Few bands in the history of rock have commanded as loyal and unquestioning a fanbase as Metallica. Their devotion to their fans is legendary, and the reciprocated appreciation has seen the band in good stead through all the turbulent episodes which have composed their career. Regardless of how many fans may have moaned when the band finally sang a power ballad, or went “grunge’ and cut their hair, or when they went to war with Napster, there would always—and probably will always—be a massive hard core of devotees who will pledge their fealty. The periodic eruptions of controversy serve only to chip small pebbles off the surface of an incredibly huge institution—a fact proved every time the group goes on tour, playing the largest arenas across the world. It’s a frighteningly intense example of devotion just outside the experience of many in the supposed musical mainstream—but there is a large group of superfans for whom the hunger for all things Metallica can never be satisfied.
All of which means that a product like Out of the Loop will undoubtedly find a receptive audience. This is a damn shame, because sloppy, exploitive filmmaking like this should not be rewarded. It came as no surprise, on exploring the disc’s bonus features, to learn that Out of the Loop (a surprisingly honest description of the film itself) is a product of the same company that produces all those interminable Maximum… interview discs you always see clogging up the shelves. I’m sure they sell pretty well because they keep making them, but it’s pretty sad that any fan would willingly pay money for a disc of public domain interview snippets.
The same principle applies here. The back of the DVD advertises “over 40 minutes of in-depth interviews with the band and those close to them”—which not, I suppose, blatantly false, but close enough to gall. The band only appears in scattered snippets taken from previous television interviews. The “those close to them” quotient is filled by a boatload of, well, hangers-on would probably be too harsh a word for them—basically, a bunch of folks who knew them years ago, mostly acquaintances dating back to their days in the Los Angeles and Bay Area metal scenes. The closest we actually get to the band’s inner circle is, um, Kirk Hammet’s brother-in-law.
What little value this film has comes from the fleeting sense of community imparted by interviews with the folks who played and partied with the group “back in the day”. The Bay Area metal scene seems very much like a close-knit family, with bands such as Testament and Angel Witch representing the spirit of the sometimes fractious times. But as much as the interviewed subjects attempt to ply their knowledge off as first-hand experience, there is something slightly pitiful about the abject obeisance represented by their position, the home-town guys who watched their friends become one of the biggest bands in the history of the world.
But the fleeting—and I do mean fleeting—moments of interest are few and far between. There are far more examples of cringe-worthy gaffes such as the statement that “Kirk Hammet grew up in the Berkeley area of San Francisco”, or the absolute desperation of an in-depth interview with Kurt WIlliams, Metallica’s head truck driver. The guy who drives the rigging truck gets more on-screen time talking about what swell guys the band are at parties than any discussion of the recording of the band’s albums, any of them. But it’s not hard to see why, because most of the folks who appear on the film are in no position to know anything about the inner workings of the band beyond the point where, basically, their careers began.
Because of the film’s proudly unauthorized status, there’s not a lick of actual Metallica music to be heard anywhere. Instead, the producers hired a (literally) faceless thrash trio to bang out some unbelievably generic hardcore tunes to play in the background. There are a lot of long transitions and chapter headings—all of which undoubtedly designed to keep the running time up despite the dearth of actual material—so the viewer hears a lot of this crap in the course of an hour.
Everything about this DVD reeks of crass exploitation at its worst. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t know that there are thousands of diehard Metallica fans who will gladly fork over cash in exchange for the merest hint of a connection to the group. The pitiful extras—a discography printed onscreen in tiny white letters, a bare-bones trivia game filled with questions taken directly from the movie—can only feebly attempt to mask the fact that this is the living definition of an insultingly superfluous cash-grab.