Most of us grew up being told that Gene Simmons and the guys in Kiss were the masters of marketing in heavy music. Let us tell you, that they have nothing on Metallica. The recent release of their concert film, Through The Never, is nothing short of genius. The fact that the intertwined storyline was in part written by the band themselves really shows the multiple talents possessed by all members of Metallica. The movie is a mix of live concert footage and a separate story that matches up with the song performances all shot in amazing 3D. We saw this in IMAX which is really the best way to see it. The visuals are awesome complete with explosions, car crashes, lasers, a small animated doll, huge working stage props and more. The stage itself is made out of an HD video board that shows cool visuals as the camera takes overhead shots. The experience is so cool that it could spoil live concerts for you forever. We really felt like we were there on stage with the band and in the story, and the sound quality of the music is better than most anything you will ever hear. As far as the story portion goes, it was nothing special but it accompanied the music very well.
The following will contain some light spoilers, but nothing that will ruin this great experience for you. The main crux of the story is a character on a hallucinogenic drug trip that coincides with the music and happenings on stage. Things begin outside the concert venue with a rabid Metallica fan who we believe is Horatio Sanz screaming and jumping. Things quickly pan to a skateboarder who has a backstage pass. The roadies and concert producers all seem to know him. The live show begins amazingly with an excellent rendition of “Creeping Death”. The skateboarder is shown in the crowd toward the end of the song chanting “die” with the rest of the fans. One of the roadies then comes up behind to ask a favor of him. At this point we find out the boarder’s name is Trip (see what they did there?). The roadie asks him to run an errand to retrieve a broken down truck containing something that the band needs. Another roadie for some reason hands him a gas can. Don’t worry, it has a purpose to the story. Trip proceeds to his van and takes some kind of red and blue pill (ode to the Matrix?) as “Fuel” kicks in on stage. This begins a crazy night of mob violence, car crashes and a battle with a crazy looking gas masked villain on a horse.
One of the other cool parts is that not only do the songs coincide with the story, but the happenings in the story coincide with occurrences on stage. When a breaker box on the street sparks, a light on the stage sparks. When buildings and roads begin to crumble, the stage falls apart and things come crashing down. This begs the question, is this outside story really happening or is Trip simply watching the live concert and tripping his balls off? The movie portion is simple, yet violent, fun and intriguing.
One part of the movie that really cracked us up was the near the beginning, when Robert Trujillo is warming up playing bass backstage doing his signature crabwalk (why does he do that?), while the ceiling starts disintegrating and crumbling from his heavy bass. It kind of sounds like the soundtrack to a really epic bowel movement with the low bass, crumbling walls, and odd visual of Trujillo squatting.
The music sounds unbelievable and really helps to pull you into the story. There are some really amazing live renditions of classic Metallica songs with the best being “Creeping Death”, “One”, “Cyanide”, “And Justice For All”, “Hit the Lights” and believe it or not “The Memory Remains”. This version is the best you will ever hear of this song and contains really cool sound of the audience singing the Marianne Faithfull portion of the song. We’re not sure how we’re going to look at an actual live concert the same ever again. The credits also run with the band playing “Orion” to an empty arena. This is the absolute perfect place for this great instrumental tune. Make sure you stay through the credits to hear it, plus it will answer the question of where Trip was the whole time. Was the adventure real? Was he at the concert the whole time? You’ll have to check it out to see.
The song selections for Through the Never were all good choices, for the most part. There are two songs from ReLoad, none from Load (a bonus), and just one from Death Magnetic. There are lots of old school Metallica songs here from Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, Kill ‘Em All, and …And Justice For All. We thought they may have stuck with solely the officially released (popular) singles, which they do for the most part, but some live fan favorites are included, like “Creeping Death,” “And Justice For All,” “Battery,” and best of all, “Orion.” Rob Trujillo doesn’t step on any toes for the Cliff Burton masterpiece, but puts a fresh spin on it. Interestingly (or maybe on purpose), Through the Never was released on the anniversary of Cliff Burton’s death, September 27. The rest of the band is musically the best they’ve been live in recent memory, but it’s Trujillo that really shines and shows us something new here. “Orion” must be a tough track for Trujillo to play musically, emotionally, and careerwise. If he screwed up, the fans would never forget. But, he didn’t, he did “Orion” justice and played it just the way everyone wanted to hear it without compromising its integrity in the least.
As you probably know, “Through the Never” is a song released on The Black Album. Shouldn’t it have made an appearance in the film?
Through The Never Song Listing:
- “Creeping Death”
- “For Whom The Bells Tolls” (short version)
- “Ride The Lightning”
- “The Memory Remains”
- “Wherever I May Roam” (opening only)
- “And Justice For All”
- “Master of Puppets”
- “Battery” (short version)
- “Nothing Else Matters”
- “Enter Sandman”
- “Hit The Lights”
Now there are a few weak points, although not anything that looms large. Some of their best songs like “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “Battery” are cut short. We understand that things have to fit inside a 90 minute movie, but they could have selected songs like “Fuel” to be shorter instead. Another issue is that while “Fuel” is playing they pan to all the attractive female fans in the audience jumping up and down. We know that this is one of their more popular top 40 mainstream hits, but do we really need to be reminded of how watered down the song really is by showing fair weather Metallica fans? Wait a minute, attractive woman jumping isn’t really a bad thing is it? However, it would have been nice to see more diehard, old school Metallica fans in the audience. Lastly, although the story is cool for what it is, especially since the band penned it, it can be a bit simple and watered down at times. They borrow a lot of ideas from other films like The Matrix and Pulp Fiction. Once Trip finds the truck and what’s in it, you’ll see the Pulp Fiction reference. The most disappointing thing is that we never truly see what it was the band needed so badly. Was it Dave Mustaine’s head? Kerry Kings ego? Or perhaps Charlie Benante’s superior drum skills? It’s probably up to us to decide.
All in all this was an amazing experience that should not be missed. This was a smart move by Metallica and we hope that more metal concert films like this come out in the future. If you get the chance to see it, do your best to get to an IMAX theater. We’re sure regular 3D would be cool, but nothing will compare to the sound and visuals that you get with IMAX. The live performances were heavy, fierce and some of the best in the history of the band. Hetfield has even changed his vocal style for this film, eliminating a lot of the overenunciated vowels, bravado and “hey-o’s” or “time to die-ahhh’s” from his repertoire. Lars’ drumming seems much improved, while Hammett and Trujillo are on top of their game. Metallica has certainly hit a home run. Here’s hoping this genius carries over to their next album and we all get the heavy old school Metallica that we deserve.
If you dug the movie, the soundtrack is also available, which is a double disc.