Powerful. Ethereal. Jaw-dropping.
These are just three adjectives which can be used to describe Metallica’s latest cinematic experience Metallica: Through the Never.
For those of you who are fans of the American heavy metal band, this will blow your socks off. Not only are you treated to what is undoubtedly one of the most impressive and elaborate live performances you will ever see, but there is also a surreal and fantastical sub-plot which accompanies their greatest hits.
For those of you aren’t, well this might just be the thing which tips you over the edge. I’m not talking about those of you who hate Metallica and metal music in general, and even so there are some interesting questions which need answering if you are paying for a ticket to a show you know you are going to hate. I’m talking about those people maybe know only a couple of songs, may never have seen them live and are there for the taking.
There is something about heavy metal music which seems to always be striving for more, as if the music itself is not enough to contain its soul. Every genre of music can paint a picture in your mind’s eye, whether it is Ben Howard’s conjuring of a perfect summer in Old Pine or Otis Redding’s vision at the dock of the bay, but in the case of Metallica and their body of work, a picture just will not suffice.
That is the beauty of music such as this. It is a primeval force of nature with the power to spellbind you no matter your normal musical preferences.
I honestly don’t believe that this could be achieved with any other band. Oh it could be done, but there is something about Metallica which transcends the archetype. They are more than just a collection of guitarists and a drummer – so much, much more. There is a special synergy which flows between them all, even though they spend most of their time far apart from each other on stage. Each is as integral to the whole as the other.
This is an imaginative and electrifying concert experience, and one which really needs to be experienced in IMAX. Even the 3D aspect, something which many are extremely sceptical of, is actually successfully integrated into the overall experience and you do find yourself fully immersed in this ocean of bone-crunching power with cathartic properties and magical qualities.
We are introduced to all four horseman of the apocalypse in spectacular fashion. James Hetfield’s flame-throwing, custom-made car roars on to the screen, followed by a wonderful little shot of Kirk Hammett remonstrating with a roadie over his literally bleeding guitar. Lars Ulrich strides past us as we enter the arena, pausing only to offer a truculent look, but the best by far is our first view of the MAGNIFICENT creature that is Robert Trujillo.
Seemingly penned-in by a wall of speakers, the walls of our perception begin to shake and distort as you come closer and closer. We are afforded a brief peek into the holding cell where Trujillo lopes around the space like something out of a Tolkien novel, delivering note after note of what feels like more than just bass – it is as if this is what bass would sound like played by Lucifer himself .
And that is what this film so magnificently accomplishes. It brings to the screen the themes and images which Metallica’s music has been conjuring in our minds for decades. It is a crashing amalgamation of opera and the apocalypse. There are coffins, electric chairs with simulated lightning, tombstones, gunfire and mortar explosions. A statue of Lady Justice is assembled piece by piece by heavy construction equipment and men in hard hats whilst the band continue to play, only for the whole thing to collapse and shatter on stage.
Being able to put on such a live performance is one thing, but filming it in a way which makes it accessible to an audience watching it on film is something else. The director’s use of the camera is astounding at times, and he never forgets what it is he is trying to achieve with this. When on stage the camera angles are so fantastically close that you can almost taste the sweat pouring off of Lars Ulrich as he thumps the skins, and then you are pulled all the way back to capture the full reaction of a sold-out arena as they chant and scream and crash and smash into each other.
Alongside all of this is the live-action fable which features Dane DeHann, a rising star following standout performances in Chronicle and The Place Beyond The Pines, roaming the streets in search of a mysterious object which the band desperately needs.
On his way to retrieve this object he is smashed into by another car, embroiled in a clash between Mad Max style protesters and police, and then chased through the city streets by a masked figure on horseback wielding a bloody great big hammer. All of the action is visceral and crunchy and works beautifully in tandem with songs such as Enter Sandman, Battery and Master of Puppets.
The film clearly knows its target audience. In graphic novel fashion we are treated to a procession of hoodies, Zippos, leather jackets, nooses, bandanas, and baseball bats – all featuring within a collage of running battles, back-alley brawls and roof-top fight scenes. The only criticism I can offer is that there wasn’t more of the off-stage narrative for us to revel in.
Metallica: Through the Never is a metaphorical and metaphysical tale of dedication and utter belief in what you are doing. The trials and tribulations of the band themselves are widely documented; however this seems to be a very direct and unambiguous message to their fans and the music industry as a whole. If you love what you do, do it. Even if it hurts you, even if the world crumbles around you, even if it looks like it might kill you.
For those that persevere, greatness and glory await!
This article was first posted on October 7, 2013