"You want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy baby!"
The biggest, most successful heavy metal band in the history of the field continues their tradition of experimentation and support for their fans with this release of a performance recorded over two nights in May 97, during their most recent world tour. Serving up a two disc set packed with twenty live cuts, three of them multi-angle presentations, and about an hour of additional footage from backstage and preshow, plus a huge still photo gallery, what's to like about this title?
What's to like you say? Plenty. Unless you're just not a Metallica fan (and I'm told there are a few such people out there), you'll be impressed by this release. Even those who don't stomach heavy metal will find the presentation on these discs to be polished and worthy of emulation by other artists in the future.
The transfer is full frame, because it was originally shot with full intention of being a video release. However, the quality of the transfer is top notch. A heavy metal concert isn't the most stable of images to transfer through a digital medium, with four energized musicians flailing and rampaging about on stage, dozens of roadies and crew scampering back and forth, and an arena full of crazed fans surrounding them. Despite these technical challenges, the transfer holds up strongly. Colors are bright and vibrant, edges are clean and clearly defined. Never do images pixelate, nor do artifacts creep on screen. If this were on an IMAX screen you'd swear you were there. Director Wayne Isham has an experienced touch at shooting musicians, and it shows here.
The disc's sound further deepens the illusion; the soundstage is full and crisp, especially if you have 'arena' or 'rock' settings on your receiver. These are well mixed and presented versions of Metallica cuts, new and old. Make sure your neighbors aren't home, or bribe them with alcohol and sweets, and crank your system up.
Metallica themselves are in great form for the recording, using their innate joy of live performance to full advantage as they blast through their play list with energy and feeling. They descend to the crowd repeatedly throughout the performances, and maintain a sense of contact at all times.
After you've enjoyed the concert, turn your attention to the extras. Five clips on disc one, seven on disc two; both deal with backstage and preshow happenings with the band and the tour. Included are interviews with the band themselves talking about all sorts of things, fan interactions, comments from key members of the crew about certain aspects of the tour, even some Metallica Special Effects that relate to their live show. Definitely worth a look.
There's also an extensive still photo gallery presented on disc two, with a collection of pics from one hundred stops on the tour (from September 96 to May 97), presented as a slide show that advances every three seconds with Metallica in the background while you watch.
Three songs (For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ain't My Bitch, Wherever I May Roam) include multi-angle presentation. You can jump to the songs, and to a specific angle in each, from the menu; or use the ANGLE button on your DVD remote to switch between the views. Each angle follows one band member exclusively around the stage during the track, and is a really nice feature; you can focus on Hetfield's growling performance or Newstead's in-your-face way of whipping the crowd up as he pounds on his bass. Of almost any type of presentation that can benefit from multiple angles, a concert is one of the best; giving you a view of the action impossible in person, under your control.
Also worth mentioning, the animated menus are among the best I've seen. They include Metallica music behind the screens, are animated with clips and background animation, and never cause the user to wait for the oh-so clever menu creations to finish playing before a selection can be made.
The play list is: So What, Creeping Death, Sad But True, Ain't My Bitch, Hero of the Day, King Nothing, One, Fuel, Bass/Guitar Doodle, Nothing Else Matters, Until It Sleeps, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Wherever I May Roam, Fade to Black, Kill/Ride Medley (Ride the Lightning, No Remorse, Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen, Seek & Destroy, Fight Fire with Fire), Last Caress, Master of Puppets, Enter Sandman, Am I Evil, Motorbreath.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
About the only minor complaint about the title is that the concert is split across two discs. If it didn't fit, it didn't fit; and looking at the play list and the extras, I don't think it could have quite fit all the tracks on a single disc. Even though it is a dual layer disc. So after you watch the first two hours or so of the concert, you have to hop up and switch discs for the encore songs, five more tracks.
If you're a Metallica fan, you want this disc. I even go so far as to say, for Metallica fans, this title is a major reason to invest in the DVD format if you've been holding out. Metallica has always been a band who shows strong support for new and innovative ways to bring their material to the fans, and their embracing of DVD with this rich and loaded release of their most recent tour is no exception to this long tradition. Other artists would do well to study the disc's layout and follow its floor plan for their own DVD transfers; and music fans everywhere will benefit if this happens.
This is a reference quality musical DVD title.
Judgment is as follows:
The band, label and studio are excused with the court's profound apologies. Each are given one get-out-of-jail free card, to be presented at any time required in the future.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Twelve Backstage And Preshow Clips With the Band And Crew of the Tour.
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