Published Jan 01, 2006Sometime in early 2001, Metallica and their crew holed up in a converted barracks in San Francisco's Presidio and set out towards recording their ninth album, St. Anger. Along for the ride were Phil Towles, a "performance-enhancement coach" (read: therapist) hired by their management team to teach the band to "treasure every moment," and documentary filmmakers Bruce Sinofsky and Joel Berlinger.
Best known for investigating the vagaries of the justice system (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost), Berlinger and Sinofsky set out to film a standard rockumentary but instead stumbled into the belly of a very different beast. Wracked by alcohol abuse and internal tensions, Some Kind Of Monster chronicles how a band on the verge of collapse manages to dismantle and build itself up again piece by ugly piece, and in so doing transcends its genre and becomes something uniquely its own.
It takes a while for the film to find its bearings but it becomes abundantly clear once lead singer James Hetfield disappears into rehab that the band is "in a bit of a shit sandwich," as drummer Lars Ulrich so succinctly puts it. Ulrich and Hetfield, the band's founding members, have been together for the better part of two decades and though married with young children, behave like a couple themselves: bored and dissatisfied with each other, and bickering at the slightest provocation.
It doesn't help that their bassist of 15 years, Jason Newsted, has left the band amid complaints of a stifling creative environment; or that their other remaining member, Kirk Hammett, comes across as a frightened child who spends much of his time wondering why mommy and daddy fight so much. Enter Towles, a pastel sweater-wearing therapist who for $40,000 a week gets the band to share their feelings in group-style session and say phrases like: "What I am hearing you say is "
Reaching the core of Some Kind of Monster requires wading through a mosh pit of psychobabble and it is a feat that would send the most heartened therapy veteran screaming from the couch. But the simple fact is that everyone appears foolish in therapy and you have to give the guys props for having the guts to appear silly for the cameras.
"The way I learned how to love things," Hetfield admits at one point, "was just to choke them to death"; it's a candid admission from a guy who ten years ago was urging us to "enter night, exit light." Appearing silliest of all, however, is Ulrich, who at one point, parlays what little post-Napster fan credibility he has left by selling his artwork for untold millions, all in the guise of "getting a fresh start." Whatever. (Capri)