By Peter O’Brien
For those of you who consider Korn to be an iconic–pioneering metal band, or The Black Album by Metallica to be their greatest work, you’d be well advised to “Get Thrashed!” The retrospective documentary that has been, literally, years in the making has finally come to DVD through Lightyear/Warner Bros. distribution. The film was directed, produced, filmed, and edited by Rick Ernst of Saigon 1515 Productions in Yonkers, NY and associate produced by former Overkill drummer, Rat Skates of Kundrat Productions. Skates also did the aftereffects animations throughout the film. The DVD was released on September 16th and contains a “Thrash Worldwide” guide and map, liner notes by Gary Holt of Exodus, and filmmakers commentary with Ernst and Skates.
The film chronicles the rise, fall, and subsequent resurrection of the Thrash Metal genre. Structurally it is a mix of several specifically labeled segments, which showcase “the big four (five, including Exodus)” – their respective scenes: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, and all the different obstacles and events that took place in between 1983 & 1991. The film is plays out very much like “American Hardcore,” by Paul Rachman, in that it jumps around geographically to cover all the bases simultaneously. For a fan of the genre there are no great revelations exposed in “Get Thrashed.” The film really just scratches the surface and provides a comprehensive overview of the genre.
There are a ton of great pictures and footage of the bands featured in the film from both the time as well as today. These are interwoven with entertaining interviews from pioneers of the genre including Scott Ian, Frank Bello, and Charlie Benante of Anthrax; Kirk Hammet and Lars Ulrich of Metallica; Kerry King and Tom Araya of Slayer; Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson of Megadeth; Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, and Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza of Exodus; and Rat Skates and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth of Overkill – to name a few. ‘Blitz’ gives one of the more comical interviews – unless you find it funny that Dave Mustaine eludes to practically inventing Thrash Metal all by himself by laying claim to have influenced James Hetfield while in Metallica and Kerry King of Slayer when he briefly joined Megadeth at its inception. Mustaine is not unfounded in his claim and is actually supported by both Gary Holt and Scott Ian.
One thing that “Get Thrashed” ironically doesn’t deliver on is the music. The song selection in the film, as kick ass as it is, is quite sparse, featuring two to three of the songs by “the big four,” and then only in their respective segments. There is a lot of straight talking/narration going on in the film, especially during the live sequences. It’s understandable that the audio from that footage may not be all that great, but if everyone is talking about how great these bands were live and that is never really shown, then it’s just a bunch of self-indulgent claims. We can see them rocking out and shredding, but the point of music is to hear it. Ernst and Skates do mention during the commentary that one thing which held up the release of the film was clearing all the rights to the songs they did use in the film. That’s not to say that they couldn’t get someone to compose instrumental thrash interludes to underline the narrative. That’s probably just representative of their abilities as novice filmmakers. Technically the film has an overall amateurish look to it and a lot of the clips and footage are repeated throughout, but it is all, fortunately overshadowed by the content and contributors.
The structural narrative of the film could have used a little more refinement, especially when dealing with the origins of the genre. It seems to jump right into Metallica without fully exploring and chronicling how they came to be, touching very briefly on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. In the special features they provide segments on just about every thrash band you never heard of, with the exception of a few, but in this mix is Motorhead, a band that rightfully influenced and in some ways started the genre. Again this reverts back to Ernst and Skates’ inexperience as visual storytellers.
The bonus features on the DVD are really just brief segments on the list of aforementioned thrash bands. It is a very comprehensive list, but like the lack of music in the film, these segments have absolutely no accompanying music to illustrate the point that everyone is claiming. It is essentially the same people, none of which are featured in the film to a great extent, stating how unbelievably great all of these bands are, or were over and over again. The commentary by Ernst and Skates provides some insight into the production and making of the film, while also giving them the opportunity to address and justify some of their decisions within the film’s narrative.
If you’re curious about genre and origins of some of the biggest bands of the last twenty-five years, not to mention some of the best musicians of any genre then “Get Thrashed” is a good starting point. Fans of the genre will enjoy the recognition given to their preferred musical taste and casual viewers will more than likely pick up some new listening material. “Get Thrashed” achieves what it sets out to do, and that is share the story of Thrash metal with all the enthusiasm that went into creating this incredible, groundbreaking, influential genre.
Be sure to check out Peter O’Brien’s thrash metal documentary “Riphouse 151: Could’ve Been’s & Wanna Be’s” which is currently on the festival circuit.
Purchase “Get Thrashed: The Story Of Metal”