These lyrics from the Exodus classic “Bonded By Blood” don’t just describe the energy, attitude, and allegiance of metal fans. The lyrics also inspired the title of a recent photo book Murder In The Front Row which is a book of photographs documenting the early 80’s Bay Area metal scene taken by Harold “Harold O” Oimoen and Brian Lew. Oimen and Lew were not professional photographers or journalists. They were two teenagers who were passionate about all things heavy metal. The two young men frequented local performances by bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, and a band called Legacy who would later go on to known as Testament.
Oimoen and Lew are responsible for capturing some of the most iconic images of the classic, Bay Area thrash scene. They were there to capture some legendary moments such as Metallica with Dave Mustaine, Metallica’s first rehearsal with bassist Cliff Burton, and even early Megadeth performances featuring Kerry King of Slayer on guitar. The photos in this book brought a huge smile to my face and it really made me feel like I was there in the early days. Seeing Metallica’s James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine unloading their own gear was an image that reminded me that these legendary metal masters started out just as everyone else did. The beautiful thing about these images is that they are so real and in the moment. Oimen and Lew were just two young dudes getting to hang out with their favorite local bands, watching them grow, and capturing some candid moments for posterity sake.
While the images in Murder In The Front Row themselves are iconic, I found myself hanging heavily on the words of these two guys. What I got from reading their stories is that they were just two young guys who were huge fans of metal music and were very passionate about their music. As I read their stories of hanging out at metal record stores, buying Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Saxon imports/bootlegs, and trading tapes via the mail, it made me long for those days. It just sounded like such a fun and exciting time to be a fan of heavy metal music. I could hear his excitement as Lew reminisced on those days as if it just happened yesterday. I also felt the frustrations of Oimoen as he wrote about feeling somewhat screwed over by bands like Exodus and Slayer who went on to use some of his photos on their albums yet didn’t give him any credit for them. These guys were huge fans/friend so it was kind of sad to get the idea that they supported these bands when they were nobody only to be somewhat left behind and forgotten as they climbed their way to the top of the world.
Murder in the Front Row is an awesome collection of images and words from what very well could be considered the birth of American heavy metal. Harold Oimoen and Brian Lew were there when the seed was planted and thanks to them, over 30 years later, we get to see some of the most iconic bands of heavy metal in their youthful beginnings. This book isn’t a history of heavy metal yet it’s much more than just a photo book. Murder in the Front Row is a time capsule of the Bay Area metal scene that has been unearthed and awaits it’s much anticipated opening. Trust me. If you are a fan of metal, no matter how old you are, you need this book.
To check out more on Murder In The Front Row, head on over to http://www.bazillionpoints.com/murder-in-the-front-row-by-brian-umlaut-lew-harald-o-oimoen/