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Published January 1st, 2004 | by Adrian Mackinder

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster Review

Classification: 15 Director: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky Rating: 4/5

What started out initially as a simple behind the scenes documentary following the largest metal band in the world ever as they record their first original studio album in six years accidentally mutated into a fascinating and revealing insight into the life of a hugely successful band in crisis – a group of talented musicians beset on all sides by strained relationship, substance addiction and all sorts of control freakery, all the while trying to re-assert themselves as the largest metal band in the world ever despite the undeniable fact that they are all forty years old and are wondering whether, to quote Sgt. Roger Murtaugh, they’re “too old for this shit”.

Over the course of its 140 minutes filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky take us through a frantic three years in which Metallica are forced to abort the recording of their St Anger album following the departure of bassist Jason Newsted and relations between the existing band members begin to disintegrate. The record label executives realise what a valuable asset this multi-platinum selling band are to their coffers and so they enlist the help of ‘performance coach’ Phil Towle, replete with massive stripy jumpers and embarrassingly clichéd psychotherapeutic inanities, to engage the feuding members in group therapy.

However, when all-powerful front man and main creative force James Hetfield he checks into rehab for over a year to defeat his long term alcoholism, the remaining two – arrogant motormouth drummer Lars Ulrich and nice but feebly non-confrontational lead guitarist Kirk Hammett – have to rethink exactly what the future holds in store. When Hetfield returns he is a changed man, but although he has cast out many of his personal demons, issues that have materialised over years of working with the other members of Metallica still remain to be resolved before they can successfully work together as a band.

The great thing about this absorbing documentary is that you don’t have to be a fan of the band, or indeed the genre to appreciate and enjoy it’s hugely enlightening account of the music industry and what drives musicians to succeed within what is such a fickle and demanding industry. Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster is also very, very funny in places and it does at times resemble Spinal Tap; sometimes the laughs are deliberate and other times they come at the band’s expense. Although over two hours long, its running time never seems to prove too long and thanks to choice editing by Berlinger and Sinofsky, the film never outstays its welcome. Overall this is possibly the most painfully honest rockumentary ever made and credit must go to the bravery of the band for allowing the cameras to continue rolling as egos collide and emotions are stripped bare, a trait uncharacteristic of all the macho posturing that goes along with the metal music scene!

The Extras

You certainly get value for money with this DVD. Along with multiple commentaries by filmmakers and members of the band, there are promotional material and music videos. However, unlike most DVDs, the deleted scenes are the pick of the special features as there are so many of them – 28 in total – you effectively a whole new version of the film to watch!

As you’d expect from a documentary that covers three years, there would be a wealth of deleted scenes, but what is refreshing to see is that these are on many occasions just as interesting as those scenes that made the final cut. Obviously it was simply a case of necessity that meant these moments fell on the cutting room floor. Highlights include more auditions for the coveted role of new bassist and the first live appearance of Metallica featuring producer Bob Rock filling in on bass and who can’t stop grinning like a buffoon throughout the performance, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band, who have obviously made a serious commitment to the God of Rock; fans will also be pleased to see an extended version of Lars Ulrich’s frank and emotional confrontation with Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who was fired from Metallica for his alcoholism in the early eighties and who obviously never got over it. Quite simply, this is an essential purchase for any fan, but even if you’re not and find the whole heavy metal thing a bit well, ridiculous, there is plenty on display here that will interest and entertain you nonetheless.

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