“The L.A. Metal Scene Explodes”: A new doc looks at L.A.’s metal club scene circa 1982-’86

By on October 28, 2016

Filmmaker Bob Nalbandian’s 2016 documentary Inside Metal: The L.A. Metal Scene Explodes — the second in the planned trilogy about the L.A. metal club scene, covering the period from 1982-1986 — picks up where the first in the series, Pioneers of L.A. Rock and Metal, left off, during the era when bands like Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Portland’s Black ‘n’ Blue, W.A.S.P. and dozens more ruled the Sunset Strip. It’s streaming now over on Night Flight Plus.

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For Inside Metal, Nalbandian wanted to capture what had happened in the scene that he knew about — from the late 70s until about 1986 — focusing on the music that had been such an important part of his own teenage youth by talking with the men and women who were responsible for the vibrant L.A. scene.

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Just as he did in the first part of the critically-acclaimed first documentary, Nalbandian tells the behind-the-scenes stories about the era when the local hard rock and metal scene literally took Los Angeles by storm, resulting in the subsequent major label signing spree of hard rock and heavy metal bands.

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He offers up an informative, insightful insider’s perspective, supplemented with lots of rare archival concert and rock club footage, all of it feeling something like the motion picture equivalent of flipping through the pages of an issue of his own The Headbanger fanzine (Nalbandian founded the nationally-distributed zine in 1982, when he was seventeen years old and still living with his parents in Huntington Beach, down in Orange County, south of Los Angeles).

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To get a true insider’s look at how the L.A. metal scene “exploded,” Nalbandian conducted candid, in-depth interviews many pivotal players, including managers, journalists and label execs as well as musicians and rock icons like Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Don Dokken, Ron Keel, Stephen Pearcy (Ratt), Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot/Ratt/Snow), Chris Holmes and Randy Piper (W.A.S.P.), John Bush and Joey Vera (Armored Saint), Mike Inez (Alice In Chains), Gene Hoglan (Testament, Dethklok), Betsy Weiss (Bitch), Jaime St. James (Black ‘n Blue), Lizzy Borden, Marty Friedman, Marq Torien (Bullet Boys), Joe Floyd (Warrior), Ann Boleyn (Hellion), Steve Plunkett (Autograph), Nadir D’Priest (London), Stryper and many others.

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The 90-minute film — from Nalbandian’s own MetalRock Films — gives you a lot to look at if you’re a fan of L.A. metal bands, including tons of ultra-rare archival concert footage and rare photographs.

Some of the photos, rare music and video clips came through the metal community and fans, including L.A. scenester Alan Wood, who supplied Nalbandian with a lot of the footage, photos and fliers seen in the film.

Nalbandian’s Headbanger — devoted to the still-emerging heavy metal music scene — featured the very first profiles of then-unsigned L.A. bands Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth.

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Nalbandian would print the fanzine himself and then deliver copies around to music stores and record shops (the last issue of The Headbanger came out in 1985).

He wrote regularly for music magazines like Creem, Music Connection, Hit Parader, BAM, Foundations, Loud, and Metal Rendezvous, as well as becoming the publisher/editor of Shockwaves Magazine and associate editor for two men’s magazines, Platinum and Men’s Perspective.

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Nalbandian also ended up managing Orange County-based Eden, and then worked for a couple of small record companies, heading up the west coast office of Roadrunner Records and working closely with mega-bands like Sepultura, Type-O Negative, and Last Crack.

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He then went on to work for Bizarre/Straight Records in early ’90s (Rhino/WEA), as their Director of Publicity and assisting label president Herb Cohen, before he ended up hosting a couple of podcast radio shows — the Shockwaves/HardRadio Podcast on HardRadio.com and the Shockwaves Skullsessions Podcast featured on the Roadrunner Records webpage — and that’s where he met metal videographers Joe Floyd and Warren Croyle, who came on the show as guests.

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Floyd and Croyle told Nalbandian they were interested in producing a documentary on the L.A. metal scene, and he ended up working on the project as a camera operator before eventually becoming the film’s director.

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For this compelling history about the quintessential period of hard rock and metal, Nalbandian also interviewed major supporters of the scene during those early days, including David Forest (promoter/manager of The Starwood and The Whisky), Malcolm Dome (U.K. journalist), Kevin Estrada (photographer), Jon Sutherland (journalist), John Kornarens (journalist, scenester), Gina Zamparelli (concert promoter), Grover Jackson (Jackson Guitars), Craig Williams (radio personality), Tracy Barnes (radio personality), and Brian Slagel (CEO, Metal Blade Records).

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You can watch the first two parts of Bob Nalbandian’s planned trilogy, Inside MetalPioneers of L.A. Rock and Metal and The L.A. Metal Scene Explodes — on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.