Metallica: Quebec Magnetic

Thrash overlords put their fan favourites on film

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Twenty-five years from now, when Metallica are old geezers sitting on their porches and reminiscing about their remarkable career, they will no doubt point to the World Magnetic tour of 2008-2010 as the most well-documented series of dates they ever undertook.

Quebec Magnetic, shot over two nights in 2009, is the third DVD to chronicle that tour, Metallica’s most high-profile since the early 1990s Black Album jaunt that first made them superstars. Add to this The Big 4: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria DVD set from last year and there’s no likelihood of anyone missing out on this period in the band’s history. But this is a good thing. The current decade is probably the last in which we’ll witness Metallica at the peak of their powers: guitarist Kirk Hammett turned 50 back in November and these back-breaking two-year tours will undoubtedly start to dry up as the years pass.

The production in Quebec Magnetic will be nothing new to anyone who has watched the last two DVDs, recorded in Mexico and France: the set still has those giant coffins lurking above it, there’s the familiar kickabout of black beachballs at the end of the show, and there’s plenty of we’re-all-one-big-family-now chatter from singer James Hetfield. What is different this time out is the excellent setlist, selected by 35,000 fans via the Metallica website.

The obvious classics are all present and correct. You can probably insert the titles yourself, but for anyone new to Metallica (there must be someone, right?) the biggest of the big hits are Master Of Puppets, Enter Sandman, Nothing Else Matters, Sad But True, One, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Battery and Seek And Destroy. Old-school Metallifans will be thrilled by the inclusion of The Shortest Straw, a genuine rarity, and a pulverising version of Damage, Inc., a reminder that Metallica can play as fast and powerfully as anyone’s favourite death metal band when the mood takes them.

Which leaves the Death Magnetic songs. There are seven of them on this DVD, mostly meandering, multi-sectioned compositions that linger rather too long, with the notable exception of My Apocalypse, a bite-sized bit of thrash metal that comes and goes with satisfying impact. Metallica have been playing songs from their last album with such perseverance, it’s almost as if they want them to settle into the public consciousness as ‘classics’, whether we want to hear them or not. This ploy is unlikely to succeed; while That Was Just Your Life and The Day That Never Comes are respectable tunes and worth a couple of spins, they don’t come close to the impossibly high standard of heavy metal/thrash metal songwriting that Metallica set for themselves between 1982 and 1991.

This gripe aside, Quebec Magnetic is yet another precision-engineered document of a band at the top of its game. Metallica are the Led Zeppelin of our generation, and if you haven’t grasped that point by now, you never will.

Joel McIver

Joel McIver is a British author. The best-known of his 25 books to date is the bestselling Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica, first published in 2004 and appearing in nine languages since then. McIver's other works include biographies of Black Sabbath, Slayer, Ice Cube and Queens Of The Stone Age. His writing also appears in newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Rolling Stone, and he is a regular guest on music-related BBC and commercial radio.