"Metallica were just regular guys," says photographer Brian Lew, who knew the band back in the early '80s, when the young quartet barely had enough for a six-pack between them. "They didn't act like stars, because they weren't stars. They were just like the rest of us. We all hung out, we drank together, we had a blast. It was an amazing time."
Lew describes himself at the time as "a Bay Area teenager who happened to have a camera with me" – much like Harald Oimoen, who also liked to snap photos of friends and local bands at clubs like The Stone and Ruthie's Inn.
Heavy metal was morphing into thrash, and Oimoen remembers the scene as “a homegrown kind of thing. Kids were making the music they wanted to make. It was fast, loud, heavy – everything we weren’t getting on MTV.”
Lew and Oimoen are documenting the era – and the beginnings of bands such as Testament, Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus, Possessed and others – in a new book called Murder In The Front Row: Shots From The Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter, by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, to be published next month by Bazillion Points Books. Bursting with more than 400 photographs, many of them never before seen, it’s an intimate look at the elder statesmen of metal when they were adrenaline-fueled, pimply-faced post-adolescents.
“It’s amazing to see where some of the bands have wound up,” says Lew. “I remember when a mention in Kerrang! was thought to be the biggest deal in the world. Now the same guys are playing stadiums.”
On the following pages, MusicRadar previews Murder In The Front Row with an exclusive sampling of some of the rare photos taken by Lew and Oimoen.
Above: Cliff Burton and James Hetfield on stage at the Keystone Palo Alto, CA, Halloween 1983.