Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster

Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster

****

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

In early 2001, multi-million selling metal group Metallica reconvened to begin work on their next album. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were invited to document the process.

Between their 1981 formation and the 1991 release of the Black Album, Metallica had gone from just another LA garage band to arguably the biggest metal act in the world. Their steady rise was marked by both tragedy - the death of bassist Cliff Burton in a 1986 tour bus accident - and controversy, with long-term fans accusing the band of selling out by writing shorter, radio and MTV friendly material and abandoning the thrash idiom with which they had first made their mark.

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With 10 new fans coming on board for every one who abandoned them around this time - I must admit when I heard Enter Sandman on the radio, that was it as far as I was concerned - the band probably cared not a whit. Yet, as the decade wore on and a succession of lacklustre releases followed to mixed reviews and declining, albeit still formidable, sales the proverbial chickens came home to roost.

When their single, accompaning the film Mission Impossible II - you want sellout, you got it, baby - turned up on the file sharing service Napster in 2000, motormouth drummer Lars Ulrich decided to take action and swiftly became about the most hated and ridiculed figure in music, alienating the group's fanbase still further. It was the last straw for replacement bassist Jason Newsted who, fed up with still being treated as Jason Newguy some 14 years after taking up the post, quit.

So we join the remaining members of Metallica - Ulrich, rhythm guitarist/frontman James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett - in the studio with long-term producer and now fill-in bassist Bob Rock and a $40,000-a-month performance coach. How metal...

The music isn't coming together and Hetfield and Ulrich are at each others throats while the more laid back - and disconcertingly camp - Hammett keeps his head down.

After one spat Hetfield disappears, re-emerging with tales of hunting bear and drinking vodka in Russia. Then it's announced that he has alcohol and other undisclosed substance issues and checks into rehab.

The others soldier on without him, including a painful sit down session between Ulrich and original guitarist Dave Mustaine, who was kicked out for being an aggressive drunk and whose rival band Megadeth has only enjoyed a fraction of Metallica's success - even if most struggling musicians would likely still sell their souls to the horned one for Megadeth's none-too-shabby 15 million sales.

The months pass with little news from, or about, Hetfield. Then, finally, the frontman returns, clean but hardly serene. The future of not only the documentary but the band itself seems in doubt...

If there is one thing their 20 year history shows, it's that Metallica is a resilient beast. Slowly, painfully, issues are resolved and songs ground out. The resulting album, St Anger, showcases a harsher, more aggressive sound than has been evident for a long while. True, it's also devoid of the complexity and dynamics found on early classics, such as Master Of Puppets, but at least it wasn't another Selloutica...

Ironically, the best thing to have emerged from the whole process could well be Some Kind of Monster itself, for showing less "the majesty of rock" - you thought we were going to reach the end without a Spinal Tap reference? Sorry, not possible when we also have Ulrich's musings on his art collection to contend with - than the banal, yet ultimately far more inspirational, reality of flawed human beings, confronting their demons and getting down to (admittedly big money) business.

So, Kill Yr Idols and Kick Out The Jams...

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2004
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Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster packshot
The fall and rise of a veteran heavy metal band.
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Keith Hennessey Brown ****

Director: Joel Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

Starring: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Bob Rock, Jason Newsted, Robert Trujillo

Year: 2004

Runtime: 145 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2004

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