January 31, 2005 -- “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” is a penetrating look inside the psyche of a troubled rock band. Directors Joe Berlinger (“Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”) and Bruce Sinofsky obtain unprecedented access to the band, even filming group therapy sessions in which band members try to patch up conflicts which are threatening to tear the band apart. Berlinger and Sinofsky first met Metallica when they used the band's music as a soundtrack for their film “Paradise Lost.”
“Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” is an overlong, but interesting documentary of heavy metal band Metallica which finds the band working on its first new album (St. Anger) in five years, followed by its first concert tour in three years. Personality conflicts within the band make it nearly impossible for the band to work together. A music coach, Phil Towle, is brought in to facilitate group therapy sessions to get the band musically and emotionally back on track.
In addition to interviews with all of the band members, the record producer, managers and others, several former Metallica members are also interviewed. One of them, Dave Mustaine, who went on to be a founding member of Megadeth, confronts the current Metallica band leader about the way he was treated by the band. This and other scenes underscore the basic insecurity that haunts even the most successful musicians. One Metallica member talks openly about his fear that the wellspring of his musical inspiration has dried up.
A fascinating look behind the scenes, it also gives us a glimpse of the business side of the record industry. Access obtained by the filmmakers extends to the recording sessions and other creative meetings held by the band. While you never quite forget that the camera does change the behavior of the people it captures, the film reveals a lot of layers under the surface of Metallica. The filmmakers themselves appear on camera, arguing with band members who would rather just stop the film.
One of the inside-the-band scenes in the film has bass player Jason Newsted leaving the band. Another is the audition and hiring of Newsted's replacement, bassist Robert Trujillo, who joined the band in 2003. Lead singer James Hetfield takes a leave of absence from the band to enter treatment for drug addiction. Other scenes capture the band trying a new, collaborative process for writing new music. Previously, Hetfield had written all the lyrics for Metallica songs. I thought it was interesting that when Metallica finally does get on stage for their tour at the end of the film, they don't use their own music for the introduction. Instead, they use some Ennio Morricone music from a Sergio Leone western movie. Weird. This film rates a C+.
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