Legendary San Francisco Bay Area metal photographers Brian Lew (Whiplash fanzine) and Harald “O.” Oimoen (D.R.I.) have joined forces to create the large-format hardcover photo collection MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW: Bay Area Bangers and the Birth of Thrash Metal. Coming this fall from Bazillion Points Books, this intense look at early hardcore headbangers features some of the first photos of the “Big Four” and their extended family of thrash metal bands. With hundreds of candid, live, and studio shots, Lew and Oimoen celebrate the unique wild-eyed spirit and atmosphere of the historic S.F. Bay Area heavy metal scene: pinpointing clubs (The Old Waldorf, The Stone, Ruthie’s Inn, The Omni); hangouts (The Record Vault, the infamous Metallica Mansion); and beloved local figures like fearless stage diver Toby Rage, manager Debbie Abono, and the unrivaled metal ringmaster Paul Baloff of Exodus.
Among the jaw-dropping moments in heavy metal history on display: Cliff Burton’s first rehearsal with Dave Mustaine-era Metallica; Kerry King of Slayer performing with early Megadeth; Metallica and Slayer’s first Bay Area shows; the first meeting of Slayer and Metallica; original uncropped 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.
At roughly 300 pages, filled with unpublished images and rare flyers, this incredible visual time capsule stems from a friendship that started when Brian Lew and Harald O. first met as camera-wielding teenage metalheads. Both later contributed to Ron Quintana’s infamous Metal Mania fanzine.
Says Harald O.: “I am so psyched on getting these photos out there. The camaraderie and great friendships forged between all the bands and the fans was so cool-there literally wasn’t much distinction. Everybody was pals with everyone else, and it was a magical time to be a metalhead living in the Bay Area. People are gonna freak on what what we’re gonna show them. This is a dream come true!”
Says Brian Lew: “This will not be a history book, but rather a time machine back to the ‘bonded by blood’ days of the original Bay Area metal scene. Before they played the Bay Area, Slayer wore makeup onstage; after that first Bay Area show they never wore makeup again. This book will show people why.”
Murder in the Front Row: Bay Area Bangers and the Birth of Thrash Metal, by Brian Lew and Harald “O.” Oimoen. [ISBN 978-1-935950-03-5] Coming Fall 2011 from Bazillion Points Books, America’s smallest but heaviest book publisher.