Metallica’s 2004 public therapy session is now on Netflix and well worth a visit if you’ve never seen it. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of their music – to me it’s terrible stunted post-pubescent bawling, but they are a nut-tight band, at least with their instruments in their hands. It’s just when they’re off stage that things go all titty-uppy.
SKOM is about what happens when you’ve been rich, feted and adored throughout an adolescence which has somehow extended into your early 40’s, and the only person who might potentially speak truth to you is another overindulged princeling who makes faces behind your back for a living. Hetfield and Ulrich had seen, done and acquired everything by this point, but emotionally they’re still in nappies.
By happy chance – or design, maybe? – they hired a recording studio, a film crew and a $40,000-a-month therapist at the same time as Hetfield went through addiction recovery. Between the riffs in the studio there are endless riffs round the canteen table, as these monsters of rock very slowly turn back into something like functioning human beings. Egos get deconstructed and songs get partially built. It takes fucking ages, with some spectacular blow-ups along the way, and the unflinching camera is in their faces throughout.
It’s horrendous and hilarious viewing, and I found it hard to like anyone involved, expect perhaps poor Kirk Hammett, the waif-like third child shrinking shyly between the warring siblings. It doesn’t help that everyone’s into them for something – the therapist trying to string out his contract, and their manager trying to get, well, something he can sell at some point in the future.
And then… they audition bass players. After playing with Rob Trujillo the three titans of thrash repair to the kitchen to compare notes. Suddenly Ulrich and Hammett are kids again, third on the bill in a shitty back room, playing fuck-off brilliant to no one but themselves, and loving it. They rave about the new guy and Hatfield, swaying slightly between them, adds nothing but a smile. He knows. They’re back.
Give it a go along with the short from the same documentary makers, revisiting the film 10 years later, with interviews with a much happier and distinctly more mature band.