Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Apocalypse: Metallica Through the Never

Originally posted on Letterboxd

I find it a little bit odd that my two favourite bands (Metallica, Bikini Kill) from my teenage years ended up getting films made about them in 2013 (the other being The Punk Singer). My relationship with Metallica is a lot less complicated than the one I have with Bikini Kill. It basically comes down to the fact that I always thought their music kicked ass, and as juvenile as it sounds that's still pretty much the crux of my relationship with Metallica. There was a time when I was so heavily into the band that I listened to Master of Puppets daily. My relationship has since cooled, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the sheer absurdity of Metallica's Apocalypse Concert film Through The Never.

During the first few minutes of Through the Never I thought for sure this was going to be nearly cringe worthy. I mean Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield drives by in a car that shoots flames out the back, a rabid Metallica fan arrives at the show first and starts screaming the band's name at the top of his lungs, and Bassist Robert Trujillo literally is playing bass in a room with vibrations coming off the walls that it distorts the image. Then something came to me. I'm watching a concert film about Metallica and they have NEVER been a subtle band, and once I actually started to go along with some of the more bizarre narrative moments I settled into the groove of what the film was trying to do and that's represent the spirit/attitude and imagery of a live Metallica show. Much like the way 200 Motels would represent the filmic version of what Frank Zappa's music sounded like Through The Never does the same for Metallica. It's in your face, brash, and very straightforward.

However, the concert itself is where I think most of the strength of the picture lies. They recreate some of their albums covers on stage and even go back through some of their greatest hits of stage antics (the flaming man who ruins the stage is taken from 1996's Cunning Stunts and Lady Justice falling apart was a staple of their ...And Justice For All tour in the late 80s). It's always fascinating to watch and never feels like four guys just playing on stage. They definitely perform with the intentions of the stage show being as great as the music they perform and that was an admirable decision. Nimrod Antal also keeps the show interesting in the way he shoots the band. His framing is way above par for the home video releases of the previous concert films the band has released and also injects some nice visual moments into the picture. One moment of hazy red lighting from above casting a warmness over Hetfield as he stands between each cymbal on the left and right side of the drum set was an especially strong image, and probably the finest visual moment at hand.

I think this is best suited for fans of the band, but there is probably enough here to keep non fans interested for 90 minutes. The concert always looks dazzling and the band has been performing long enough that they know how to work an audience. They have a level of professionalism that only comes with performing live for 30 years, and it shows in just how appreciative they seem of their audience while still being as aggressive as they can be in their middle age. This is a band still at the zenith of their popularity making a movie that they probably all wished they could have made when they were 16 years old, and I find that youthful charm to be refreshing after the self seriousness of Some Kind of Monster. These are still basically the same guys who recorded Kill 'Em All, and it's only fitting that when all the dust settles and all the story ends it's just four guys sitting in a room playing, because they've always been a band that prides themselves on the music they create whether people love it or hate it, and I'm sure they feel that same pride about this film.

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