Rock Docs: The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II - The Metal Years

Our resident Metal expert takes a quick look at Decline II. 

My new band is called No Liver Left. 
Make a Jack and Coke, sit back, and enjoy Penelope Spheeris' completely lopsided The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.Let me start off by saying that if this documentary were a person, it would fall over itself every time it stood up and tried to move to a destination.

The problem I have with this documentary is it was filmed in five months in one, yes, ONE location, Los Angeles, California.  Los Angeles was the hot bed of the ‘Glam’ era of hard rock/heavy metal that was popular throughout the 80’s.  So, as you would have guessed, the idea of ‘metal’ throughout this film is glorified by full frontal facial images of scantily dressed men in all shades of mascara, thinking they are being witty by giggling in between pulls from their cigarette.  While a lot of great music came from this era, these people, and more importantly, from this location, I don’t think this is a fair depiction on what ALL of metal is in the broader spectrum.

Don’t get me wrong, I really think Penelope tried to maintain some balance in the film by doing interviews with some of the Godfathers of the genre (Alice Cooper, Lemmy, & Ozzy Osbourne) to get the whole story.  But, the snippets of these interviews done with these greats are peppered about the film between the vignettes of bands such as Faster Pussycat, Poison, and London.  I should point out, that there is a vignette on Megadeth, one of the ‘Big Four’ thrash bands, far removed from the LA Glam sound and look, but again, it is not enough to maintain any balance in this film.

We are so NOT metal. 

The reason I go on the attack like this against the film is simply from its title, The Metal Years.  If its title was The Glam Metal Years or The Los Angeles Glam Scene, this would have been much a better representation of what you are getting yourself into if you are someone interested in viewing this film.  There is no genre of music with more subgenres than metal and it is very important to, while being open minded, still maintain a certain distinction if you are going to try to do an expose on it.

With all that said, I really did enjoy the hell out of The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years for the content that it has.  There are some wild escapades that Penelope Spheeris was able to capture in this now time capsule of naivet√© and brute determination to be a rock star.

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Scott L. Lambert