Metallica is no stranger to making movies.
Their 2004 documentary, Some Kind of Monster, captured the band as it was on the verge of disintegrating during the recording of St. Anger. And throughout their 30-plus year career, they've released several concert DVDs, including S&M and Quebec Magnetic.
So it seems fitting that the San Francisco-based quartet is finally making their IMAX debut with Through the Never, which presents a different twist on the concert film format by weaving a narrative thread throughout.
"It started as just a concert movie, but we decided we needed to make this unique and we came up with the concept of having a running narrative," guitarist Kirk Hammett tells QMI Agency.
The idea of making a movie that was part-3D concert, part-story didn't sit well with Hollywood types, drummer Lars Ulrich recalls.
Metallica's Lars Ulrich and director Nimrod Antal at TIFF. Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency
"People looked at me like I came from another planet as I tried to explain to them our concept of doing a hybrid music and dramatic film."
Shot in Vancouver and Edmonton last summer, Metallica Through the Never captures the band, fronted by vocalist James Hetfield, running through a setlist of their classic hits, including Master of Puppets, Enter Sandman, Cyanide and more.
Interspersed in between is the dialogue-free story of Trip (played by Dane DeHaan), a roadie who is dispatched on a mission to retrieve a mysterious item while the band plays to a sold-out crowd. Driving through the streets, Trip descends into a dark fantasy of rioting crowds, visions of the apocalypse and a death-dealing horseman.
Director Nimrod Antal (Predators) says the bizarre storyline compliments the band's "f--- you" brand of music.
"Nimrod's concept is very Metallica," Hammett said. "It has a Metallica feel."
"He was excited by the challenge of creating this thread that had to co-exist with our songs," bassist Robert Trujillo continued.
"Most directors were afraid of that, but he was pretty fearless with it."
Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo at TIFF. Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency
"Everything about this was dedicated to the shooting of a film," Ulrich adds. "It wasn't show 221 on our world tour; we were making a movie."
While Metallica acknowledge the easy thing would have been to shoot concert highlights from their World Magnetic tour, rolling the dice on a surreal fantasy is in keeping with how the foursome sees themselves these days.
"Metallica survived by taking chances," Trujillo says. "This film is an extension of that ... Making an album with Lou Reed (2011's ear-bleedingly bad Lulu) was another risk we took. Maybe it pissed people off, but that's what we do."
And even if the film's surreal narrative doesn't click with its rabid fan base, Hammett thinks that Through the Never will serve as a testament to the band's longevity.
"I'm just f---ing happy as s--- to see that 30 years into our career I can watch our performance onscreen and think to myself, 'Yeah, we might be f---ing getting a bit long in the tooth, but we're still able to f---ing bring it,'" Hammett smiles.
"Not only are we playing well, we're playing better than we ever have before. We all know how bands ascend, are really, really bright at one point, and then they fall into obscurity.
"After seeing this, it doesn't feel like we're anywhere close to the fall."
METALLICA SET TO UNLEASH NEW MUSIC IN 2014
Almost five years after 2008's Death Magnetic, Metallica's Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo have confirmed the news every metal fan wants to hear: The band will be back with new music in 2014.
"I have to listen to myself talk about our movie for another two months or so, and then we'll probably take a couple deep breaths in October, November, before starting up again," Ulrich tells QMI Agency. "We've already done a couple of dances around some songwriting and we'll get back to it."
Trujillo says that the band's experience making the 3D concert film Through the Never, and a smattering of 2013 gigs, has left the band creatively rejuvenated.
"Death Magnetic was a special album for us," he says. "It too took time to make, but it ended up being very successful for us. It's the launchpad for what we're going to do in the next round."
And the band is already looking beyond the next album, with Ulrich saying they have no plans to stop touring.
"We're all really excited with what's happening to us creatively," Trujillo adds. "Hopefully we'll have even more left in the tank after the next record."Follow @JamShowbiz