A Band Called Death - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

A Band Called Death Reviews

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June 9, 2014
Its the story of these people that makes this documentary shine. The filmmaking is decent but not groundbreaking. However, if its any note about how exciting this story is from a musical standpoint, I went out and bought the album that same night.
½ May 2, 2014
The loveable warmth with which "A Band Called Death" paints the titular proto-punk rockers is both the film's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The Hackney brothers are charming and wonderful and listening to them tell stories from their youth feels like hearing from an old friend. On the other hand, their deceased brother and de-facto leader David is portrayed in such a sanitized manner that the whole thing ends up feeling a bit sugarcoated. Even David's wife barely registers as a source of insight, and it feels like we're missing the big picture as the ugly stuff like alcoholism and depression gets mere lip service in favor of highlighting David's almost prophetic wisdom and talent.

Still, the story of the Hackney brothers and their resurgence is quite remarkable and makes for an entertaining and uplifting documentary.
½ April 14, 2014
I don't have their recently released album (recorded in 1975) but the three African-American brothers who made up the Detroit band, Death, sure have an interesting tale to tell, even for the uninitiated. Stigmatized in their hometown for liking hard rock and taking it to a punk level, the band made no headway at all in the early 70s and basically gave up by the 1980. David, the lead guitarist and creative spark lost his way and the rhythm section morphed into a low-profile reggae band. We learn this in the first 50 minutes or so. Then, a pretty amazing tale of record collectors discovering their rare 45 (which sold for $800 on ebay), Drag City records (home of Royal Trux, Pavement, etc) stepped into release the never heard master tapes to the album, and then most amazingly, the band reformed without (now deceased) David and toured. The kids of the brothers even formed a sort of tribute band and toured with them. So, this becomes a story about memory/nostalgia/melancholy for the past, the effects of 35 years under your belt, and then the power to grasp the bull by the horns.
½ April 6, 2014
An interesting story and documentary at most.
March 22, 2014
Can't wait to get my hands on a Death record
½ March 12, 2014
I adored this movie the first time I watched it, but when forced to watch it a second time that love greatly decreased. A Band Called Death covers the whole emotional spectrum and that is what makes this movie so wonderful. The Hackney brothers, no joke, might be the coolest punk rockers to ever walk this planet.
March 12, 2014
A great music documentary. To properly review it would be unfair...just watch it!
½ March 5, 2014
A Band Called Death (Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett, 2012)

If you are still somehow half-convinced that there is justice in the record industry, and that what you hear on the radio is the cream of the crop from among the many thousands of submissions to record companies, here is the movie that will finally show you what things are really like. In the early to mid-seventies, Death, a band formed by three African-American brothers in the slums of Detroit, toiled in perfect obscurity for five years. They released one 7" single and recorded the masters for an album; they had been signed to Arista, and things were looking up. But then, the album never got released because Arista's A&R guy had a problem with the band's name, which guitarist David Hackney refused to change. As a result, Death were never heard outside one Detroit rock station who briefly played the single the boys had self-released, and they became a footnote in rock history that no one referenced... until 2008, when a copy of the band's 7" showed up on an Atlanta music blog, and all the sudden the Internet realized that these were the guys who invented punk. Before the Ramones, before the Pistols, there was Death, and they made some of the best punk rock you will ever hear.

But, as surviving members Bobby and Dannis Hackney explain (David died of lung cancer in 2000), being an all-black punk band in Detroit in the seventies meant you didn't fit anywhere. The white kids in Detroit were doing proto-punk (think Iggy here) and metal (Alice Cooper), but the black kids were Motown, Motown, and more Motown. And both of those worlds were turning out amazing music, but the idea of anyone crossing that line, well, that didn't work for anyone but David Hackney, and when he did, he didn't do Alice Cooper, he didn't do the Vandellas, and he didn't combine the two, he came up with something entirely different. (Though it should be noted that David, later in his career, would release a solo single whose B side is called "I'll Be Your Doggie". That can't be a coincidence.) And the band killed it. You will hear the samples of their music in this movie and you will most likely be as amazed as I am that this music went unheard for three decades. Death should have been rock and roll royalty.

There are inevitable comparisons to be made with Last Days Here, though the boys in Death didn't have nearly as far to go when coming back into the spotlight; they still play music, when not working on Death, in a Vermont-based reggae band called Lambsbread. None of them took Bobby Liebling's express train to self-abuse, so when interest in the band reignited, in no small part thanks to Bobby's own sons (who, without knowing anything about Death, had formed a Bad Brains cover band in the nineties; punk does run in that family indeed), the surviving members were primed and ready for a comeback. And that is covered here, and it is as triumphant as you know it's going to be, but the real value in this film is the incredible history lesson these guys, and those around them, tell. The people who did become rock and roll royalty (or who should have, like the Dirtbombs) are all here singing Death's well-deserved praises, along with some other folks (Elijah Wood?) and talking about the climate of the time for those who weren't around, and for those of us who were around but too young to be dialed into the music world yet. (In 1973 I still thought my parents' Ferrante and Teicher albums were the bomb. But then I was also five years old.) This is about as perfect as documentary filmmaking gets-the guys behind the camera just get out of the way and let the people in front of the camera talk about the things they know and love the best, and the result is pure and utter magic. This is a guaranteed entry on my Best I Saw list in 2014. **** 1/2
February 24, 2014
This girl who loves punk absolutely loved this. Had never heard of this band. What a story of resurrection of a group!
February 23, 2014
A compelling & enjoyable doc about a fabulous pro-punk band called, Death. The first punk band, & a must see for punk-rock lovin' fans!
½ February 22, 2014
Excellent documentary. Such a great, loving family. The music they made was awesome, and ahead of their time. It's a shame everyone is just now finding out about them. It would have been great if they could have made more music together.
February 14, 2014
This is an excellent documentary for a number of reasons. My favorite part about it is that DEATH was the rawest punk band that ever existed, before punk existed. They weren't about anything other than rocking loud. It was pure noise and it was glorious. And the thing that sparked all of it was their faith. I love how the first punk band were Christian dudes who just loved rock and made it to make it. The film does a great job of highlighting that without being too heavy handed. I recommend this film to anybody who loves music and art.
½ February 10, 2014
Mejor que Sugarman o la historia de Anvil, en cuanto a reconocimiento musical tardio.
February 9, 2014
Really enjoyed this look into a forgotten gem of a band
February 6, 2014
85% of the movie: Brothers say uninteresting facts then laugh warmly.
15% of the movie: Too bad the interesting guy in this band died!
½ February 4, 2014
As a documentary it's pretty rote, and the Hackney brothers just aren't very interesting, but I love that Death record so damn much I still found it an enjoyable watch.
February 2, 2014
A true punk-rockumentary of a band of three Detroit brothers who were punk before there was punk.
½ January 23, 2014
A very well together documentary that shows the struggles of an unknown band.
January 23, 2014
Such a great documentary. If you consider yourself a music then this is a must see.
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