Metallica – Through the Never (Music from the motion picture) – Blackened (licensed to Universal) 602537515622 – CD 1: 44:14, CD 2: 56:43 [9/24/13] ***1/2:
(Kirk Hammett – guitar; James Hetfield – vocals, guitar; Robert Trujillo – bass; Lars Ulrich – drums)
Metallica is one of the biggest rock bands, but also one of the most popular bands of any genre. Metallica’s concerts are a huge event and record sales are also quite sizable. In 2013, the band members put their creativity into a film and issued the IMAX feature-length movie, Metallica through the Never, which mushroomed from a concert show and into a narrative motion picture which includes a gory, surreal fictional side story, although the foremost focus is Metallica on a self-constructed stage filled with props and massive special effects. For those interested in the film, there is an online promo which explains the project, which is now available for home market use via Blu-ray/DVD. This review, however, refers to the double-CD soundtrack.
Coinciding with the cinematic endeavor, Metallica followers got a 2-CD live, with 16 tracks selected from the group’s multi-decade history. This nearly two-hour musical explosion is a superlative sampling of classics and fan favorites. Listeners get an idea of the proceedings right from the opener, “The Ecstasy of Gold,” which quotes liberally from Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti-Western music, and provides a filmic introduction.
Metallica storms through older tunes and newer material. Disc one includes “Creeping Death,” which reiterates the Biblical account of Moses and the Egyptian Pharaoh: the song title signifies the “creeping death” which kills every first-born child in each household unless a door is marked with lamb’s blood. In typical Metallica fashion, the live adaptation melds dramatic metal music flourishes to accentuate the tale’s horror-flecked ingredients. Disc one also has “Hit the Lights” (from 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (found on 1984’s Ride the Lightning), and the band’s first top-40 triumph, the literary-drenched, and unexpectedly lyrical, “One,” based on the main character from Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun. The video was also a surprising hit in 1989; while the live translation dispenses with some of the sound effects used in the studio version, the musical tone is larger and more pronounced in a stage setting. Disc one also mixes in some more recent material, such as “The Memory Remains” and “Fuel,” both from 1997’s Reload.
Disc two follows a similar path: early material blended with more current tracks. Metallica starts with “Cyanide,” which was a highlight from the 2008 return-to-roots release, Death Magnetic. Guitarist Kirk Hammett issues guitar salvos which have a euphoric ferocity, while Lars Ulrich’s thunderous double-bass drums instill a bone-breaking foundation. The other cuts are culled from Metallica’s past. The complex “…And Justice for All” (the title track from the group’s 1988 LP which shares the same title) and the thrashing “Master of Puppets” (which is the title track from the 1986 album of the same name) have remained essential and definitive statements of Metallica’s salad days, when each new record yielded a reinvention of the heavy metal category.
Long-time enthusiasts should note some songs were done better on 1993’s Live Shit: Binge & Purge, and there are certain regrettable problems where music and movie collide, including film-related “glitches” which appear during “Enter Sandman” and “Ride the Lightning.” Overall, though, the sound quality is superb, and the energy level and guitar pyrotechnics will appeal to any devotee. Most of the 100 minutes is pure undiluted Metallica, with plenty of audio treats for aficionados, from the beginning to vivid closer, the prog-rock tinted instrumental, “Orion.”
CD 1: The Ecstasy of Gold; Creeping Death; For Whom the Bell Tolls; Fuel; Ride the Lightning; One; The Memory Remains; Wherever I May Roam
CD 2: Cyanide; …And Justice for All; Master of Puppets; Battery; Nothing Else Matters; Ender Sandman; Hit the Lights; Orion