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Film | Some Kind Of Monster

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Poster for "Some Kind of Monster"So, last night I put down my knitting, switched on SBS and watched Some Kind of Monster, a documentary on the making of Metallica’s album, St Anger. But the only monster in this film is also the white elephant – the record industry. In fact, I believe it’s the one about to devour the four band members in the promo poster to your right.

Their eighth album, St Anger, followed a six-year production break and bassist Jason Newsted’s departure. Directed by first-timers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the film was intended to document the album’s production.

What ensues, though, is something quite unexpected. You see, a lot has happened in six years and, combined with Newsted’s departure, stints in rehab and mid-life crises, the three remaining band members are quite the dysfunctional bunch. So psychotherapist cum “performance-enhancing coach” Phil Towle is brought in to help the trio work through their differences so they can get on with the job of producing another album stroke comeback.

The documentary oscillates between the studio and the therapy couch. There are some interesting insights into each of them and it doesn’t take long to work out the dynamic. Lead vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich are constantly locked into a power struggle, while Kirk Hammett plays lapdog to Hetfield.

There’s only so long I can listen to relationship counselling and 2½ hours is not it. After a while it all got a bit repetitive watching Hetfield hold onto his emotional fortress, Ulrich whine and bang his head against it, and Hammett look like he’s about to cry. I totally embrace men softening up to their inner child and emotions, but this was all too much. And the documentary does offer a glimpse into how men-who-grunt deal (or don’t deal) with emotions.

The thing is I couldn’t help feel these guys were being used. Not by the directors but by the record label. The therapist wasn’t brought in to help the three work through their differences. He was brought in so they could “tap into their [collective] creative genius” and thus produce an album that the millions of Metallica fans out there would purchase (well … maybe not purchase per se). To me, that sounded downright exploitative.

The basic flaw with the therapy was that it wasn’t designed to help them. It was designed to help the sales. Some kind of monster, eh?!

I just wanted to see them all do their own thing and enjoy life. Hammett with his surfing, Hetfield with his family and Ulrich with his art.

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Written by Darren Smith

13 January 2010 at 8:09 pm

One Response

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  1. […] one band documentary to another – this time it’s Blur. No Distance Left To Run: A Film About Blur premiered […]


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