Monday, January 24, 2005

Dr Phil meets Metallica

From the Green Left Weekly

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
By Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky


Heavy metal legends Metallica on the couch with Dr Phil? Well, not quite, but Berlinger and Sinofsky’s documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is just as regrettable as any Dr Phil episode.

Metallica is widely credited with founding heavy metal music as it is known today. They delivered four classic albums during the 1980s — Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightening, Master of Puppets and ... And Justice For All — all instant cult releases of blistering riff-a-rama, fast heavy drum beats and aggressive singing.

Then something changed. The 1990s brought a new and improved Metallica. Fans deserted in droves as the band shed the customary long hair and denim jackets and began softening their musical approach.

In 2000, fans were further disappointed when drummer Lars Ulrich testified in US Congress against song-swapping website Napster for costing the multi-million-dollar band royalties.

Berlinger and Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster casts light on the modern Metallica, and a monster is exactly what’s revealed.

Here’s the story: Metallica is in the studio attempting to record a new album — their first in five years — and their bass player of 15 years, Jason Newstead, has just quit the band. Personal and creative differences divide the three remaining members, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett, who are also at an all-time creative low. At the behest of their managers, Metallica does what any rock band would do in the situation — they enter group therapy. In the middle of the therapy/recording process, guitarist/vocalist Hetfield enters rehab for several months leaving the new album — St Anger — on ice.

The therapy process, led by $40,000-a-month “therapist/performance enhancement coach” Phil Towle, is farcical. One wonders if he is really a qualified therapist, as he and the band members engage in over two hours of pop-psych drivel, discussing their feelings to the point of dysfunctional absurdity.

It is clear from the get-go that the reason they can’t get it together enough to record the damn album is that there is no longer a creative reason for the existence of the band. So why do they persist? The band members themselves reveal the answer — Metallica is big business. The members, as well as their parasitical hangers-on (such as their managers, record company and therapist), all have a stake in the existence of the monster.

The creative dead-end is prevalent. The band turns up to record without a single song written. It’s painful to watch them sit around trying to concoct new material. Hetfield jams second-rate riffs and writes meaningless end-rhyme lyrics. Sometimes the others try to contribute. Hilariously, even therapist Towle writes some of the lyrics.

How did Metallica get to be like this? Berlinger and Sinofsky’s documentary provides many clues. We hear of Hetfield and Hammett’s hundreds of expensive guitars, see Hammett at his California ranch, watch Hetfield burn down roads in expensive cars and motorbikes, while Ulrich parades his private art collection worth millions of dollars. That’s right — they’re filthy rich.

After 140 minutes enduring these spoilt brats’ narcissism, psychobabble, power-tripping, greed and creative boredom, one can only agree with ex-bass player Newstead’s comment on hearing of the band’s entry into therapy: “This is lame. This is fucking lame and weak”. Indeed.


At September 26, 2005 at 1:46 PM, Blogger Joshy said...

I really liked the info on your site about Metallica - nice work. I've just started my own Metallica Secrets blog and would really appreciate you stopping by

At November 8, 2005 at 8:54 AM, Blogger jennygirlyx said...


At July 31, 2007 at 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is an outstanding piece of work on Metallica Corporation.

It's difficult to reconcile how a band that produced those first three albums can turn into this.

I'll still buy their albums, but it's more for curiosity to see what they're doing.


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