Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich believes controversial documentary Some Kind Of Monster prevented the band’s meltdown become a total collapse.
And he admits the thrash giants were thrown by reactions to the finished work – because it was seen as a success in the film industry while being viewed less positively in the music trade.
Originally launched in 2004, it documented the departure of bassist Jason Newsted, frontman James Hetfield’s flight into rehab to deal with his alcoholism, and the resulting difficulties in rebuilding relationships as they struggled to make eighth album St. Anger.
Ulrich tells TheWrap: “The making of the movie was one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life, precisely because it came at such a vulnerable time.
“The presence of cameras helped keep the process on track – there was another set of eyes and ears there. When somebody else is in the room you watch your Ps and Qs a little more. I think it kept the whole thing from derailing.”
He believes the band had previously been able to hide from their problems by suppressing them “with drinking or other extravagances.” He continues: “This was the first time we had to talk to each other, get to know each other and work stuff out.”
Ulrich says of the feedback they received: “There are always things that throw you for a loop. The fact that the music world was a little bewildered by it, and the facts that the movie world sort of embraced it, was not something we would have predicted.”
Meanwhile, director Joe Berlinger has credited the project with saving his relationship with production partner Bruce Sinofksy, after the pair fell out over previous projects.
Berlinger recalls filming Metallica’s first session with therapist Phil Towle: “I sat looking through the viewfinder thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know how I got here, I don’t know why these guys are letting me film this. But this is exactly what I need to hear at this precise moment.’
“By watching James and Lars go at it in those initial sessions, I realised I had my own unfinished business with my own collaborator.”
Some Kind Of Monster was last month relaunched in an anniversary set including new material – but Hetfield admitted it was still hard to watch. Metallica, who headline the Reading and Leeds festivals in 2015, are continuing work on what will be their 10th album.