Mötley Crüe’s long-awaited biopic hits the screens and Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan digs beneath The Dirt as well as checking out new music from Haunt, Inculter, Hellish Grave and Exumer.
Eighteen years after Neil Strauss’ book was first published, Mötley Crüe’s riotous autobiography The Dirt has finally emerged on our screens as a Netflix exclusive biopic.
Since its release late last month, the film has polarized opinion.
The transformation of such a lurid book into a popular film was always going to be a delicate balancing act.
Biopics frequently favour triumph over tragedy even within tales of ridiculous highs and lows. Consequently, it is commendable that, at times, The Dirt pulls no punches in its depiction of the Crüe’s drug addictions, troubled family relationships and brushes with tragedy (particularly vocalist Vince Neil’s car accident that resulted in the premature death of Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle).
Yet, despite these aspects and the final emphasis on the ultimate power of the band members’ friendship, at The Dirt’s heart is an all too familiar mythology of LA’s hard rock and metal scene.
Director Jeff Tremaine’s reconstruction of the LA hard rock scene of the mid-1980s is a caricature of virtually every male rock star’s recollection of the era. The Sunset Strip becomes a playground for men to enact all the excesses of their sexual fantasies.
In The Dirt’s LA, venues and clubs are filled with beautiful women only too willing to oblige such fantasies. Sex is freely available from willing groupies and seemingly in endless supply. Women, it seems, exist mostly to be used (and in some cases abused).
Such a representation should not be surprising. After all, this is a biopic of Mötley Crüe, not some po-faced art rockers. The band has spent a career revelling in tales of sexual excess.
However, beneath the mythology perpetuated within The Dirt lies a more complex history. Far from being mere playthings, women on the LA hard rock scene were often pivotal to the success of bands like the Crüe and those who followed in their footsteps.
In the first chapter of Strauss’s book upon which the film was based, vocalist Vince Neil recalls how: ‘When we were really hard up, Nikki and I would date girls who worked in grocery stores just for the free food.’
The reality of the lives of aspiring bands in LA was that many lived in poverty and were hugely reliant upon girlfriends and female fans.
In a revealing montage sequence in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary, Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, LA acts like Poison, as well as some of the unsigned local all-male acts, confess their strong reliance upon women for support.
The sequence of interviews reveals that they are almost entirely dependent upon women for finances, a place to stay, or booze and drugs.
Some of the female fans, musicians and groupies interviewed during this section of the documentary clearly recognised this; as one of the female musicians explained: ‘You can take advantage of the guys just as they can take advantage of you’.
Far from having little agency and being sex objects in the sense that is portrayed in glibly celebratory accounts of this scene, this sort of testimony suggests that the so-called ‘groupies’ of the LA rock scene had considerable power and agency in establishing and sustaining acts.
Indeed, previous interviews with the likes of Steven Adler from LA’s most commercially successful hard rock band, Guns N Roses, challenge the conventional assumptions about sexual exploitation on this scene. Adler has recounted how when he and guitarist Slash used to skip school in order to travel to the Sunset Strip and try and establish a band, they were very much reliant on performing sexual favours for older women in order to get money for food and drugs.
These rather less glamorous tales that temper the idea that LA hard rock and metal were straightforwardly male dominated, have no place in The Dirt, which relentlessly adheres to the aforementioned mythology. Along the way, there are at least some genuinely poignant moments and the portrayal of the band’s brotherhood is conveyed via some fine acting performances.
As biopics go, The Dirt is ultimately a suitably entertaining ride. Yet we were left wondering whether the real dirt on one of the most mythologised spaces in rock history will ever be dished.
Moving away from the Sunset Strip and its offspring, this month has also seen some exciting new releases come our way.
Haunt: If Icarus Could Fly
Haunt’s full-length debut album last year made its way into our records of the year list, partly due to its joyous brand of classic metal.
Consequently, when we learned that they were due to release a follow-up already, we couldn’t wait to give it a spin.
Thankfully, If Icarus Could Fly is everything we’d hoped for and more. Maintaining their euphoric approach to trad metal from the 70s and 80s, Trevor Church and company have crafted an album that miraculously surpasses their debut. A key reason for this is the quality of the song writing, which continues to captivate.
We still get the pulsating, Maiden-like delivery on songs like fist pumping opener Run and Hide. Yet it is on It’s In My Hands where Haunt’s clear development is revealed.
A bona fide anthem that celebrates the power of self-belief, this track encapsulates the talent the band possesses.
If there were any doubts, If Icarus Could Fly confirms Haunt as major players on the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal scene and is highly recommended.
Inculter: Fatal Visions
Edged Circle Productions
The second album from Norwegian thrash starlets Inculter sees them capitalise on the huge promise of their acclaimed debut from 2015. Fatal Visions takes no prisoners with its turbo-charged riffing and ferocious vocals.
Although their brand of blackened thrash channels a range of influences – from mid-80s German thrash to early 80s NWOBHM inspired proto-thrash – the delivery never sounds formulaic.
Tracks such as Impending Doom, the epic Endtime Winds and first single Through Relic Gates feature memorably menacing riffs and ferocious tempo changes that simply compel the listener to bang their heads.
Rarely has contemporary thrash sounded so authentically evil.
Hellish Grave :Hell No Longer Waits
Hell No Longer Waits is the second album from Hellish Grave and it simply oozes a malevolent blackened quality from its every pore. These boys from Brazil meld classic 80s metal melody with the ragged, scuzzy energy of punk and black ‘n’
roll on tracks such as In Nomine Draculae and the frantic Revenant Awakening.
Dropping the tempo momentarily on Over My Haunted Pact allows the band to convey a more gothic feel, which is accentuated by the effective use of an organ after each verse.
There are many highlights here, but Possessed by the Witch, with its frenetic opening salvo of dissonant riffing that continues to build in intensity, is a lesson in controlled fury.
Exumer :Hostile Defiance
Metal Blade Records
High octane riffing and a crisp production from producer Dennis Koehne adorn the latest album from German thrash veterans Exumer.
Despite being in action since the 1980s, Hostile Defiance is the sound of a band revitalised.
The speed and intensity that is characteristic of contemporaries such as Overkill and Kreator are here in abundance on cuts such as the highly impressive Raptor and Carnage Rider while Dust Eater slows the tempo down and displays a meaty guitar hook in its chorus that has serious groove.
Hostile Defiance also features a striking thematic coherence.
Vocalist and songwriter Mem Von Stein has extensive experience of working within psychiatry and the song lyrics on this album explore the challenges with mental health that many young people face in a surprisingly thoughtful manner.
Well, our journey for this month is now at an end. We just have time to remind you that the Merseyside Bloodstock Metal 2 the Masses competition is now under way. Support your scene and get yourself down to the heats to see the cream of local talent battle it out.