Wednesday, January 04, 2006

some kind of monster

i'll start this by saying that i'm not a metallica fan. have never dug their music. so why use netflix rentals for the documentary "some kind of monster", which details the making of metallica's "st. anger" album? because the reviews were pretty good and i have some experience in the music biz, including in the studio and dealing with fucked up band dynamics.

i'd read the stories about how hetfield and ulrich were major assholes -- control freaks who didn't let kirk hammett or jason newstead have much in the way of creative input, how they mercilessly hazed newstead after he took over for the dead cliff burton. if you read the rock press you read the 'alcoholica' stories, you read about the groupies. ulrich makes news going after napster. but you also read about an incredibly successful band.

so it's quite a shock that the movie starts with conflict, newstead leaving the band just before they commence recording what would become "st. anger". also, the band has brought in a $40K/month life-performance coach to help them with their issues. the sessions begin with nothing demoed, evidently a departure for them. but hey, they're rich, they can afford to dick around in the studio. also, the plan is for everyone to contribute both musically and lyrically, again a new thing.

the sessions aren't yielding much but fighting between hetfield and ulrich, with hammett playing his usual peace-maker. after a particularly bad fight, hetfield storms out of the studio. he doesn't come back for a year, going into rehab. upon his return the band slog thru recording and finish. they also hire a new bass player, rob trujillo, from ozzy osbourne's band.

the crux of the film is not the artistic process itself, but the interplay between the art and personal reconciliation. simply put, these guys have major issues in how they deal with each other. their lives having come to a crossroads of age {they're all at or near 40} and their material wealth great and musical legacy strong, they need to find out how to be challenged to create and how to get out of the dysfunctional rut that will keep them from moving forward artistically.

there are some powerful scenes from therapy sessions and meeting, scenes that make the viewer feel like an intruder. but they resonate with real pain and emotion. notable is a meeting between dave mustaine and lars ulrich. mustaine, kicked out of the band almost 20 years ago, *still* harbors major resentment towards hetfield and ulrich for the way they dumped him {though he acknowledges he deserved it, given his alchoholism..which is saying something considering how much these guys drank}. despite that mustaine's band megadeath sold millions and millions of records, he still acts like a wounded child, his self-esteem stuck at being measured in terms of his relationship to metallica's success and that he wasn't there for it.

hetfield's post-rehab change is remarkable -- he emerges as this sensitive, caring family man who openly professes love for his bandmates. the directors do a great job of developing his character.

it's a layered and complex film about real relationships. and from experience i know that being in a band is very much like a marriage or other romantic relationship. you put so much of yourself out there, you're so vulnerable and the only ting that keeps you going is your trust in your partner{s}.

so get the movie. make sure to also get the bonus disc {shipped separately if via netflix}. it's an amazing piece of work. this non-fan still doesn't like metallica's music that much, but i came away with a fair amount of respect for them, in the sense that they embarked on a risky path of personal and artistic change, and doubled that risk by letting cameras chronicle every minute.

No comments: