For Judge Daryl Loomis, the pit is life.
The hidden face of the music industry.
At once a biography of three up-and-coming Canadian metal bands and a guide book for prospective bands to keep it together, Working Class Rock Star is a mixed bag that has some fun stories and valuable advice from rocker veterans, but doesn't hold viewers' interest as well as it could.
Our three bands in question, Bloodshoteye, Tub Ring, and 3 Mile Scream, are all young acts that have garnered enough attention to start thinking of things like tours and record labels. We see all three bands in very intimate settings, in their homes and at work in the studio more than in concert or backstage. The first thing you notice is just how average and normal these people are. Sure, there are your G. G. Allins of the world but, in general, the people on stage are much like you and me, no matter how brutal the music may sound. With their cute kids and homework due in the morning, it's hard to imagine these people living a real wild life. Their music is a different story, however, and the three bands range wildly in tone and style. 3 Mile Scream has the most traditional sludge sound; consequently, they're also the closest to landing a deal. Tub Ring, who could potentially become the most successful of the three, have a lighter, more accessible sound that is closer to Faith No More than Cannibal Corpse. Bloodshoteye, my favorite of the three, with their large band and dual male/female singers (who are also married with child), and more extreme sound, are probably the least likely to make it huge, but they're by far the coolest people of the groups.
These bands try their very hardest to make it, doing the best work they can, but the chances of rock star success are virtually nil. The instructional part of the feature discusses this. Intermixed with footage of the bands, we have a late of experts ranging from younger successes like Randy Blythe of Lamb of God and Devin Townsend of the great [now defunct] Strapping Young Lad to elder statesmen like Dave Brockie of GWAR and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Blythe has direct contact with Bloodshoteye but, otherwise, these are sit-down interviews that focus primarily on the scam that is the music industry. Marino and Brockie give extremely cogent arguments about why getting signed is death. For them, getting a record deal and going on tour for a label is the absolute worst kind of high interest loan; all of those advances are impossible to ever pay back.
All of this makes a great lesson for prospective bands, but there isn't a lot of broad appeal for viewers. The people most likely to pick up Working Class Rock Star, based on the myriad names on the cover, are metal fans and they will be thoroughly disappointed by the sheer lack of music. We hear snippets of the three featured bands, but the big names are nowhere to be found. Anybody looking for exposure to new music will go away empty-handed, though they will have learned all about the artistic and financial suicide that comes along with success in the music industry.
Cinema Epoch's release of Working Class Rock Star is surprisingly good, given director Justin McConnell's near zero-budget production. Shot on video, the image suffers in contrast and in general clarity, though these clarity issues don't hold a candle to the sound. When the bands play their loudest, the sound on the disc breaks up and fuzzes out, though is almost always clear during the scenes of dialog. The extras are copious for a film of this nature, however, though one doesn't fit into the spirit of the film at all. Deleted and extended scenes add more information and more slices of life with the bands, but they don't add anything that necessary. An audio commentary with McConnell sets the scene and gives some back story. In eight music videos, we finally get to see some of these bands in action. Finally, in what is a very jarring and stupid feature, we have "Skull Man's Pit Files." Skull Man is a man in a skull mask and this is him hosting a short program about mosh pits. Seriously, anybody who has heard of any of the bands on the cover of this disc does not need to be instructed on a pit. If you ever people say they are huge fans of Arch Enemy yet don't know what a pit is or what goes on in it, they aren't fans of Arch Enemy.
McConnell and company do exactly what they set out to do: make an instructional documentary for young bands trying to make it. The stories of the bands are relatively interesting and the advice from their elders is sound. I don't really want to be in a band anymore (Trench, a short-lived grunge band I sang for in high school settled that) and most who watch this want to hear some brutal metal, myself included. No dice, but I can't fault them for failing to meet my expectations.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
• Audio Commentary
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