The band was quite possibly going to fall apart. The past couple albums were major disappointments for many fans. Some thought the band had lost its teeth. After years of letting fans tape live shows, animosity was the result of halting these same devotees from distributing mp3s. The lead singer has a substance abuse problem he had to get a grip on. The newest member had enough and left the band. Things had gotten so bad that a psychiatrist was brought in to help the band mates tolerate each other as they attempted to create another album. Who in their right mind would let cameras document the pain and problems of all this? Metallica did. The result was a gripping dramatic and valuable music documentary called Some Kind of Monster.
I was only a casual Metallica listener. I bought the Black Album, And Justice for All (both used). I was ambivalent about older stuff like Master of Puppets... not enough to go out and spend a single penny adding it to my library. After watching Some Kind of Monster, I became more invested in them. I suddenly cared about the fate of Metallica on an entirely new level...rooting for the band as a whole, even if I was picking sides among the players. I was re-listening to the old stuff and comparing it to the new. I was spending time thinking about their work and consuming their art, and isn't that what every artist wants from an audience? And it was all a result of getting approximately 2 hours worth of in depth "fly on the wall" perspective during some of their most trying moments. They let me watch them exorcise demons, and... to continue the metaphor...now more than ever I want the band to be saved.
Now we certainly saw some stereotypical "Behind the Music" sort of moments. But, Metallica let us in on other more personal events during the creation of St. Anger that were sincere, honest, exposed. Seeing them deal with ghosts from the past, ex-bandmates, fathers and family...Watching them navigate the balance between creative control, personal expression/fulfillment...witnessing them struggle with experimentation in how they collaborate/generate material and how the dynamics of power between bandmates was affected/ threatened/ metamorphisized. Some Kind of Monster illuminates the creative process as a paradigm synonymous with Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. It is important to note that not all we see of the band is flattering, but that didn't stop them from creating and moving forward. Not every moment has to be flattering. This gaze at the seams of their persona, their craft, their approach didn't handicap, jeopardize or destroy them. The band might have taken a very similar journey if the cameras hadn't been rolling. But by letting the cameras roll, they allowed us into their process and we learn more about them as artists and humans. We become endeared to them. We become more invested in them and the art that they create!
Regardless of what you think of the new sound of St Anger (many old school Metallica fans wanted the old sound back), there is no doubt that this journey brought the band out from a very dark place and revitalized them creatively. Their self examination led to IMO some amazingly passionate songs that are staples of my daily playlist. And, I got as close as possible to being there while it happened becuase of that movie. I can't thank them enough...oh yes I can...I can buy their music...which I did and will continue to do...as a result of that movie.