to end up costing me money as I now have to go back and try to find those classic releases from Armored Saint, Dark Angel and Hirax.