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Pioneer presents
Classic Albums: Metallica - Metallica (2001)

"To have one record like that in your career is amazing, it's really amazing."
- Lars Ulrich

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 06, 2001

Stars: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted, Bob Rock
Other Stars: Cliff Burnstein, David Fricke, Lonn Friend
Director: Matthew Longfellow

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief nudity)
Run Time: 00h:49m:41s
Release Date: November 06, 2001
UPC: 801213900190
Genre: metal

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

"You just can't argue with the songs." - producer Bob Rock

I was first introduced to Metallica in 1982, when their original homemade demo, No Life Til Leather, was making waves in the underground tape trading circles. After landing the opening cut on a Metal compilation album, drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield relocated to San Francisco's Bay area from L.A., where bassist Cliff Burton joined. With newly acquired lead guitarist Kirk Hammett replacing Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) at the last minute, the release of their 1983 debut album, Kill'em All, on the newly formed Megaforce Records created a major buzz at local metal parties, on college radio and in fanzines around the globe. Despite their rising popularity in the underground, no one could have forseen what followed, and any suggestion that Metallica would ever be heard on mainstream radio was about as unthinkable as it could get. Now on a major label with professional management, their 1984 followup, Ride The Lightening, continued to expand their style, and the band's intensive work ethic on the road was building them an ever growing and loyal audience.

Their third album was a masterpiece, and Master Of Puppets (1986) became an instant metal classic: brutally heavy, aggressive and unrelenting—it set a new highwater mark in the genre. However, even with the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to Puppets, acclaim outside the realms of the metal scene was limited, but the juggernaut that was Metallica looked unstoppable. On September 27, 1986 the dream was dealt a crushing blow, when a bus accident in Sweden took the life of their star bass player, Cliff Burton. For a band that were pretty much family, this was devastating, and many wondered whether Metallica could overcome this tragedy—but overcome it they would.

"And the road becomes my bride..." - James Hetfield - Wherever I May Roam

Metallica was not to be stopped, recruiting bassist Jason Newsted from Arizona's Flotsam & Jetsam. The new lineup recorded an EP of cover tunes in Lars' garage (Garage Days) then, with another tour under their belt, set about their fifth album, ...And Justice For All. Reaching number 6 on the Billboard charts, and nominated for Best Metal/Hard Rock album at the Grammys, Metallica had achieved the unimaginable. After another massive world tour they headed back into the studio, setting up camp at Little Mountain Sound in Vancouver, Canada for the recording of what would become their biggest success yet, this time working with a big name producer in Bob Rock, whose signature was on albums by Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Motley Crže and The Cult.

Unofficially known as the "Black" album, Metallica's self-titled, sixth studio outing would be a major departure from their tried and tested studio routine. This DVD revisits that experience, with candid interview footage with the band and their producer, and also takes an in depth look at many of the details that went into producing this landmark album. We are taken inside the studio to hear the subtleties in the recordings, as the band members comment on the job of recording, as well as the tensions and challenges they had to face in the process. The commentary is extremely revealing, as the personalities of all involved look back on a very intense and difficult journey, which culminated in the band's unprecidented success. The scope discussed is immense, from the songwriting to the arranging to the tracking, each element gets ample time for exploration. The personality conflicts are laid out in the open.

Bob Rock: "I never heard this before. I never got a demo with 'wa na na' on it before."
James Hetfield: "Those were the lyrics, you guys just didn't like them."

Archival footage from the sessions is intercut with live pieces and excerpts from the video collection, and more recent interviews, allowing the perspective of ten years to be seen. We are taken through several of the album's tracks, including Enter Sandman, Sad But True, Holier Than Thou, The Unforgiven and Wherever I May Roam, as parts of the songs are discussed by the band, their engineer and producer. We hear demo versions of the songs, and how parts evolved over time. Despite their huge popularity, there is no pretentiousness or arrogance in these interviews; these four men recognize the work that has gone into their success, view it with humility and good humor. Additional comments from press members, their co-manager Cliff Burnstein, and conductor Michael Kamen (responsible for the orchestrations on Nothing Else Matters) round out the content with their observations on the band and the album. There is a wealth of great material in here, which should make any Metallica fan more than happy.

As someone who witnessed this band's beginnings, it is gratifying to see their hard work and dogged persistence pay off in such incredible success. The album would debut and remain at number one around the globe for weeks, sell over 15 million copies, and earn them both Grammy and MTV awards. This disc is a repository of thoughts surrounding that acheivement, and gets my recommendation for anyone interested in the band, or in what it takes to produce the kind of record that can push an act into superstardom.

"It's our 'Dark Side Of The Moon'" - Kirk Hammett

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is top notch, except for some of the archival or live footage. Colors are clean, contrast is excellent, and detail is plentiful. Nothing to complain about in this department.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Unfortunately, the audio quality doesn't live up to expectations here, as the heavy guitars in the production suffer from some pretty horrendous compression and saturation issues. Frequency coverage is ample, but many of the guitar parts suffer from a ton of pumping. Dialogue is fine, but the musical sections tend to crap out at times, though does replicate how the album sounds when cranked through a boombox.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 7 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted and Bob Rock
Extras Review: Like other discs in the Classic Albums series, the bonus section runs almost as long as the main program, clocking in at 43m:48s. Included here are outakes from the broadcast version.

Opening the section is more interview footage where James and Lars discuss the songwriting process, and how some of the titles on the Black album came to be. This includes a sample of the Enter Sandman demo, long before lyrics for the song were conceived.

Next up, Lars and Bob Rock discuss the techniques used for recording Lars' drum performances, a long and arduous process including dozens of takes and days of editing. The philosophy behind this approach is also covered, as is the atmosphere and psychological challenges faced by the drummer.

We move on to Kirk Hammett discussing the construction of his guitar solo on Wherever I May Roam, which includes both demonstrations of some of the passages, plus never heard before sections from the song's fadeout.

Jason then demonstrates the original version of his contribution to the album in My Friend Of Misery. He outlines his initial plans for the piece and how it evolved into the final album recording.

Bob Rock sheds light on how he came to produce the album, and some fascinating coincidences that made up his mind to do the project while he was in the Arizona desert. Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

Following in that vein, Rock and the band go on to discuss the ramifications of a release deadline, and what it meant to their schedule and sanity.

In closing, James talks about his inspiration for The God That Failed,, a track that garnered some flack from religious organizations. This section also features excerpts from the video.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Covering the creation of their award-winning sixth album, Classic Albums: Metallica - Metallica presents the band and their producer in candid and revealing interview footage. The process that resulted in a multi-platinum record, which was number one on the Billboard charts for weeks is examined in this retrospective documentary. The insight into the recording process and its associated difficulties makes this of interest to more than just die-hard fans.


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