Metallica - Some Kind Of Monster DVD
Paramount
Metallica!
1 songs (1:40:00)
Release year: 2005
Metallica
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Watching Some Kind Of Monster, whether with or without the band’s frankly boring commentary, it soon becomes clear just what an epic tale this was, like something one of the Greek classicists or Shakespeare might have come up with. Tragedy after tragedy rocks the beleaguered Metallica boat, wince-inducing and unbelievable, as the band seem less and less like Metal legends and more and more like the real, everyday people they are. For example, as much as I detest Lars Ulrich’s drumming, it’s hard not to like him – or at least like him more – when seen out of the confines of Metallica, and the ‘Lar$’ persona that arose from suing Napster. From his clear passion for modern art, which I personally identified with, to the moment when his children interrupt an interview – the loving exasperation is clear and more moving than any of the band’s studio fall-outs.

Few, if any, finish the film looking particularly good. Where producer and temporary bassist Bob Rock at first questions the band, such as Lars’ mid-therapy ‘everyone contributes to everything’ idea (your face will be nestled snugly in your palm, too!) he soon turns into a spineless sycophant, praising the frankly crap lyrics as thought they were the work of Wordsworth instead of, well, Metallica. He does redeem himself later with his criticism of the therapist, however. Speaking of Phil Towle, being a psychiatrist obviously makes him the odd one out in a film full of musicians and industry people, and where at first he seems to be helping the band confront their feelings, later he becomes a nuisance and it’s a great relief that by the end of the film relations between him and the band (Lars and James especially) have cooled off considerably.

Jason Newsted features but twice, but I personally felt he was right to leave – even though the issue, his side-project Echobrain, turns out to be frankly a pile of shit, James was being ridiculously controlling by not letting him work on it, and the decision to bring in the therapist was indeed ‘fucking lame and weak’. He gets his own back, of course, not just by joining Canadian legends Voivod but also in one scene in the film where he skips out on meeting Lars and Kirk after Echobrain’s first gig. Another former member, Dave Mustaine, is clearly upset about his treatment, and as he says, getting years of taunts from fans of Metallica after their success and Megadeth’s number two status – if that – is hard to live with. He may come over as rather whiny, but considering that his band has been living in the shadow of Metallica for years whilst in many ways surpassing them musically, you are sympathetic with him.

As for the actual members of Metallica, well… Kirk loves the creative ‘freedom’ given to him by Lars and James, happily gurgling about ‘streams of consciousness’ and ‘creative wavelengths’ and other stock new-age bullshit like a retard given a chicken head to play with. That later in the film he sits on the sideline whimpering whilst Lars and James go at each other doesn’t fit whatever image I had of him previously as, y’know, the lead guitarist in a Thrash Metal band, and overall he comes off the worst of all simply because of this; sitting there like a battered wife whilst the men of the house fight. His comment about feeling left out of the decision making-process for the last fifteen years is completely ignored by the others, and the one issue he gets remotely angry about – the lack of guitar solos – is so flash-in-the-pan that it’s hard to believe it happens.

James, James, James… from cringeworthy ‘singing’ – he must take millions of takes to actually record vocals, my god – that makes his own kids cry (with names like Castor, they’re almost guaranteed a life of drug-filled misery as celebrity children) to going and hunting bears on a vodka-soaked holiday in Russia, the early stages of the film do not paint him well, but you’ll be cursing his name by the end. His god-awful ‘temptation’ lyrics might be a needed psychological release, but they’re even more moronic than the usual drivel that falls out of his mouth. Fine, Metallica have never been masters of the written word, but at least in the early days they had the riffs to make you forget what you were hearing. Entering rehab may have been a good move for him, but it turned him from James Hetfield as singer and guitarist for Metallica into a complete… asshole, I guess the word is. After nearly a year away, whether all spent in rehab or not, he comes back and immediately changes the rules, questioning the future of the documentary, limiting his time in the studio to just four hours a day, becoming a family man…

James always seems interested in all of the discussions and therapy that the band go through; in marked contrast to Lars who looks extremely bored a lot of the time. Whilst he is at first enthusiastic, even about the therapist, he soon gets combative, telling James his guitar playing is ‘stock’ and trying to introduce a little experimentation into his drum playing. Yes, he’s crap at it, but at least he’s trying. When with his father (Torben, the coolest Dad that anyone could wish for; completely aware that what’s being created in the studio is rubbish) there’s an obviously respectful relationship between them that’s quite inspiring, and in marked contrast to the almost invisible relationship between Hetfield and his family. Always, Lars is much more articulate and seems more intelligent than James, which might just be his outgoing, dare I say European, style, but he definitely comes across better as a result. His ‘fuck!’ speech is a highlight of the film, accusing James of being selfish and self-absorbed before releasing his anger, not via rehab or shooting bears, but a single yelled word in James’ face. Later moments, such as when he’s arguing with Towle, are cheer-worthy, and even though the whole Napster issue is bought up, he’s still stubborn about it, bless.

There are moments when you see what the band was and what the band hopefully now is again with Death Magnetic out, moments such as fan appreciation day when Metallica comes together to present a unified face to the people that love them, such as the rebellious and sweary radio ad, such as the hunt for bass players. Speaking of that, it’s interesting the range of people that turn up, including Scott Reeder (of Unida and Kyuss), Twiggy Ramirez (A Perfect Circle, Marilyn Manson), Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity, Down) and ultimately Robert Trujillo (Ozzy, Suicidal Tendencies) who was chosen to join the band. Not that you can blame him, after being offered $1 million to join Metallica immediately, with a percentage of future earnings… hell, I’d join Nickleback for a tenth of that!

The documentary ends with St Anger being a commercial success, and a brief shot of the band opening a stadium tour. It would be good to someday have a full, career-length look at the band – there was some Metallica-era studio footage that I’d have loved to see more of – and another live DVD would be nice, considering there’s only one (not counting the DVD release of S&M) at the moment. Interestingly, the second disc is full of great deleted scenes, my favourite being Lars getting pissy at not knowing about Kirk’s Hawaiian-themed birthday party. What Some Kind Of Monster is ultimately about, however, is the change in James and Lars’ reaction to it, with Hetfield coming to accept that he is no longer the wild man of Thrash as before and must now be a loving husband and father. St Anger was a midlife crisis, and Some Kind Of Monster is the visual accompaniment to that, with Death Magnetic being the result of a band comfortable with their change in lifestyles – if less personal in its writing.

Don’t buy this for the hyped ‘band falling apart’ conflicts which are rarer and more subtle than most realise, but do get it for not just an intriguing glimpse into how a great band can release such a poor album, but also for a look at Metal reaching middle age, and how rebelling against that can result in calamity. For such a young genre, the future is open, after all; who can predict what form Metal will take in another twenty years? Some Kind Of Monster is an advance warning, the Inconvenient Truth of Metal if you like, as to what happens when people who play such rebellious music get old, and as such is vital viewing for all, fans of the band or not.

Killing Songs :
n/a
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Metallica that we have reviewed:
Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Metallica - Ride the Lightning reviewed by Adam and quoted CLASSIC
Metallica - Reload reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 62 / 100
Metallica - The Videos 1989-2004 DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Metallica - Metallica reviewed by James and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 15 reviews click here
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