The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years/Review

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< The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years

NOTE: Originally, I intended to write this review as only a sequel to what I wrote before. Unfortunately, I just found out that Lemmy Kilmister of the band Motorhead, one of my favorite bassists who also appeared in TDWC 2 just passed away. So, I'd like to dedicate this to him. R.I.P. Lemmy.

Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead

After the Hardcore Punk attitude of the early 80's faded away, Penelope Spheeris came back with another classic documentary that showed us what happened in the Heavy Metal scene from 1986-1988 and, to tell you the truth, I think it shows exactly why Grunge killed Heavy Metal in the next few years. I'll tell you about that later.

Just like the first TDWC, this one is a mixture of interview footage (with both fans and musicians) and live performances. We learn about what Heavy Metal music is, why these people became musicians and Metal fans, the sex and drugs in the Metal scene, copycats in the industry, parents vs. Metal kids, and other interesting topics. Although they use similar filming and editing techniques like interviewing Metal fans in a room with a single light bulb above their head or getting Lemmy to do an interview with the LA highway and the whole city as a background, what makes TDWC 2 different from the first one in terms of storytelling is that they focus more and more on interview segments than live performances. Also, the interview segments are equally focused on both bands and fans, while the first film focused more on the performing and band interviews. What I like about the interview segments in this film is the fact that they have opinions from both classic Metal artists like KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Lemmy, etc. and "new" Hair Metal bands like Poison or London. It's interesting to see them talk about issues from different generational points of view.

And, just like my last review, since this film loosely has a plot, here are highlights:

There's a segment where they talk about copycats in the Metal movement. My favorite comments come from Lemmy and Alice Cooper. Let's hear our good old Lemmy talk about this first, shall we? He is asked if he ever gets mad when finding out about a band that copies him. He says...

"No. Good luck to them. Maybe they'll do something that we can copy later."

I really like his response since it shows that he's a kind of guy who doesn't take things too seriously, yet still has a passion to be the best. And what does Alice Cooper say about copycats?

"Some of them are just pure plagiarists. I won't mention any names.Their initials start with...[BUZZER BEEPS]"

I laughed so hard when I watched this film for the first time because I was dying to know the name of that plagiarist. Who is he? Glenn Danzig? Marilyn Manson? Nobody knows except Alice himself.

Next, we have the band Poison talking about the Metal scene. Now, I don't know what you think about their ballads like "Every Rose Has A Thorn" or "Something To Believe In", but you have to admit that they are really informative in this film. They talk about the whole thing and it sounds a lot like the DIY Punk scene we saw in the first film. The band tells us that they work locally to get audiences to the show. They give out flyers, etc. According to Rikki Rockett, the drummer of Poison:

"We would, um...during the day we would rehearse and at night we'd go to clubs, you know, and hand stuff out. We'd, you know, we'd try to look all cool and stuff and just go, "Hey, yeah, come out and see the band." At night we'd go back, throw on our jeans and be out there till 5:00 in the morning. You know what I'm saying? Like, trying so no one knew what we looked like then. You know, putting all our flyers up and wallpapering it. And along would come another band and cover it up. And then, you'd sneak back and it's a war!"

C.C. Deville and Rikki Rocketof Poison

This is kinda interesting since it shows the spirits of the bands that actually tried to be THAT good, instead of wet-dreaming about being famous. We'll get into that soon.

My next favorite segment is the interview with Ozzy Osbourne. Although it's (in)famous for a scene that shows Ozzy's shaking hand spilling orange juice (it was revealed 11 years later that it was fake), I had much more interest in what Ozzy says about his music. He talks about the REAL things that led to his Rock 'n Roll lifestyle.

"I couldn't conform to any system and I didn't want to get a job...I've had several jobs in factories and, you know, different jobs. But rock and roll has got this sort of a... an outlaw-ish thing with it. You can do what you wanna.You don't have to get up and listen to some big, fat bloody old fart telling you to take this box and stick it over there.[...] What happened [when we got rich], it didn't work out exactly like Cinderella. We started to think we were thugs. We all went out and bought fast cars and everything. We had a manager and that's because...because we came from the back streets of Birmingham, we didn't have any... much of a business education. We let him con us as it was... We got ripped off for lots of money in the early days. [...] It's hard bloody work and you gotta be a businessman. And I'm not a businessman, you know."

This is the price they had to pay after becoming famous. There was conflict and short-sights on many issues that hurt them later on. We learn that sometimes, it's simply not easy to be successful.

But NOTHING tops the thing I'm about to mention, the band Odin. Remember when I told you "it shows why Grunge killed Heavy Metal in the next few years."? This is the part I'm talking about. It begins with an exciting introduction from Bill Gazzarri, a nightclub owner who holds a venue for live performances and a Metal chicks dance contest (which, according to some Metal fans in the film, "That's stupid. Doesn't belong in music. Get it away from me. Fucking, get a comedian up there."). He says...

"These guys are personal friends of mine. There's Randy, I love him. He's gonna be bigger than David Lee Roth, who started right here. Help me bring on my pal Randy, and Odin."

Of course! It sounds like you're about to witness the most kick-ass metal bands like Guns 'N Roses or Motorhead. Then the interview segment with Odin begins:

"I mean, I want to go as big as like Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles or like that. I mean, I don't want to be another band. I don't want to be just another fucking band."

That still sounds okay to me. At least, you have a goal in your life, right? (Although it sounds pretty narcissistic somehow)

"Well, I just wanna be extremely wealthy. I want to be remembered for the rest of my life. For my grandchildren's grandchildren's lives."

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth

Wait a minute. Lots of bands in this documentary say that they are here for fun. You're here for just the money and fame? Anyway, the film cuts to their performance of a song called "Gypsy". It sounds CLEARLY that they're a rip off of Motley Crue in terms of musical style and the way their lead vocalist sings. Not too bad. Then, their next song called "12 O'Clock" starts. This sounds a lot like Guns 'n Roses songs. I start seeing a pattern here. And they even proudly admit in an interview segment that...

"[We'll have a deal with record label in] the next four to six months. [...] And then super stardom. Super fucking stardom. If you want to take me serious, you can, if you don't want to take me serious, you don't have to. But I'll say, this face, people are gonna fucking remember it, okay? And it's gonna go down in history. I know that. I don't wanna be like Jim Morrison, but I wanna go down in history like that - Or Robert Plant."

Really? With songs that sound exactly like your competitors' in the market?

What does this sum up? It shows that the whole movement somehow became a big joke. Everybody was in there to get rich and famous and do drugs and bang groupies, although some of them say in the beginning of the film that "we're here for fun". It's like the film slowly progresses from the "let's have fun" attitude to the "do lots of drugs, get rich and famous" attitude in the end. It's like they put in these scenes to contradict what Ozzy, Poison, and probably what old rockers might say about being hard workers and being famous. With the ridiculous attitudes and same cliches' in the market (many bands at the time that had same formula in releasing singles: one up tempo song for jocks and a slow tearjerker ballad for chicks.), it inspired them to find the movement that actually spoke to them and tell the world how angry and pissed off their lives were. Grunge was the answer and after Nirvana released Smells Like Teen Spirit in the early 90s, the Rock music industry didn't look the same.

Still, this is a really interesting movie about Heavy Metal. Those who grew up around that time may enjoy it since it'll remind them of the times when they were young and innocent. Plus, music historians might love it as well since it shows us why Heavy Metal became such a clown show in the end. Recommended.

P.S: In October, the guitarist of Odin gave an interesting interview with The Guardian about the film. He says “I haven’t touched a drink in 26 years, but I look back on Odin fondly. I’ve seen the damage caused by excess and overblown egos and Odin taught me what not to do.". You can read the interview HERE


Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.

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