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on April 23, 2004
I'm a both a musician and a filmmaker, so I'm extra-picky about music documentaries. This one stands as one of the best visual representations I've ever seen of what it's like to be a musician.

Sure, it's shot on video, so don't expect the glorious black-and-white photography of U2's Rattle and Hum or the lush richness of Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Sure, the camera is often wobbly. But what director Adam Dubin does so well in this piece is capture the intricate details of recording an album, in Part 1. The setting was ripe for such exploration: This was shot during the crucial period when Metallica, then known as one of the most uncompromising bands in music, was first paired up with ace producer Bob Rock, known both for his crystalline productions and his rock-hard stubbornness. The ensuing conflict among band members and producer makes for endlessly fascinating viewing. Part 1 exhaustively explores every aspect of recording Metallica's eponymous 'Black Album' (obviously, you'll get much more out of this documentary if you know the album well). Highlights include Kirk Hammett's frustrating search for a solo to "The Unforgiven"; the battle between a sore-throated James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich; and a vocal session where you become intensely aware of just how much editing is required to put together one perfect lead vocal take. If you love music but have never immersed in this process, it's extremely illuminating -- it points out to you how the music comes into being. Plus you get three videos -- the casual studio-performance piece "Nothing Else Matters"; "The Unforgiven", a beautifully photographed expressionistic piece under director Matt Mahurin's lyrical, languid treatment; and the classic "Enter Sandman", a manic romp which stands as director Wayne Isham's crowning achievement.

Part 2 is a little more for fans. With its numerous live performances and less coherent structure, this part appeals more to longtime fans of Metallica who want to see how the band works when the scope of its fanbase suddenly increased tenfold. There are still fascinating bits even for casual perusers: The tensions between the Metallica/Guns N' Roses camps when the two bands joined up for a massive, trouble-ridden tour; an after-show meeting where the Metallica members discuss changes and critique one another; and backstage footage from the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. The two official videos, "Sad but True" and "Wherever I May Roam", are passable, with near-interchangeable footage and a distinct lack of character.

I used to put on my old VHS copy of Part 1 every couple of months just to delve into the terrific in-studio interactions of Bob Rock and Metallica. The release of both volumes of this video on DVD was a pleasant surprise to me, and anybody who wants to know more about the process of being a professional musician (and star) should check this one out. After seeing the amount of painstaking work put into each stage of the band's music, you might be less inclined to crucify Metallica for fighting against Napster.
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on July 7, 2000
This is truely a good DVD. It may well be the most interesting and by far the longest documentary of any band in history. This DVD contains well over 4 hours of metallica stuff including live performances, studio rehersing and music videos. The sound and video are quite good considering that this DVD is remastered from a previous video release. The DVD is presented with really cool menus and easy to follow links between the 4 hours of footage. The picture is very sharp and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo which was very crisp and clear. A 5.1 Digital remix would have been better but to remix 4 hours is quite rediculous. This DVD is the best thing that could happen for any metallica fan! Anyone would love this DVD and it would be a great addition to anyones collection.
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on December 17, 1999
WOW! Ever wonder what it's like to produce an album?...or tour with a heavy metal band? Then this is it. In part 1, see Metallica and Bob Rock make the hit "Black Album" and watch as the songs take form in the studio...mistakes, pranks, masterpieces and all.(Very candid!) In part 2, Tour with the band around the world including appearences at the MTV Music Awards, the Grammys, and a special farewell concert for Freddie Mercury of Queen where James Hetfield sings with Queen and other legendary rock stars. See what the band does in their spare time. It's one of the best DVD's in my collection. IT ROCKS!
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on January 23, 2001
Most has already been said about this release, but for those who are still unsure... this DVD is an excellent addition to any Metallica fan's video library. The sound and picture is quite good considering it had to be remastered and the task behind such a project (4 hours of footage...). Of course, 5.1 channels would have been the ultimate, but this stereo version lives up to expectations. This DVD gives great insight in the process of recording an album and touring, with all the up and downsides, including little things that go wrong. Handpicked concert footage including the awesome Freddie Mercury Tribute concert adds to the lineup. A must for anyone interested in Metallica, but beware if you're just "sort of" interested, 4 hours is a long time...
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on May 7, 2002
this gives you the inside scoop. Metallica fans will love it because it's got it all - behind the scenes footage, interviews, recording sessions, and concert footage. But anybody who's ever wanted to live the rock & roll life (and do it successfully) will get a great insight into how much hard work it takes. The first half of the DVD covering the recording of the "Black Album" is worth the price alone. After seeing this, you'll know what it's really like to be in the studio and how gruelling it can be. No wonder Lars has an attitude about people ripping their songs of the internet! The concert footage is awesome - it's what you'd expect from Metallica. These guys are talented musicians, cool dudes, and funny. As always, Metallica gives you your money's worth - this is a long DVD. I suggest watching it over a 2-night period to attain maximum absorbtion. Buy it. Watch it. Crank it Loud, and Rock On!
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on October 2, 2003
The only reason I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone who even has a passing interest in Metallica is the sheer length of it - four hours! It's an awful lot to digest at once, or even in pieces, but of course if you love this band, four hours is not an inconvenience, it's a BONUS. It's also a great insight for everyone interested in the recording process. The second part of the disc covers the band on tour, which is a scenario covered in countless other rock documentaries. But the first part, covering the recording of the "Black Album" offers some intriguing information into what a producer actually does, and the producer here is one of the most legendary in the business. Bob Rock probably ranks only behind "Mutt" Lange and the late Bruce Fairbairn on the list of sucessful hard rock/metal producers.
It also succeeds in showing Metallica as a relatively down-to-earth band. Of course this is back when they were only used to selling 3 or 4 million copies of an album instead of the 10 million that this one managed to move, so who knows how egotistical they are now (all you pro-Napster/anti-Lars fans hush, I'm talking raw personality here, not their business ethics).
The most amusing thing I saw in this video was the very first scenes - Metallica fans lined up outside music stores just before the official midnight release of the "Black Album", and stacks of Metallica CASSETTES and CD's in CARDBOARD LONGBOXES sitting next to the cash registers. That along with the decidedly 80's hairstyles and fashions let you know that you're definitely not watching anything from the post-hair metal era in music (that would occur only a few short months after this footage was shot - when Nirvana would come along and change the rules about everything).
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on July 19, 2005
The first part of this superb documentary takes you through the creation of the album that changed metal music forever. Excellent studio footage, as well as no holes barred coverage of the production decisions for the record. Combine to give you an excellent view of what the album took to create. It also clearly shows that Lars Ulrich is a complete prat!!

The second part takes you through the mammoth tour that followed the release of the black album; including the tour with Guns n Roses, playing in Moscow, and the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. All in all it is a superb buy for anyone who wishes to see the roots of todays band. Also in some ways it can provide a stepping stone to the less accessible, pre Bob Rock Metallica Catalogue. When you see the amount of production that went into the black album it gives you a fresh view on their previous albums and you can appreciate how special Master of Puppets really is...
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on August 5, 2005
Being a Metallica fan, I did rather enjoy this trinket of Metal Music History. The early 90's proved to be a crucial time for Metallica as documented in this movie. The turning point of Metallica's "Black Album" and the touring that followed helped the band to procure a seat (the number one seat) on the Rock/Metal charts.

Watching the production/recording of the album, the marriage of sonic producer Bob Rock helping out, and a bunch of roudy 20-something world-class rockers is pure entertainment. Their haughty self-importance is hard to take at times (see Lars), but definitely sheer entertainment. The live footage of the band across world venues is worth the price alone. It shows how much of a live band they really are. Also included are their videos from the album, which are nice to have sprinkled into the mix of the movie.

Although this movie is nothing to Some Kind Of Monster (their latest movie), it shows the old Metallica that grew right into the reputation of Alcoholica, women, drugs, touring, rock-n-roll life on the road extraordinaire. It is interesting to see them back then, the organic beginnings of the biggest Metal band of all time. During this movie they are poised to claim that throne, and don't even know it yet.

Very interesting to watch, just don't let your kids watch--not only will they see nudity/etc., they might get some crazy idea of becoming a rockstar.
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on November 16, 2011
I got mine through Netflix, know I'm buying it now after only seeing 1st half of their in-studio footage, which was incredible with very real glimpses into who these men are off stage, how they work together--or don't in some cases--and what it truly takes to record an album, the massive amounts of work involved in getting the perfect tracks, bits & results. We're treated to mini-docs on each of the band members in turn, as well as Bob Rock & others involved in the process, and their sense of humor, farting in the face of Bob & being chased with the camcorder, amazing behind the scenes footage that kept a grin plastered on my face for the full 2 hours--I rewatched it 3 times since! Before moving on to part 2 I am immersing myself in the greatness of part one.

One of my favorite parts of the 1st two hours is when the Make a Wish foundation arranged for a teen boy dying of cancer to come in and hang out with Metallica, he brought & played his own guitar & was in 7th heaven jamming with his heroes. His whole family came with him, his little brother got into Lar's drums & the band joked that Lar's playing just suddenly got better! The camaraderie of these guys is spectacular to see & watch. They each have their own idiosyncrasies as well that drive each other nuts, kind of like being either in a family of brothers, or a marriage, in that way. We also got glimpses of the cool custom classic muscle cars they each drive, although one had a Porsche (Bob in Vancouver I think but am not sure), one had a Mach One with hood scoop & everything, that sounded like a growling tiger on the video. Lar's car was first but all we got to see was the inside & he has balls the way he drives when he's late, the engine sounded awesome growling on film, loved every minute of these scenes. The music was just as incredible to watch it come together, how they filmed & made the music video stories to go with the songs, and then each section featured the matching music video, before moving on to the next.

The DVD includes playing all the documentary stuff of each part, as well as just going to the videos or sections directly. While there are no "special features" other than what I've just described (which was damned special in itself!), this DVD is so packed full of the best types of special feature like coverage that believe me you will not miss it! Over 4 hours of content for under fifteen bucks, there isn't a better deal out there (other than maybe Pink Floyd's Pulse DVD set with 15+ hours of content for same price--no other band DVD has come close to this amount of goodies on a DVD). Obviously just the first part is worth buying the DVD for, yet there's 2 more hours of awesomeness to come, live concert footage, whew. Hope my review has helped your decision as well.
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on February 22, 2009
Since seeing Some Kind of Monster, I gained a new level of respect for a band that I've loved for 20 years. I did kind of lose interest there for a couple of albums (you know the ones) but ever since the release of Death Magnetic I've had a resurgence of love for Metallica and the time came for some nostalgia...so I got A Year and a Half. This is a great trip down memory lane and a great doco as well, with the recording of the Black Album covered in great detail as well as the subsequent tour. After Some Kind of Monster and the Live Binge set, this is the best Metallica DVD you can get, as it shows a band on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world and covers an album process in detail. I wish they had done a doco for every album they have released. This is also hairy Metallica, Lars brushes his hair aside every five seconds and James looks much more like the angry young man we all know and love as much as the short haired older man we have come to respect and admire. Buy this DVD and then watch Some Kind of Monster.
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