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Brian Neely's review of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

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Brian Neely's commentary on Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Review Copyright Brian Neely, 2004

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Directed by: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Genre: Documentary
Official site: http://www.somekindofmonster.com

You want to make Lars Ulrich uncomfortable? Ask him about his feelings. Ask him, with Torben, his dad, standing next to him, what influence his dad's interest in music had on him. Have Dave Mustaine ask him how it might feel to be the guy who was kicked out of Metallica. Ask him about Napster, and more specifically, how he handled the whole affair.

More than being about Metallica surviving the recording of St. Anger, Some Kind of Monster is about Lars surviving group therapy with the band. Not to mention James Hetfield's long struggle through a rehab facility, Jason Newsted leaving the band because of the therapy (it was lame bullshit, according to Newsted), the whole Napster explosion and allowing band members to critique each other's performance in the studio.

Before you read further, you should know that I'm part of the Metallica army. I've been listening to them for 20 years, and I believe I understand most of what they have tried to accomplish in their music. I have all of their albums except And Justice for All and Live Sh*t: Binge & Purge. I think St. Anger is the most progressive and heaviest wide release metal album since Master of Puppets. And I couldn't careless about Napster.

Some Kind of Monster opens with a montage showing live performances of Seek and Destroy from the earliest days with Mustaine in 1981 through the 2001 tour. It was interesting as a long-time fan to hear the song change as bass players changed, the boys aged and mellowed, and Hetfield's voice deepened and lost some range.

The movie then tracks them as they record St. Anger and come to realize through a $40,000-per-month group therapist that they've become different people. The therapy sessions encourage them, as such endeavors do, to express their feelings, feelings about those feelings, how it felt to feel the others' feelings and so on. In other words, lame bullshit. As they work with Phil (not Oprah's Phil), you can see them go through discomfort, and occasionally they look at the camera as if to apologize for making their fans watch this.

But the therapy does what it needs to do. It takes this group of stunted 18-year-olds in their early 40's and grows them up. Partly as a result of the therapy, Hetfield checks himself into rehab, leaving the band for 9 months, Kirk Hammett gets to write lyrics for the new album and Lars meets with Dave Mustaine for the first time since handing him a bus ticket in 1982.

For me, the best part of the movie was watching that meeting. Megadeth, the band Mustaine formed after leaving Metallica, has sold something in the neighborhood of 15-20 million albums, they've written some of the heaviest, fastest, yet most insightful, metal of the last 20 years, but Mustaine asked Lars to imagine how it must feel to be a failure for all that. He wanted to know why the band didn't tell him he needed to quit drinking instead of handing him a bus ticket. He asked Lars to imagine getting compared unfavorably to Kirk Hammett, who replaced Mustaine in the band, for 20 years. Lars' efforts to listen to and understand Mustaine were an impressive testament to his desire to take the therapy seriously.

Too often, examinations of rock bands come from outside, with filmmakers more interested in sensationalistic stories about drug abuse, violence and turmoil. Some Kind of Monster is about Metallica's evolving view of itself. The language is coarse, there's plenty of references to alcohol and drug abuse, and the band members yelling at each other. The atmosphere, though, is that of a family suddenly realizing they need something. They aren't sure what just yet, but they'll build a Frankenstein's Monster that suits them.


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