'A Band Called Death' review: Evokes the joy of discovering new music
This is not simply the story of rediscovering a lost gem. 'A Band Called Death' is the very human documentary accounting the birth, death and rebirth of a pioneering punk band named Death.
'A Band Called Death,' which screened at the 2013 Seattle International Film Festival, opens in theaters nationwide starting June 28 - but is available as VOD right now. Find theaters or VOD download here.
In short: Three African American brothers in Detroit form a band and record a pioneering punk single in the 1970s. However, it would be more than three decades for the whole world to finally hear their visionary protopunk music. (watch the trailer)
'A Band Called Death' is an energized, inspiring and joyous recount of a band almost completely forgotten by time. The bullet points of Death's history as a band is interesting enough: how they started playing rock, why interested record labels refused to sign them, how the band folded in the late '70s and what lead to their recent rediscovery. These particulars alone would have made a great music documentary.
But this doc aims higher. It looks at the expectations of the music culture after Motown and before punk. Where most stories end with the inevitable break-up of the band, 'Death' follows the story that continued well after the band's own death and how its rebirth started almost quite by accident.
On paper, the roadblocks that stopped Death from achieving fame in the '70s are easy to spot and easier to question in hindsight - but this documentary weaves a story that reveals the empassioned reasons they refused to yield and stay true to their then unique sound.
The film's focus, from beginning to end, remains locked on the three brothers. 'A Band Called Death' does not settle for recounting a band's history. This is more a story of the twists & turns their lives took through the decades. The band's initial struggles and eventual rebirth, although beautifully told, is the framework for this bittersweet narrative about a trio of bandmates/brothers.
Some life details are quickly glossed over - almost mentioned in passing - but this is a small complaint. This is a well focused/edited documentary that has a very human heart and a storyteller's mind.
Good documentaries educate its viewers. Better docs educate and evoke emotion. The best documentaries educate, evoke and inspire viewers into action. 'A Band Called Death' is the latter. When the final credits start to roll, just try resisting the urge to buy every track off the 'Death' album from iTunes.
Final verdict: 'A Band Called Death' is a high energy, human and joyous documentary that recalls the excitement of discovering wonderful new music.