In today's day and age photographers are a dime a dozen. Technology has allowed several people who don't take the art of it seriously a way in. To my eyes, the difference between the good and bad ones is easily discernible. Some may say it's a keen eye, others may say it's a pricey camera that cost a few thousand dollars and some may even go so far as to say you have to shoot solely on film. All of the above come into play and are essential ingredients to being a terrific photographer, but as Bill Hale has proven yet again, it's sometimes merely being yourself and forging a relationship with the person on the other side of the lens that allows the art of photography to truly flourish. Back in the early 1980s photographer Bill Hale was in the right place at the right time and captured much of the burgeoning metal scene taking place in the Bay Area. The fruit of his labor first came to light a few years ago with the book Metallica: The Club Dayz 1982-1984. In my review of the book I famously said "Bill Hale is to Metallica as Astrid Kirchherr was to the Beatles". I stand by that quote because as Hale showcased in his Metallica book and his new Megadeth book, he was able to not just capture these acts in their infancy, but take us behind the curtain before the roars of stadiums beckoned them. Hale is fully able to capture the onstage essence of these bands, but what sets his pictures apart from your typical Facebook photo gallery is his ability to get these musicians to let their guard down in front of the lens. Anyone can snap a shot of someone playing the guitar, but can you forge a relationship with an artist so that when they take a picture of you, you're not posing for them but allowing them to see your soul? Hale's new 132-page book Megadeth: Another Time, A Different Place is an all-absorbing look back at the birth and rise of Megadeth.
Hale's first picture of Dave Mustaine is from 1982 when he was the guitarist in Young Metal Attack while the next picture was taken six months later when he was the lead guitarist for Metallica. From there, the book encompasses mostly pictures from 1985 and 1986 as Megadeth began their ascent to the metal throne. The majority of the pictures feature the band out in support of their first two (and most influential) albums Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good! and Peace Sells---but Who's Buying. About half of the photographs in Megadeth: Another Time, A Different Place are backstage capturing the band either in a laid back or playful metal manner. In a day and age where a pr person would never allow pictures of this intimate nature to be taken let alone published, these are eye opening and most welcomed. What I find so endearing about Hale's books is his ability to truly show us what it was like in Northern California during the ascent of thrash metal. We see the cramped quarters of the backstage areas and even the gaping holes in the ceilings of the concert halls. Some of these pictures find the members of Megadeth not posing but simply in the moment while others show us their youthful and innocent side. My favorite pictures are of drummer Gar Samuelson (to whom the book is dedicated). Gar isn't at all as I had imagined him. While the picture isn't living or breathing, he's different from how I imagined him from Behind the Music stories and other assorted books I've read. We've become so accustomed to seeing bands onstage in their element and posing against mountains in lush black and white pictures that we forget they're human just like us. I personally relish the behind-the-scenes pictures more than the concert ones as these are pictures rarely seen and offer us a better look at their offstage personalities than any book written today could ever do justice. These pictures make the music more tangible.
Guitarists in Megadeth have always had a colorful history and in this book, three of them are featured. Marty Friedman is possibly Megadeth's best known guitarist as he played on their best selling records Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction. His shots are from a 1990 photo shoot Hale did for the guitarist and these are the pictures the band asked to see because while they knew he had the professional chops to make it, they had previously felt his image was too glam on the Cacophony album cover. One look at Hale's shots and Megadeth knew they had their guitarist. The other fascinating pictures are of Mike Albert who filled in for Chris Poland briefly before the release of Peace Sells in 1985. I had not seen images of Mike before this book. Lastly, Chris Poland, whose work on Peace Sells is still studied by guitar aficionados to this day is covered extensively throughout the book. In virtually ever picture, Poland has a steely intensity as he rarely looks the camera in the eye. He's focusing his mind on the task at hand which was playing some blazing guitar. As someone who wasn't old enough to witness this legendary lineup of Megadeth in the flesh, this book serves as a wonderful time capsule to a time many talk about but few have seen.
The book has three extensive essays. The forward is by Dave Mustaine and despite everything one may think about him, I found his forward warm, affectionate and thankful someone cared enough to capture the band during this stage. Dave Ellefson looks back at the band's beginnings and their ambitions. He also reminisces about Samuelson and Poland and how their divergent backgrounds helped provide an underpinning for the "scary" riffs Mustaine had concocted. The last of the written pieces belongs to metal journalist Tom Trakas. I'll confess I consider Tom a friend, but he puts you in the mosh pit with his words which far eclipse this review you are now reading. I'd recommend the book for Trakas' poignant prose alone. Trakas was the editor of Midwest Metal and is now on the web at "None But My Own" (here). He provides a voice for all of us along with a front row seat to the festivities and more significantly, brilliantly expresses why this form of music has transformed his life.
We're living in the golden age of metal books and there have been dozens of magnificent books released in recent years with Hale's historical pictorial documents being among the best in not just metal but all of music. Considering that Metallica and Megadeth are half of the "Big Four", Bill Hale's books offer an unfiltered view of these bands before they prowled stadiums around the world. Hale's books are the pictorial equivalent of Almost Famous for the headbanging Bay Area metal movement. As one pages through the books, we're transported to another time and a different place where we discovered this music that was unlike any other. It spoke to us in a way little else could and above all else, it validated the desperation in our veins. Hale does more than capture Megadeth in their infancy, he captures them onstage and off stage in an informal manner thus making many of the pictures in Megadeth: Another Time, A Different Place truly enduring.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter