I don’t watch many movies. I rarely go to the theater either, maybe once a year. So I feel like it was quite a fun event to attend a screening at the 15th Annual Calgary Underground Film Festival. What made this film even more appealing was the fact that not only was the movie about Heavy Metal, it was the World Premier AND the Director was in attendance. I couldn’t miss this!
The World Premier of SLAVE TO THE GRIND was on Saturday, April 21st, 2018. No, it is not a film about the band Skid Row but a documentary about Grindcore. I’m not sure if the title was an intentional in-joke, but I suspect it was.
Canadian Director Doug Brown spent four years on this labour of love, an in-depth examination of arguably one of the most extreme forms of Metal, Grindcore. The film ran a little over 90 minutes and follows as one might expect a loosely chronological examination of the development of the genre. The film assumes (perhaps unwisely?) that the ‘average ‘ viewer is familiar with the development of extreme Metal, the evolution of Thrash, then into Death Metal etc and instead dives right into Repulsion! Take about the deep end!
The film looks great, it looks rough and raw but I think that is on purpose to sort of emulate the sonic extremity of the music. The film shifts between talking head interviews, live footage, casual street shots and inter-spliced are bits of black and white animation, zombies and such. It looks and sounds top-notch.
The film treats us to what the director referred to in a Q& A session after the film, as ‘entry-level’ grind-core. All the big names are there Napalm Death, Carcass, Terrorizer, Brutal Truth and so on. The film bounces back and forth between the UK and the US discussing the development of the genre in a small and not surprisingly incestuous scene with many members trading back and forth. It was neat to see the interview segments with Digby Pearson of Earache who really gave many of these bands a hand up.
The movie was laced with humour, sometimes unintentional at the almost absurd characters and I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions. As an older Metalhead it was a walk down memory lane, loaded with nostalgia revisiting the old bands of my youth. It was somewhat saddening when it is was suggested (rightfully so) that the genre is so extreme, there is no where to go and it is not ‘new’ anymore…being almost 30 years old as a genre.
One element I appreciated was that the Director did not dwell on social justice type issues. Certainly a component of the grindcore scene is left-leaning politically but the film acknowledges that it is extreme music for extreme people and doesn’t sermonize. On perhaps one of the only negatives the Director choose to eliminate discussing the extreme right-wing and sexual factions and sub-sub-genres of the scene, such as porno-grind. It is a double-edge sword. As a documentary filmmaker you want and need to be unbiased, comprehensive and neutral, however do you want to give exposure or credence to what many consider a reprehensible form of entertainment? I feel he made his choice not to shine the light under the rock and sees what scurries out and is comfortable with it. In that sense, as bizarre as it sounds this is almost a ‘mainstream’ film, by underground Metal standards showing restraint when necessary and not going down the exploitation road just for the shake of shock value. In that sense I can see some real purists with extreme sensibilities finding fault (imagined or otherwise) with the film.
Doug Brown suggested after the viewing that there are untold hours of footage and much of it might make some sort of bonus features for a physical media (DVD/Blu-Ray) release this year. I’ve watched dozens and dozens of Metal documentaries and SLAVE TO THE GRIND is world-class. It covers almost every aspect; it is great for new fans, loaded with nostalgia for older fans, free of any glaring errors or omissions, although I’m sure someone, somewhere will bitch about the fact that Bolt Thrower wasn’t featured heavily, even though they were only playing grindcore for about five minutes before finding their niche doing easy-listening, military-themed Death Metal. This is one of the better Metal docs I have seen over the years.
SLAVE TO THE GRIND is making the film festival rounds, watch your listings for a screening near you and check out the contact information below. I can’t wait for the DVD. Grind your mind!
Run Time: 1 hr 40 min
Websites: Grindcore Film, Slave to the Grind Film