If names like Beat-Man, The Dead Brothers, or The Monsters don’t immediately bring to mind rock and roll gods, well, you’re not alone. These underground legends, as well as many others, are all the focus of this music documentary. Voodoo Rhythm is a Swiss record label that specializes in “primitive” rock and roll. Primitive in this case meaning simple, non-intellectual, raw, and emotional rock. “Voodoo Rhythm” serves as an introduction to this music scene through interviews and electrifying live performances.
The ringleader of this motley crew is Reverend Beat-Man. He started the record label and inspired many of its artists through his work with his main band The Monsters and later with his one man band. When describing how he got into rock and roll music he says, quite seriously, that he saw Satan and that Satan said if he wanted to be a rock and roll star he would have to come with him. After giving him three days to make up his mind, Satan returned but Beat-Man said he would rather pave his own way, and he’s never seen Satan since. So, yeah, the guy’s a character.
After Beat-Man the movie moves down the list of Voodoo Rhythm artists and this is where it runs into some trouble. The movie quickly falls into a pattern of interview, performance, interview, performance, and so on. Now, while the interviews are mostly entertaining and the performances almost always riveting, the lack of any central thread causes you to lose interest after a while.
The movie is just a bit too much. It would have been better to focus on a few key members of the scene and really examine them. Where did they come from? Why do they make music? There are some very compelling personalities on display here but they are ushered out of the way too quickly to make way for the next band. It’s a bit like an all-day music festival where each band gets a 20 minute set. Sure, you’re getting more bang for your buck but its nowhere near as satisfying as seeing a great band control the stage for an hour and a half.
So, as an introduction to the genre it falls a bit short. By overloading you with information it actually ends up alienating you. However, the music on display here really is something to see and hear. It’s the kind of no frills, bare bones rock that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.