The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth is featured on the movie poster.
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Produced by Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris

Guy J. Louthan
Cinematography Jeff Zimmerman
Edited by Earl Ghaffari
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • June 17, 1988 (1988-06-17)
Running time
93 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000
Box office $373,743

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a documentary film directed by Penelope Spheeris about the Los Angeles heavy metal scene from 1986 to 1988. It is the second film of a trilogy by Spheeris depicting life in Los Angeles at various points in time. The first film, The Decline of Western Civilization, dealt with the punk rock scene during 1979–1980. The third film, The Decline of Western Civilization III, chronicles the gutter punk lifestyle of homeless teenagers in the late 1990s.

The film features concert footage and interviews of legendary heavy metal and hard rock bands and artists such as Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Megadeth, Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne and W.A.S.P.. The film premiered at The Wiltern Theatre and featured David F. Castagno, Publisher/Editor of Screamer Magazine as the master of ceremony.

The film has been released in Region 3: Asia DVD Only. Shout Factory released this film as part of a Blu-ray box set with the other films in June 2015 in Region 1.


  • Synopsis 1
  • Musical performances 2
  • Influence 3
  • Faked footage 4
  • Soundtrack 5
    • Tracklisting 5.1
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


The documentary follows the heavy metal scene in Los Angeles, with particular emphasis on the glam metal subgenre. Spheeris explores the more famous musicians, including Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Mustaine and Paul Stanley. She then explores unknown bands, such as London, Odin and Seduce. The film also features interviews with members of Poison, Tuff, Vixen, Faster Pussycat, W.A.S.P. and more. Serious issues such as drug usage, alcohol abuse, and censorship are tackled, as well as vanity issues like celebrity and sales.

The film is well known for its many scenes featuring rock star excess. The scenes include:

  • Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. is interviewed in a swimming pool beside his mother while extremely intoxicated. He stumbles through the interview, and pours a bottle of vodka both in his mouth and on his head. It was later claimed the bottle of vodka that Holmes poured onto himself was actually water.
  • The unsigned band Odin explains how they want to be more famous than The Doors and expects to become millionaires (Odin's guitarist, Jeff Duncan, while not topping the Doors' popularity and not becoming a millionaire, managed later to secure a guitar slot in the more well-known band Armored Saint).
  • An interview with club owner Bill Gazzarri, who at the time organised a 'sexy rock and roll' dance contest, which was presented as being sleazy and sexist.
  • Discussions with various musicians about the way women in general, and groupies in particular, are treated badly in the metal scene.
  • Riki Rachtman and Taime Downe, then owners of the Cathouse club in L.A., discuss how girls get entry to the club faster if they dress 'sleazy'.
  • Paul Stanley of Kiss is interviewed in a bed while surrounded from head to toe with girls.
  • Steven Tyler of Aerosmith talks about spending millions of dollars on drugs.
  • As Ozzy Osbourne cooks eggs in a kitchen he spills orange juice all over the table, apparently due to uncontrollable shakes. This was later claimed to have been faked. Spheeris also interviews him about sobriety, to which Ozzy replies, "It fucking sucks."
  • An interview with Lemmy from Motörhead. In his autobiography, he claims that Spheeris interviewed him from a distance, possibly in an attempt to make him look stupid.[1]
  • Candid and sobering interviews from various artists about drug use, abuse and dying (or nearly dying) from overdoses.
  • Lastly, Spheeris takes her cameras to Sunset Strip to film the nightlife in 1980s Los Angeles.

Musical performances


It has been claimed in recent years, most notably in the VH1 documentary series Heavy: The Story of Metal[2] that this film was partially responsible for the death of glam metal and the subsequent rise of thrash metal and grunge. The suggestion in the documentary is that fans, disgusted by the scenes of excess, decided to turn elsewhere. A similar claim was made by Dave Mustaine in his autobiography and in the book Hell Bent for Leather by British author Seb Hunter.[3]

Decline II, in retrospect, was an exposé of what at face value appeared to be a continuation of the street-Rocker movement documented in the original Decline of Western Civilization by way of dress, shock and attitude, yet, in the artists private and behind-the-scenes professional lives, bore little resemblance, if any at all, to previous rock n' roll subculture or the existing street-rocker subculture that existed at the time. Many of the bands involved showed their working class fanbase that they had more in common with the greedy, anti-rock pop culture of Wall Street, Corporate CEOs and the womanizing "Don Juan" disco-types, single-handedly driving their fans to the grittier, more reality-focused, anti-fashion, anti-glamour and fame hardcore and punk rock derivative genres; Thrash and Grunge in the mainstream, as well as D-beat, Crust Punk, Powerviolence, Grindcore and other heavier, punk-metal fusion genres coming out of the hardcore punk enclaves at the time. Ultimately, the film exposed the popular heavy metal bands of the time as being nothing more than "The Partridge Family with fuzzy guitars" that were "making music for the future housewives of America", as was stated by Soundgarden's Kim Thayil in the documentary series Metal Evolution.

Some of Spheeris' featured musicians, and live footage of Sunset Strip clubs, ended up as part of the 1987 MTV Music Awards, broadcast around the world from Universal Studios in Los Angeles. In addition to a clip of the band Foxx performing onstage, the awards show that year had several presenters that were stars of The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.

Faked footage

In a 1999 interview for The A.V. Club, Spheeris admitted that the scene with Ozzy Osbourne spilling orange juice was faked and the kitchen was not Ozzy's.[4]


The soundtrack was released on Capitol/I.R.S Records. However, the soundtrack does not attempt to come close to featuring all the music/bands that were in the movie.


  1. "Under My Wheels" - Alice Cooper featuring Axl Rose, Slash & Izzy Stradlin from Guns N' Roses
  2. "Bathroom Wall" - Faster Pussycat
  3. "Cradle to the Grave" - Motörhead
  4. "You Can Run But You Can't Hide" - Armored Saint
  5. "Born to Be Wild" - Lizzy Borden
  6. "In My Darkest Hour" - Megadeth
  7. "Prophecy" - Queensrÿche
  8. "The Brave" - Metal Church
  9. "Foaming at the Mouth" - Rigor Mortis
  10. "Colleen" - Seduce


  1. ^ Kilmister, Lemmy (2002), White line fever : the autobiography, London u.a.: Pocket Books, p. 210,  
  2. ^ VH1 Heavy: The Story of Metal official website
  3. ^ Hunter, Seb (2005), Hell bent for leather : confessions of a heavy metal addict, London: Harper Perennial,  
  4. ^ 1999 A.V.Club interview with Spheeris

External links

  • The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years
  • The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years at AllMovie
  • The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years at the Internet Movie Database